Sunday, August 29, 2010

16th Street improvements

Below is a link to an article in the current issue of the Urban Times about an upcoming City project on 16th Street. It appears that the project will mainly consist of resurfacing the street, with some sidewalk and curb repair/replacement. The exciting part is the ability of a group of concerned citizens being successful in convincing the City to make some substantive changes to their plans to actually improve the street from a pedestrian's standpoint, most notably by providing curb extensions at the intersection of 16th & Delaware to reduce the crosswalk distance from five lanes to three lanes. Hopefully, this will also slow the speed of traffic and further increase safety for both drivers and pedestrians at this off-set intersection.

Ironic was the mention that the citizens' group was unsuccessful in convincing the city to reconstruct the sidewalk on the south side of 16th, west of Meridian (in front of Walgreen's parking lot), because the sidewalk there was too recently constructed to merit reconstruction. The citizens' group asked that the sidewalk be rebuilt away from the curb with a tree lawn between the street and sidewalk. One might ask why the City didn't build the sidewalk that way when it was previously reconstructed. Did we just realize that sidewalks built right next to a lane of moving cars are not inviting to pedestrians? The sidewalk probably could've been rebuilt as part of the Walgreen's redevelopment at this corner in 2007. Perhaps the City decided that it was more important to have some landscaping between the sidewalk and Walgreen's parking lot, which (according to the City's website: ) appears to be built within a foot or so of the 16th Street right-of-way line, rather than providing a ten-foot strip of landscaping as typically required by the zoning ordinance.

Across Meridian Street, the construction of the new CVS did include reconstruction of the 16th Street sidewalk at the right-of-way line to give pedestrians a slight buffer from traffic. Unfortunately, the sidewalk along Meridian Street still hugs the curb, requiring pedestrians to walk within a misstep of traffic. While it doesn't appear that there is additional unused right-of-way on Meridian Street, there is a strip of landscaping between the CVS building and the sidewalk. Why not reverse the sidewalk and landscaping to provide some buffer between pedestrians and traffic?

Wouldn't it be refreshing to have the City actually propose improvements that would improve the pedestrian environment instead of it only happening as a result of active and informed citizens catching them in time to win some changes to the plans? Take a look at the newly rebuilt sidewalk on Dr. MLK Jr. St, between 16th and 21st Streets. Right next to moving traffic and worse yet, there are utility poles right in the middle of the sidewalk, such that there isn't even space to get a wheelchair around the poles without going off the sidewalk. Does not the Americans with Disabilities Act apply to such projects?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Pedestrian Safety Action Plan

Comprehensive study of pedestrian traffic fatalities and severe injuries in New York City:

UPDATE: 25-Aug-2010
This is a pretty thorough analysis of accidents involving death or severe injury. While it focuses much of its energy on pedestrians, it does analyze the rate of overall traffic deaths among all street users and determines that New York City is the safest city in the U.S. as far as traffic deaths are concerned. It adjusts for the surge in daytime population in Manhattan to stress that although the raw number of deaths and injuries is high, the rate per 100,000 population is quite low.

I believe that it alludes to NYC being even safer for pedestrians than the rate of death and severe injury per 100,000 population would imply, because there is actually a much higher rate of walking among the population there, among commuters, residents, and tourists. I've always wanted to see a study that attempts to compare pedestrian safety among U.S. cities by estimating something like miles walked per 100,000 population and using that to determine the actual likelihood of being killed or injured in a collision. My hunch has been that such a study would find that older, more dense cities, where walking is more common, are many times safer to walk in than our newer, lower density cities. It might also be interesting to have a study that factored in death or injury due to crime. If anyone is aware of such a study, please provide a link or other direction.