How the Manual on Uniform Traffic Devices (MUTCD) Puts Communities At Risk Via Dangerous Crosswalks

This blog features a guest video, words and work by Jessica Mathews, the operator of Epic Small Consulting, demonstrating just one of many ways the Manual on Uniform Traffic Devices (MUTCD) puts communities across the U.S. in danger. Jessica has been a people-first / safe streets advocate for decades, challenging the inherent issues with the MUTCD. To see more of Jessica’s work, check out epicsmall on the web or or follow the instagram @epic_small.

There’s nothing like making a creative, well-researched crosswalk safety pitch to your city officials only to be promptly turned down because of a cold, dusty, arbitrary manual. This particular story (click the video below to watch) is one of many consistent, repetitive elements that exemplifies why the MUTCD is “notorious” for perpetuating harm and hazard in communities across the U.S.

The intersection of William and Sandusky streets in downtown Delaware, Ohio, is known as “the heart” intersection of downtown – it is the largest intersection and has the highest amount of pedestrian crossings. It also, clearly shown in the above video, has the highest amount of pedestrian safety concerns.

This intersection is classically “over-designed”, meaning, it inherently gives the visual right of way to drivers in motor vehicles and not the most vulnerable road users who are using mobility means outside of a vehicle, particularly those who walk and move.

The massive width of intersections like this ( about 61 feet!) gives drivers the car-centric or car-primary impression that they can hop in front of people who are using the crossing to simply get to their destinations in a sustainable, hopefully safe, way. One can see how this creates a recipe for serious chronic safety and vulnerability issue for pedestrians.

Jessica wanted to create a vibrant, community-driven, people-first project here by painting colorful curb extenstions for safety, visibility and accessibility (see below for some loose inspiration of what this could have resembled).

But alas, as you may have guessed due to the now predictable fashion of this dictating document, she was told no.

Anyone else getting sick of this narrative? We are. And so are the tens of thousands of victims and victims’ families who mourn and advocate in vain. Because real people continue to get hurt or die before safety is ever truly, consistently prioritized on our streets. Let’s change this. We’ve created great momentum for progress but we still need your help. See the important actions below.

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