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Opinion: Proposed Crosswalk “Improvements:” On Grand Won’t Improve Pedestrian Safety

May 30, 2018 Featured, Midtown, Planning & Design, SLU, Walkability Comments Off on Opinion: Proposed Crosswalk “Improvements:” On Grand Won’t Improve Pedestrian Safety

Grand Avenue runs through Saint Louis University’s main campus. It’s very busy because other North-South options like Spring & Theresa were vacated years ago. This means North-South that had 5 options now have 3: Vandeventer, Grand, and Compton. To handled the increased volume, on-street parking was removed. Without having to slow for cars parking, speeds increased. For pedestrians this is dangerous.

Since the city has given away public right-of-way (aka streets) to private property owners for years this problem exists throughout the city.  The proposed solution is the same superficial one — decorative crosswalks. The warm & fuzzy element of urban planning.

SLU’s rendering of proposed changes to Grand where West Pine used to be

Here again is what SLU is planning at Lindell, where West Pine used to be, and Laclede:

The project calls for the elimination of one of the three northbound lanes on Grand, which will allow the remaining lanes and the median to be widened. Bollards will also be installed to protect pedestrians who are about to cross the street as well as those who might be standing in the median. The roadway where the crosswalk is, will be changed to a brick-like surface to enhance the look and remind drivers to slow down. (KMOV)

Let’s take a closer look at each element.

  • Removal of one Northbound travel lane: Reducing the number of travel lanes is good.
  • Widen the remaining travel lanes & median: While widening the median is ok. increasing the width of travel lanes is the wrong thing to do! Wider lanes means driver’s feel safe at higher speeds. The remaining lanes should either be kept at their current width or reduced if you want to slow vehicles to increase pedestrian safety.
  • Bollards installed: In this context bollards gov an impression of safety, though they might help since cars will be going even faster on wider lanes.

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I’ve long been interested in the Grand & formerly West Pine crosswalk. I visited and observed at 4:45pm on Tuesday September 21, 2010 — nearly 8 years ago.

The crosswalk was highly visible to pedestrians & motorists, September 2010

After I observed the crosswalk and took the photo (above) I decided to record what I was witnessing,

Here are the problems I listed at the end of the video:

  1. Signal timing is too long for pedestrians, they get tired of waiting and cross when they can. The timing needs to change so pedestrians can safely cross more frequently.
  2. The pedestrian button, like most in St. Louis, doesn’t do anything. Even the one person who pressed the button crossed before getting the “walk” signal.  Eliminate the button or make the signal change quickly once pressed.

The fixes, save for shortening the crossing distance & giving students more space to stand between traffic, won’t make this crossing any safer. It’s possible the dark bricks will be less noticeable to motorists than the white paint. I know from a wheelchair perspective brick crosswalks are highly annoying. Motorists need to slow down before they reach the crosswalk.

Looking North on the East side of Grand, June 2011

One of the big problems is the lack of anything to get motorists to slow down: parked cars, narrow lanes, or — my favorite — street trees. It feels too wide open so motorists feel ok going faster than they should. Other things to do would be rumble strips in the pavement prior to reaching the crosswalk. make traffic stop more frequently during busy times, embed flashing LED lights in the lane markers ,a lighted sign overhead, etc.

Sadly too many are fooled by this region’s superficial efforts to appear to make pedestrian-friendly environments. Here’s the results of the recent non-scioentiofic Sunday Poll:

Q: Agree or disagree: Proposed changes to the crosswalk on Grand South of Lindell will greatly improve safety for pedestrians.

  • Strongly agree 3 [13.64%]
  • Agree 3 [13.64%]
  • Somewhat agree 7 [31.82%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 2 [9.09%]
  • Somewhat disagree 2 [9.09%]
  • Disagree 4 [18.18%]
  • Strongly disagree 1 [4.55%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 0 [0%]

This crosswalk will, to most eyes, look better. Aesthetics aside, it won’t perform any better — it might be worse. This is a way for SLU to mitigate damages from a future lawsuit by claiming they made an effort to improve safety. Actual safety is perceived as too inconvenient to motorists.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Sunday Poll: Will New Crosswalks Improve Pedestrian Safety?

May 27, 2018 Featured, Sunday Poll, Walkability Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Will New Crosswalks Improve Pedestrian Safety?
Please vote below

Regular readers know I’ve often blogged about crosswalks, so it’s no surprise I was interested in a story last week on improvements to three crosswalks on Grand where it runs through the Saint Louis University campusL: Laclede. Lindell, and the point between those two.

The project calls for the elimination of one of the three northbound lanes on Grand, which will allow the remaining lanes and the median to be widened. Bollards will also be installed to protect pedestrians who are about to cross the street as well as those who might be standing in the median. The roadway where the crosswalk is, will be changed to a brick-like surface to enhance the look and remind drivers to slow down. (KMOV)

The work will be funded by SLU, not the city. Here’s more from NextSTL:

SLU to begin Grand crosswalk improvements and road diet

The busiest of the three planned crosswalks is the one halfway between Lindell and Laclede — this is the subject of today’s poll

This poll will close at 8pm tonight.

— Steve Patterson

 

Dead Sidewalks Won’t Come Back To Life With Overhead Walkways Gone

May 21, 2018 Downtown, Featured, Planning & Design, Walkability Comments Off on Dead Sidewalks Won’t Come Back To Life With Overhead Walkways Gone

Enclosed walkways over public sidewalks are generally a bad idea — removing pedestrians from the public realm. However, with these elevated walkways often comes the real culprits to killing sidewalk life: blank walls, inward focus, etc.

