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Olive & Tucker Designed for Pedestrian-Vehicle Conflict

The intersection of two major downtown streets — Olive St & Tucker Blvd — is poorly designed for pedestrians. The are a number of problems, but this post is about poor communication to pedestrians that puts them in harms way. Specifically, vehicles that get a left-turn arrow from Tucker to Olive are on a collision course with pedestrians that don’t realize cars will be turning left into their path.

Vehicles traveling Northbound & Southbound on Tucker each get a dedicated left-turn lane onto Olive, Westbound & Eastbound. respectively.  Each gets a left arrow, so drivers assume they have the right-of-way. “What’s the problem?” you ask. Pedestrians can also think,due to a lack of pedestrian signals, they have the right-of-way.

  1. At the start of the cycle SB vehicles on Tucker get a green light, left onto EB Olive get an arrow.
  2. After a bit the arrow goes away and NB traffic gets a green.
  3. Later the SB traffic gets a red and those going NB get a left arrow onto WB Olive.

Pedestrians & vehicles can’t both have the right to be in the same place at the same time!

You might be thinking “pedestrians should just look at the vehicle signals to know when it’s OK to cross Olive.” For SB pedestrians on the East side of Tucker & NB pedestrians on the West side of Tucker the vehicle signals don’t indicate vehicles have a left-turn arrow.

SB on the East side of Tucker we can't see the signal on the right -- it's turned toward cars in the left-turn lane.
SB on the East side of Tucker we can’t see the signal on the right — it’s turned toward cars in the left-turn lane.
NB on the West side of Tucker we see a woman crossing with the green. What you can't see ifs the left-turn lane has an an arrow to turn right in her path!
NB on the West side of Tucker we see a woman crossing with the green. What you can’t see ifs the left-turn lane has an an arrow to turn right in her path!

So the first should be a relatively easy to get to achieve minimally acceptable communications — turn the signal head so pedestrians can see the green & left arrow. But the second isn’t as simple.

If possible, the bare minimum would be to change the signal head so it includes an arrow. The problem with this is the arrow might suddenly appear as a person is halfway across Olive. This really needs a pedestrian signal with a countdown timer. Another option is to redo the signal configuration — allow both left turns to happen simultaneously — then give them a red while NB/SB vehicles get a green.

Ok, so one intersection — fix it and move on, right? If the woman in blue in the 2nd image keeps waking North she’ll encounter the same conflict one block up at Locust St!

As at Olive, the signal is green but pedestrians walking North don''t know a left-turn arrow is going to send vehicles into their path.
As at Olive, the signal is green but pedestrians walking North don”t know a left-turn arrow is going to send vehicles into their path.

These are just a few examples of the dangers designed into our auto-centric system. I’ve been through these intersections many times, but had never noticed the conflict — because I’m familiar with the vehicle flow. A downtown visitor, however, might not be confused, or worse, became a pedestrian death statistic. If a pedestrian is hit by a left-turning car in these examples it’s no “accident” — it’s by design! Sadly, these conflicts have likely existed for years — perhaps even decades!

Every intersection in the city/region needs to be critically evaluated to catch conflict by design. Prioritize then and then set about correcting them. I pointed out the conflicts at Olive to St. Louis’ new Bike/Pedestrian Coordinator, Jamie Wilson, last week as we walked/rolled to lunch.

I’ve volunteered to:

  • Start a custom Google map where I can catalog problems I encounter.
  • Go out with him and other, upon request, to demonstrate the problems with out pedestrian infrastructure

Below is time-lapse video looking South and then North

— Steve Patterson

 

Downtown>Hampton>IKEA>Downtown Part 2

Yesterday, in Part 1, I talked about the two different transit I’d taken (MetroLink, #90 & #32 MetroBus) and issues faced as a pedestrian trying to navigate in between.  I’d made it to IKEA for shopping, followed by lunch.

