Are You A Lover Of Princeton’s Quaint Brick Crosswalks?

'Brick' crosswalk near Westminster Choir College in Princeton. (Click to expand.)

‘Brick’ crosswalk near Westminster Choir College in Princeton. (Click to expand.)

There are at least three different types of marked crosswalks in Princeton. Can you name them? The first is the typical ‘international’-style crosswalk, with its familiar white striping:

'International'-style crosswalk in Princeton, on a beautiful fall morning. (Click to expand.)

‘International’-style crosswalk in Princeton, on a beautiful fall morning. (Click to expand.)

The second type is the crosswalk made out of bricks, as seen in the photo below, taken on Walnut Lane, behind Princeton High School:

Ornamental brick crosswalk on Walnut Lane in Princeton. (click to expand)

Ornamental brick crosswalk on Walnut Lane in Princeton. (click to expand)

The third type is that seen in the photo at the top, on Hamilton Avenue, by Westminster Choir College. Now this looks like it’s made out of bricks, but when you get down on your hands and knees, you may notice that it’s actually just regular surface with some weird treatment that is colored to make it look like bricks. (This is called ‘stamped asphalt’):

A 'stamped asphalt' crosswalk kinda looks like brick, but isn't. (Click to expand)

A ‘stamped asphalt’ crosswalk kinda looks like brick, but isn’t. (Click to expand)

Now, what are the advantages and disadvantages of these different types of crosswalks? We can consider:

  • International-type crosswalks are generally considered to be easier to see by car drivers, especially at night, and hence are potentially safer for pedestrians.
  • International-type crosswalks are cheapest to install, because it’s just paint.
  • International-type crosswalks are cheaper to maintain, because water gets into cracks on brick and brick-effect crosswalks, and after many cycles of freezing and thawing, tends to turn these crosswalks into a cracked, potholed surface. (see photo above)
  • Brick and brick-effect crosswalks are seen by some people as ‘prettier’.

So which crosswalks should we be installing? This has become a tussle among municipal staff and elected officials, as several members of the Traffic and Transportation committee are appalled that aesthetic preferences for brick-type crosswalks are considered more important than the safety and cost effectiveness of ‘international-type’ striped crosswalks.

Things get even stranger when we consider Nassau Street. What crosswalks do you think are used here, at the historic heart of Princeton? Surely the ones that are considered the prettiest, right?

International-type crosswalk at Nassau St and S Tulane in downtown Princeton. (Click to expand.)

International-type crosswalk at Nassau St and S Tulane in downtown Princeton. (Click to expand.)

Nope, it’s the international-type crosswalk. And why is that- Is it because it is safer? Is it because they are more cost-effictive? Is it because Nassau Street is a State Highway and NJDOT requires the international type? No, it is none of these! We use striped crosswalks on Nassau Street because the local Historic Preservation Board ruled that brick-type crosswalks were not compatible with the historic look of Nassau Street. There were no bricks there in the past, so there should be none today.

You might think this is a strange decision, considering that Nassau Street was historically a dirt track with stagecoaches, yet we seem to be getting by just fine with paved asphalt and cars today….but it gets even worse for the long-suffering Princeton tax-payer! Brick-effect crosswalks were in fact installed on Nassau Street, and subsequently ripped out and replaced with regular striping following objections on grounds of historic preservation! So we spent the money on prettier crosswalks, but missed out on the extra prettiness.

What do you prefer- striped crosswalks or brick crosswalks? Do you think brick crosswalks are “more in keeping with Princeton’s character”? What should we go for in future? Leave your comments using the form below!

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One Response to Are You A Lover Of Princeton’s Quaint Brick Crosswalks?

  1. Pingback: Council Decision Means Princeton’s Brick Crosswalks Will Disappear | walkableprinceton

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