A prime example of what not to do in a downtown was downtown St. Louis’ St. Louis Centre indoor mall.

Blank walls faced the public sidewalk, under the walkways it was dark.

ABOVE: Looking east on May 27, 2010

It was 8 years ago today that a big event was held to begin the removal of the very oppressive walkway from over Washington Ave — the first step in transforming the inward-focused mall into outward-facing MX retail with the interior becoming a parking garage.

See:

 

Two other walkways have been removed in the last year, one on each side of the former Southwestern Bell headquarters, later an AT&T building on Chestnut between 9th & 10th. The walkways connected the now vacant tower, now longer owned by AT&T with an older Bell building to the West and a 90s data center to the East.

Former walkway over 9th Street, 2009 photo
Similar walkway over 10th St, also a 2009 photo

These walkways were very different than those at the former St. Louis Centre — up high, small, transparent, These allowed employees to walk to/from all 3 buildings without having to keep going through security. With AT&T’s significant reduction in the number of downtown employees the center towner became unnecessary. The tower’s new owners needed to reconfigure the tower from a single-occupany headquarters into a multi-tenant building. For them and AT&T that meant disconnecting the three buildings.

In SEptember 2017 the walkway over 9th was gone, though work remained to fill in the hole in the West side of the data center created by removing the walkway.

The exteriors are all repaired now, though all three buildings are lifeless at the sidewalk level. This us by design. The removal of these two walkways won’t have the dramatic results we’ve seen at MX.

St. Louis has systematically killed street life block by block, neighborhoods by neighborhood. Attempting to bring back vibrant sidewalks for more than a few blocks here or there is likely a waste of time at this point.

— Steve Patterson

 

Deutsch Family Profiting From Public Right-of-Way…Again

April 16, 2018 Downtown, Featured, Parking, Walkability Comments Off on Deutsch Family Profiting From Public Right-of-Way…Again

A couple of weeks from now will mark two years since my post titled: Deutsch Family Has Profited From Public Right-Of-Way For Nearly Two Decades. It was a more detailed follow up to an April 2009 post called Stealing a Sidewalk.

From the 2016 post:

In the late 1990s, Larry Deutsch was finally allowed to raze the historic 4-story building at 1101 Locust St. that housed Miss Hullings Cafeteria for decades. After the demolition crew left, new sidewalks were poured and the lot was covered in asphalt for surface parking. That’s when the line dividing private from public property was moved more than 3 feet. Legally the lot is 121 feet x 102 feet 6 inches. But by narrowing the public sidewalk, they made their lot 124.33′ x 105.83′ — a gain of 6%! This is roughly 750 square feet of public space that has been used privately for years.

This allowed them to have 5 additional parking spaces. The current daily rate is often $10, but let’s say $5/day. With about 300 revenue days a year, that’s $7,500 in additional revenue per year. Over 18 years the total estimate is $135,000. Serious money made by taking from the public right-of-way.

After my May 2016 post they put orange cones in the parking spaces that were partially on public property.

The building represents the property line, not the concrete sidewalk.

On the East end of 1101 Locust St the same thing along 11th — they [placed cones along the actual property line
Each time I’d go past the cones would be out — not as good as pouring new concrete sidewalks at the actual property line. But the other day I noticed they were back to stealing public right-of-way for their profits!

The driver’s half of this car is parked on the public right-of-way
And along 11th half of this vehicle is parked on the public right-of-way.

Ownership hasn’t changed. As I said two years ago, the city needs to force the Deutsch family to pour new concrete sidewalks that extend all the way to the property lin. They also need to bring this surface lot up to current standards for surface lots — with physical barriers between sidewalk & parking so cars can’t park on or drive on public sidewalks.

I’ll be reminding 7th Ward Alderman Jack Coatar about this today.

 

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Crosswalks Meet At One Curb Ramp, Rather Than Two

August 28, 2017 Accessibility, Featured, Planning & Design, Walkability Comments Off on Crosswalks Meet At One Curb Ramp, Rather Than Two

Recent work downtown has been mostly good for pedestrians, but Saturday night my husband and I found an awful corner: the NE corner of Market & Broadway.  This is the SW corner of the Old Courthouse. I;m not sure who gets the blame, the possible culprits are city streets dept, city board of public service (BPS), MoDOT, National Park Service, or Gateway Arch Park Foundation.

Most new work has gotten away from placing one curb ramp at the apex at the corner, instead doing a ramp/crosswalk to cross each street. This improves ADA-compliance and reduces inconveniences for all pedestrians.

We had to cross the ramp on the NE corner of Market & Broadway as we crossed Broadway. Both times the ramp was full of pedestrians waiting to cross Market. Both times I had to ask others to move.

Heading back to Kiener Plaza I snapped this photo of the crowd at the corner, two guys on the left are avoiding the crowd at the corner by walking in the street — not an option for those of us who use mobility devices.
In this crowed view you can see hoe the one crosswalk is angled to meet the sole curb ramp.

The idea is to get Arch visitors to start in Kiener Plaza, so this corner should see many pedestrians. It amazes me each crosswalk doesn’t lead to its own curb ramp.

No, I’m not amazed. I’ve experienced first hand how even brand new work ism’t designed by people who think like pedestrians.

— Steve Patterson

 

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