I'm obsessed with food so naturally I took a pic of my plate: Veggies balls with vegetarian black bean sauce,, steamed veggies, Swedish apple cake, and tap water.
I’m obsessed with food so naturally I took a pic of my plate: Veggies balls with vegetarian black bean sauce,, steamed veggies, Swedish apple cake, and tap water.
When I was done with lunch the rain had resumed.
When I was done with lunch the rain had resumed.

I checked the transit options, it would be a while before a MetroBus stopped out front. Plus, that would only get me to Lindell where I’d have to wait in the rain for the #10. The Grand MetroLink is closer than the CWE MetroLink, but Forest Park is the most direct route and I recall some access issues the last time. Plus, my transfer from earlier was now long expired.

No matter what I’d be in the rain, so I decided to just roll home — 2.9 miles. I’ve done it a few times before, though not in the rain. I’m still wearing a poncho to keep me and the controller on my chair dry. My shoes, however, get soaked.  North on Vandeventer to Lindell. I stayed on the West side of Vandeventer because I’m bot sure if the city ever got around to the huge gaps in front of the curb ramps on the NE corner of Vandeventer & Forest Park. At Lindell, I checked the schedule again — I can get home before the next bus would arrive.

Because of the rain I only took a few pictures. The following week I took the bus to Lindell & Spring to backtrack and take pictures of things I saw in the rain.

Lindell & Spring, the crowd passed the walk button. Not sure if required.
Lindell & Spring, the crowd passed the walk button. Not sure if required.
New traffic signals being installed at the Lindell/Olive intersection. April 6th
New traffic signals being installed at the Lindell/Olive intersection. April 6th
This signal is long overdue! In the background the Hotel Ignacio is getting its EFIS facade repaired
This signal is long overdue! In the background the Hotel Ignacio is getting its EFIS facade repaired
How many years ago did I post about the need for painted crosswalk lines here? August 2011 -- click image for post.
How many years ago did I post about the need for painted crosswalk lines here? August 2011 — click image for post.
Olive & Compton, no need to push the button tho cross Compton. If you want to cross Olive you must press the button.
Olive & Compton, no need to push the button tho cross Compton. If you want to cross Olive you must press the button.
At Ewing is a ramp my powerful chair cannot get up -- the vertical height is too much. April 6th
At Ewing is a ramp my powerful chair cannot get up — the vertical height is too much. April 6th
The same ramp again. Like hundreds/thousands of curb ramps it was built too high relative to the paving. Plus, like so many, the paving right in from is partially missing. I have to role in Ewing a little bit to get to a driveway.
The same ramp again. Like hundreds/thousands of curb ramps it was built too high relative to the paving. Plus, like so many, the paving right in from is partially missing. I have to role in Ewing a little bit to get to a driveway to get onto the sidewalk.
The West side at Ewing & Olive is another issue. The concrete at the top has caved in. .
The West side at Ewing & Olive is another issue. The concrete at the top has caved in between the top of the ramp and the access panel.
I've not tried to go up this ramp. it might also be impossible
I’ve not tried to go up this ramp. it might also be impossible
At Leffingwell you must press the button to get a walk signal to cross Olive -- even when traffic has a green light
At Leffingwell you must press the button to get a walk signal to cross Olive — even when traffic has a green light
At Olive & 20th I saw the buttons in the rain, they were far away. To cross 20th you needed to be over by Olive and vice versa.
At Olive & 20th I saw the buttons in the rain, they were far away. To cross 20th you needed to be over by Olive and vice versa.
When I went back I confirmed no button is needed to cross 20th but you do need to press a button top cross Olive. The signs are wrong, the button next to each crosswalk is what is wired.
When I went back I confirmed no button is needed to cross 20th but you do need to press a button top cross Olive. The signs are wrong, the button next to each crosswalk is what is wired.

Used to be — but no curb ramp is missing for the nearly 3 mile trip. If I tried to use Locust there are many missing curb ramps.

I still fail to understand why all the cost of the buttons when they don’t need to be pushed in the East-West direction. And why have to press a button to get a walk signal when vehicles from side streets get a green light?  This is how we’ve spent money — building infrastructure that frustrates this pedestrian!

