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Riverport Area Should Be Walkable (Updated)

For the first time in my 19 years in St. Louis, I went to the suburban Riverport area last weekend (map) .  I went to the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater (formerly known as the Riverport Amphitheater) for Farm Aid.

But this post is about the amphitheater (bottom above) as it is about the entire area along the loop road known as Riverport Drive.  This compact area contains offices, hotels and restaurants – all within easy walking distance of each other.  Sure, nobody is going to walk to Riverport but people should be able to walk within Riverport.

The #34 bus stops at Riverport Drive.  Then what?  Walk in the street to get to your destination?  Are sidewalks and a pedestrian network just too much to ask?

The area includes several hotels.  I know I’ve had long days before driving in a car for hours and after checking into a hotel the last thing I want to do is have to get back in the car to drive to dinner.  Walking should be an option in addition to driving.  As designed, the only option is driving.

I’m not asking for a recreation of a downtown, just tie it all together with sidewalks.

Update 10/9/09 @ 10am:

I looked up the directions to get to Riverport from my place downtown.  It is very easy but it is that last bit that makes it unpleasant.

I love the caution about missing sidewalks.

– Steve Patterson


City to Pedestrians: Don’t Cross Locust at 9th

October 5, 2009 Accessibility, Downtown 8 Comments

The new Culinaria grocery store on 9th between Olive and Locust has helped to dramatically increase the number of pedestrians in the area near the store.  A friend of mine pointed out something that I and many others hadn’t noticed at 9th & Locust (map).

When crossing Locust on the West side of 9th Street signs indicate that pedestrians should not continue straight ahead — they should use the crosswalk on the East side of 9th.  The pedestrian above is crossing Locust while the light is green.  The “use crosswalk” sign is seen on the right.  No pedestrian signal exists, but many intersections downtown are missing such signals.

Note that the crosswalk stripes on the pavement have been covered over.  So while the other side of the street is close enough to toss a quarter across the street the city doesn’t want you to cross here.  Instead they want you to cross 9th twice as well as Locust.  But why?

During the construction of the Roberts Tower has 8th Street closed between St. Charles St & Locust.  Before then 9th Street was a one-way street Northbound.  But with Southbound 8th closed part of 9th was changed to 2-way traffic.  Before Culinaria opened 9th was 2-way up to Olive with traffic directed left on Olive (one-way Eastbound).  But the two-way traffic was pushed back one block from Olive back to Locust.  That meant Southbound traffic on 9th had to turn right at Locust, as the above signs indicate.  The city took the lazy way out — giving drivers a right arrow and telling pedestrians that is not a valid crosswalk.

But person after person crosses at this non-crosswalk.

Most, but not all, wait for a green light:

The person above, crossing Locust walking Northbound, is going against the light.  When the light turned green the couple with the stroller crossed as well.  In fact, all that I observed crossed at this non-crosswalk.  It is natural to cross at this point.

The city, I guess, put up the signs and covered the crosswalk stripes to reduce their liability in the event a right turning car from 9th onto Locust injures or kills a pedestrian.  A cover your ass action.  Except that a person with visual impairments is not going to see the signs.  Their white cane or guide dog will read this as a conventional intersection.  The solution in this case, to meet the ADA is to place a physical barrier that would be detected by cane.  A guide dog would know not to cross to the other side.

But the real solution is to give pedestrians the right of way.  Remove the right arrow from the traffic signal and use right arrows on the pavement so that motorists know they must turn right to avoid oncoming traffic.  Signs cautioning drivers to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk would be good although my observation was that motorists were doing this anyway.

For the record using the East side of 9th coming from or going to Washington Ave is not an option.

Just a short block from Locust you can see that the above corner lacks a curb cut. The city needs to be more concerned about the flow of pedestrians.

– Steve Patterson


New Crown Food Mart Strip Center Lacks Required ADA Acess Route

Just North of downtown at Cass & North 13th (map link) an entire block has become a Crown Food Mart strip center with gas station & car wash.  Food choices are very limited in the immediate area so this will serve a need.  The problem is the auto-centric/suburban design.

I’m not talking about the design of the building.  I’m talking about the site design.  The site is surrounded on all sides with streets.  At one time buildings were built up to the street.  A modern example is the strip at Grand & Arsenal — store in front, parking in back.

The sidewalks are generous and have street trees.  They’ll see lots of use too because the area is surrounded by residential with residents that don’t all have cars.  Besides, why drive to a place you can see just a few blocks away?

The problem for the pedestrian is the sidewalk is great if you want to walk around the perimeter of the site but not actually approach any of the stores.  Like so much new construction, this development completely ignores the concept of an ADA access route.  In the short time I was taking these pics I saw a woman walking North and a man heading toward the development in a wheelchair.  He was on Florissant Ave because the area’s sidewalks are in such poor condition, if they exist.

But the incompetent designers of this development wrongly assumed that all customers would arrive by car and that real pedestrians would not use their new sidewalks to get to the businesses.  You may recall the wheelchair bound woman who was struck & killed by a motorist on Delmar at Jefferson after leaving the Crown Food Mart at that intersection.  The city was to blame in that case because the sidewalks were non-existent or not passable.  But like this new location, that location doesn’t have provisions to get from the public sidewalk to the front doors of the businesses. Pedestrians are subjected to enter/exit in the same spots as cars.

Cars & pedestrians are not mutually exclusive, or at least they shouldn’t be.  The way we do it here is we design for cars at the exclusion of pedestrians.  Good design designs for both pedestrians and motorists.  It is possible.  It just takes that as a goal — or a requirement by the city.

– Steve Patterson


Emergency Exits at Culinaria Blocked (Updated)

It hasn’t taken long but the new Culinaria grocery store downtown is already using emergency exits for storage:

The same exit is also blocked outside:

Blocking these exits is unacceptable.

– Steve Patterson

UPDATE 9/1/09  @ 1:50pm:

At my request, City inspectors visited Culinaria this morning and I’m told all exits are now clear of these obstructions.  I have not been there to verify but will do so soon and report if anything is not OK.   – SLP


City Equipment Blocks Sidewalk Near SLU Campus

August 29, 2009 Accessibility, Midtown, SLU 3 Comments

Yesterday, while driving home from the doctor, I spotted this equipment sitting on the sidewalk along Olive at Compton (map link):

In the background is a corner of the Saint Louis University campus.  Behind me, to the East, is several restaurants that cater to SLU students. Between the two is equipment used in monitoring traffic counts.  Someone had to make the decision it was OK to place this device on the sidewalk, in the way of pedestrians.  Able bodied students can walk around but the more our pedestrian spaces are compromised the less likely we are to walk from place to place.

– Steve Patterson