— Steve Patterson

 

Downtown>Hampton>IKEA>Downtown Part 1

The morning of April 6th I had a 9am appointment on Hampton Ave, between Columbia & Elizabeth. It was raining off and on that day. Today’s post is about the journey there & back.

I had originally planned to take MetroBus there, but I didn’t have any two-hour passes so I’d get a transfer for the 2nd bus. So I went to the Union Station MetroLink station, purchased a few passes, validated one, boarded a Westbound train to the Forest Park MetroLink station. Just before a Southbound #90 (Hampton) MetroBus arrived it began to sprinkle. I left home in a poncho to keep  and my wheelchair’s controller dry.

View out a Southbound #90 MetroBus on Hampton about to cross over I-64. Traffic was backed up on the highway and WB on ramp
View out a Southbound #90 MetroBus on Hampton about to cross over I-64. Traffic was backed up on the highway and WB on ramp

After taking care of business at two places on Hampton, I wanted to visit IKEA to shop and have lunch. The most direct route was a short ride on a Northbound #90 (Hampton) MetroBus, then take a #32 (Chouteau-Manchester) MetroBus to Vandeventer. But when I was ready to leave it was going to be a while before the next #90 arrived, I might as well just roll it.

I’ve gone up to Clayton Ave before, so I knew  I could manage — it was about 3/4 of a mile from my starting point to Lloyd Ave. where I’d go right to make my way down to Manchester (map).   As I turned off Hampton onto Lloyd I was pleasantly surprised a sidewalk existed — I wasn’t sure that would be the case. However, a the bottom of the hill there was no sidewalk along Sulphur. Well, there is along the East side, but because of curbs, I couldn’t get to it.

At this point I had two options:

  1. Roll on the Sulphur Ave roadway, or
  2. Go back up to Hampton, cross, reach Manchester on the other side.

Looking at the time I thought I’d miss the next #32 if I went with the safer #2 option. So, when there was no traffic I quickly rolled South to Manchester. Whew…

The ADA ramp to cross Manchester is covered in a fine gravel. I can power over it but others would have difficulty.
The ADA ramp to cross Manchester is covered in a fine gravel. I can power over it but others would have difficulty.
Looking back where I'd been
Looking back where I’d been
The EB MetroBus stop. I wish it had a curb at the far right edge to prevent backing up too far and rolling down the hill.
The EB MetroBus stop. I wish it had a curb at the far right edge to prevent backing up too far and rolling down the hill.
Looking West to see the #32 coming. In September I posted about the danger of reaching one bus stop to the West -- clock image to view that post
Looking West to see the #32 coming. In September I posted about the danger of reaching one bus stop to the West — clock image to view that post

So the #32 MetroBus came right on time, my transfer was still valid, and it had stopped raining. I’d get off at Vandeventer Ave and roll North to IKEA — about a half a mile. So I got off at the last MetroBus stop before Vandeventer Ave., just had to cross one side street first.

Hemp Ave is between the bus stop and Vandeventer, but no curb ramp is visible. But be just out of view
Hemp Ave is between the bus stop and Vandeventer, but no curb ramp is visible. But be just out of view
Nope, just 100 feet from a bus stop there's no curb cut! I found a driveway I was barely able to use to get onto the sidewalk
Nope, just 100 feet from a bus stop there’s no curb cut! I found a driveway I was barely able to use to get onto the sidewalk
Looking North I'd hoped to cross here to stay on the West side of Vandeventer -- but pedestrians aren't allowed ri cross at this point
Looking North I’d hoped to cross here to stay on the West side of Vandeventer — but pedestrians aren’t allowed ri cross at this point
So I crossed Vandeventer, them crossed Manchester. The sidewalk design makes it clear to not go East on Chouteau.
So I crossed Vandeventer, them crossed Manchester. The sidewalk design makes it clear to not go East on Chouteau.
QuikTrip thinks this is a compliant pedestrian route. It's not.
QuikTrip thinks this is a compliant pedestrian route. It’s not.
Heading North, but I see a problem ahead. Initially I thought no sidewalk existed after the building on the right
Heading North, but I see a problem ahead. Initially I thought no sidewalk existed after the building on the right
But the tiny sidewalk has been blocked by Laclede Cab. Looking at city records, the public right-of-way is as wide as it is ned to the building -- the sidewalk should be wider!
But the tiny sidewalk has been blocked by Laclede Cab. Looking at city records, the public right-of-way is as wide as it is ned to the building — the sidewalk should be wider!
Continuing, I'm almost to Market St. JJs Clubhouse, a gay bar, is to the right
Continuing, I’m almost to Market St. JJs Clubhouse, a gay bar, is to the right
Turning left, I can see my destination--almost there!
Turning left, I can see my destination–almost there!
Rough surface that would be a challenge for many
Rough surface that would be a challenge for many
When the side on the right is soon developed, this sidewalk will be redone. Still, this was great compared to what I had just experienced
When the side on the right is soon developed, this sidewalk will be redone. Still, this was great compared to what I had just experienced
But when IKEA was built one time section was left as gravel and my chair couldn't get up over the vertical edge -- not with me in it. Unlike many, I'm fortunate enough to be able to stand on level ground. So I got up and the chair could then get up to the sidewalk.
But when IKEA was built one time section was left as gravel and my chair couldn’t get up over the vertical edge — not with me in it. Unlike many, I’m fortunate enough to be able to stand on level ground. So I got up and the chair could then get up to the new sidewalk.
Looking back we can see the tiny section left unfinished and inaccessible for more than half a year .
Looking back we can see the tiny section left unfinished and inaccessible for more than half a year .
Finally, I can now cross to IKEA.
Finally, I can now cross to IKEA.

Combined with public transit, I can cover miles as a pedestrian in my wheelchair — though our public rights-of-way are far from ideal. Looking at Google Maps it suggests using Sarah to reach IKEA instead of Vandeventer — no matter where you start from: Commerce, QuikTrip, Laclede Cab, even JJs Clubhouse! Yes, if you’re at Vandeventer & Market where you can see IKEA it suggests you cross Vandeventer and go West on Clayton Road to Sarah.

This isn’t a lack of money issue — it’s a lack of concern issue. Money is spent building infrastructure that doesn’t work for actual users. This mentality needs to change!

Tomorrow’s post will be about my trip back downtown from IKEA.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

No Pedestrian Signal One Block From Busch Stadium

Monday was the Cardinals home opener, tens of thousands made their way into Busch Stadium III for the afternoon game. The current stadium opened a decade ago, the previous Busch Stadium opened to the North half a century ago, in 1966. So you’d think by now the pedestrian environment to/from the stadium has been refined by now? Sorry, no.

I give you a Clark Street crossing at 9th — a block West of Busch Stadium & Ballpark Village:

Looking North toward the stadium West garage, we can see the traffic light but no pedestrian signal. It rained earlier so the curb ramp is a pond.
Looking North toward the stadium West garage, we can see the traffic light but no pedestrian signal. It rained earlier so the curb ramp is a pond.
Looking South pedestrians have no signal or even a traffic light to determine when to cross Clark Street
Looking South pedestrians have no signal or even a traffic light to determine when to cross Clark Street

This is a common occurrence downtown, here’s why:

  • Lack of pedestrian signals at many signalized intersections throughout downtown
  • One-way streets mean pedestrians can see traffic light in one direction
  • But the opposite the direction they’re clueless, taking a risk when stepping off the curb

The intersection at 9th & Clark St isn’t typical — the interstate exit ramp complicates matters. It would be east for s person to attempt to cross here when vehicles have a green light — such as the highway exit.

Again, people have been walking to/from Cardinals games here for 50 years — the last 10 to the new stadium! The adjacent Westin Hotel in an old Cupples Station warehouse opened in 2001. I can see issues still existing a mile or more away — but this is just one block!

So now what? Someone needs to review every single intersection used by pedestrians on game days to see which are lacking. Then prioritize a list of updates to correct the shortcomings. Same goes for other attractions downtown and throughout the city, like:

  • Scottrade Center
  • Peabody Opera House
  • Kiener Plaza/Old Courthouse/Ely Smith Square/Arch
  • Soldiers’ Memorial (Reopening 2018)
  • Fox Theater/Powell Hall
  • Major transit stops (MetroBus & MetroLink)

This isn’t a lack of money — it’s a lack of priorities. Pedestrians aren’t valued in St. Louis so nobody bothers to think about how to attract/maintain them.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

An Open Letter To St. Louis’ Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator, Jamie Wilson

Jamie,

This open letter is in response to your February email reply regarding my posts St. Louis Fails At Crosswalks, Part 1 and Part 2. You wrote:

Thanks for your input on the crosswalks. I’m working on improving our pedestrian facilities and we will get better. Please feel free to send me other locations you’ve noticed besides those mentioned. I’d also value any pics you may have from other cities in your travels that have different approaches.

Since you asked, I put together information on problems I’ve seen here in St. Louis, along with solutions I’ve seen in other cities. I’m making this open to increase public awareness and discussion. It does cause me concern that a “traffic engineer” is in charge of pedestrian & bike issues — it is traffic engineering that has made it such a liability to be a pedestrian or cyclist in this city & region. This is reflected in pedestrian deaths.

That said, I do know engineers can do good work — when they think like pedestrians instead of drivers! The Portland Pedestrian Design Guide, dated June 1998, is a great place for you to start your re-education. Yes, a document nearly two decades old shows how far behind St. Louis is when it comes to addressing the needs pedestrians.

Here’s my initial list — in no particular order:

  1. Do not require pedestrians to press a button to get a WALK signal — except in very limited circumstances.
  2. Make sure every leg of a signalized intersection includes a pedestrian signal — with countdown timer.
  3. Allow pedestrians to cross at each leg of an intersection.
  4. Give pedestrians a head start with a WALK signal a few seconds before the traffic light turns green.
  5. Give pedestrians the walk before left-turning traffic, trailing left instead of leading left.
  6. Time pedestrian signals consistently. Some say DON’T WALK while traffic still has 30-60 of a green light remaining.
  7. Make sure sidewalks are level, not cracked. Sufficiently wide through path so pedestrians can meet/pass — not single file.
  8. Ramps perpendicular to curb, not on the apex of the corner.
  9. Use street trees and/or parked cars to separate pedestrians from vehicles
  10. Mid-Block crossings should be marked in the middle — a center sign and/or overhead light/sign

I don’t have photos to illustrate all ten items, but here are some:

A crosswalk & pedestrian signal in Cincinnati OH
A crosswalk & pedestrian signal in Cincinnati OH
The sign above the pedestrian signal lets pedestrians know this signal requires activation
The sign above the pedestrian signal lets pedestrians know this signal requires activation
They al;so mark the buttons too let pedestrians know they need to activate the walk signal.
They al;so mark the buttons too let pedestrians know they need to activate the walk signal.

In their downtown the bulk of the crossings were automatic, no activation required. This is how it should be in places with higher pedestrian traffic. There were a couple of places where they need a button but that was only to activate audio signals for those visually-impaored — a sign was there to let the rest of us know it was an audio signal — we didn’t need to press it to get a WALK signal.

Cincinnati

As Oklahoma City rebuilds downtown the new crosswalks are very wide, curb ramps can accommodate many users. July 2012
As Oklahoma City rebuilds downtown the new crosswalks are very wide, curb ramps can accommodate many users. July 2012

Contrast this with the narrow crosswalks and curb ramp in/around Ballpark Village — which are undersized for game-day pedestrian volume. As I find more examples in my photo library I’ll do a new post(s). In the meantime, I’d like us to take a walk.Ideally, we’d arrange for a power wheelchair for you to use so we can cover more territory.

Additional reading:

And please take 20 minutes to watch Dan Burden:

— Steve Patterson

 

 

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