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Will Blinking Yellow Make Walkers Safe?

by Thomas MacMillan | May 23, 2011 7:30 am

(57) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: Transportation, Downtown

Thomas MacMIllan Photo After a temporary guerrilla crosswalk appeared on Whitney Avenue at Audubon Street, Erin Gustafson looked out her office window and saw people crossing safely as cars slowed to a stop. A plan is in the works to make that temporary phenomenon a permanent reality.

The crosswalk Gustafson saw at Audubon and Whitney disappeared soon after it appeared, removed by city officials concerned it was making the street unsafe for pedestrians. Safe-streets advocates had painted the crosswalk in the middle of the night without public permission.

The vision of what was possible lingered. It inspired Gustafson to team up with downtown activist Doug Hausladen and try to bring the crosswalk back, permanently this time.

And guess what? It turns out city officials have been cooking up pretty much the same plan on their own for one of downtown’s most contentious crossings.

Gustafson, who works on Whitney at the Yale Office of International Students and Scholars, and Hausladen, who manages a property nearby, Tuesday submitted a project proposal to the city. The pair used the Project Request Form in the new Complete Streets infrastructure design manual to petition for a raised crosswalk with a blinking light at the intersection.

The city Complete Streets Manual includes a Project Request Form that anyone can use to request an improvement to car, bike, or pedestrian infrastructure. The Gustafson/Hausladen proposal goes beyond the simple two-page form. It includes a title page, table of contents, and appendices with photographs and testimonials from pedestrians. See it here.

Meanwhile, city interim traffic czar Jim Travers said he and City Engineer Dick Miller are already at work with a consultant seeking a pedestrian solution for the location.

All parties have one idea in common: a pedestrian-triggered blinking yellow light. Such a device was recently installed on Canal Street. It doesn’t stop cars, but it gives drivers a heads up that people are crossing.

While the corner of Audubon and Whitney has for years been the subject of complaints from pedestrians, the issue was taken to another level earlier this month when a group of guerrilla street painters took matters into their own hands. In the dark of night, they installed a crosswalk of their own, stretching from the north corner of Audubon to the west side of Whitney, in front of Gourmet Heaven.

The action prompted a spirited public debate, and also drew the criticism of the local alderwoman, Bitsie Clark. She said the crosswalk would make the area more dangerous, not less, because it would give pedestrians a false sense of security at what is inherently a dangerous spot to cross. Travers saw it similarly; he ordered city workers to power-wash away the crosswalk.

One afternoon this week, Gustafson and Hausladen stopped by the intersection to talk about their vision, as pedestrians braved speeding cars to cross Whitney.

Gustafson began by saying that she is responsible for one of the oldest of the several SeeClickFix tickets calling for a crosswalk at Audubon and Whitney. Her handle on the site: “10 year walker.”

It’s now 12 years that she’s been walking from her home in Wooster Square to her office on Whitney. She crosses the street at Audubon multiple times a day.

When the guerrilla crosswalk appeared a couple weeks ago, Gustafson saw that it worked immediately. People heading west on the south side of Audubon crossed over to use the crosswalk. They “coalesced” at the north corner, waited there, and cars stopped for them, she said.

“I was so excited to see everyone doing it safely,” she said.

She called up Hausladen, the departing chair of the Downtown/Wooster Square Community Management Team. The two of them set to crafting a permanent solution.

Hausladen, through the management team, had heard several years of complaints about the intersection. He also works for a company that manages 55 Whitney Ave., at the north corner of Audubon and Whitney. He saw for himself how hard it is to get across the street.

There are several obstacles to the introduction of a crosswalk, Gustafson and Hausladen explained. The main problem: The slight rise in Whitney Avenue over the Farmington Canal Trail just south of the intersection prevents drivers from seeing crossers until they’re nearly on them. That factor is made worse by the fact that Whitney Avenue at Grove Street, south of Audubon, starts off wide before it crests that small hill. The width encourages cars to speed, Hausladen said. The road feels wide and welcomes acceleration. Many of the drivers are heading to the highway or otherwise anxious to get out of town, he said.

Hausladen suggested putting in angled parking on one side of Whitney between Grove and the crest of the canal hill. That would narrow the street and reduce speeds, and increase parking.

Meanwhile, Audubon is designed to be a different kind of street from broad Whitney: a narrow lane with brick details and a curve designed to slow cars. Any crosswalk therefore has to deal with the fundamental mismatch of a quiet pedestrian-friendly road meeting a major artery out of downtown.

Some people have suggested putting in the crosswalk at the top of the hill over the canal, Gustafson and Hausladen said. That’s not going to work, they said. For one thing, there’s a big pipe erupting out of the sidewalk like a breaching humpback whale (visible in photo above). For another, no one walking down Audubon will go 100 yards out of their way to cross the street when they’re hungry for lunch at Gourmet Heaven or Moe’s.

So what’s to be done?

Gustafson said she’d like to see a permanent crosswalk where the guerrillas put one, equipped with a pedestrian activated blinking yellow light like the one on Canal Street.

Travers later offered the same idea. He described it as “something that creates a little ‘I’m here!’” to allow pedestrians to draw attention to themselves when crossing.

Gustafson said she likes that idea better than a simple sign indicating a crosswalk. There’s one of those at Court Street where it meets Orange, and drivers ignore it all the time, even when she stands there pointing at it, she said.

Putting the crosswalk in with red brick would further highlight it for drivers, she said. The submitted proposal calls for a raised crosswalk.

Hausladen said the package he and Gustafson put together doesn’t even get into the more intensive overhauls that could happen at the intersection, like bump-outs to narrow the crossing distance for pedestrians.

Travers said bump-outs are being considered by the traffic department.

Travers said he cannot offer a timeframe for completion of a new crosswalk at the intersection. He said the city had been working on fixing the spot, even before the guerrillas forced the issue. “We’ll still continue to push this forward,” he said. The traffic department is “committed to safe walkability” throughout the city, he said.

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posted by: Limited Life on May 23, 2011  8:48am

Two young Yalies at their physical prime are incapable of walking across a street without government assistance. This is very sad. The city’s traffic czar and the city engineer also need a consultant to help them. This is very sad. We all need big government. Now look, the old guy in the picture is crossing the street without help. The city’s last living republican?

posted by: anon on May 23, 2011  8:54am

As anyone over the age of 8 who has traveled in other cities would tell you, this is not exactly rocket science.  The only thing that will work here are measures like bump outs, lower posted limits (15 MPH has been requested numerous times in this area due to all the young children crossing), and raised crosswalks that reduce vehicle travel speed and increase the visibility by & of pedestrians.

Measures to “inform” drivers such as signs or overhead blinking lights, without major speed reductions, are actually worse because they further distract drivers from watching for pedestrians.  It would be ironic if the city installed blinking lights without speed reduction measures after removing a crosswalk that actually made things safer by indicating where it was already legal to cross.

Great to see citizens working on this- a top city official recently said that the citizen request here was the best they had ever received.

posted by: streever on May 23, 2011  9:18am

This is great! I’m glad we have another Transportation Director who pushes for these types of improvements. I just wish that the rest of the city supported this department by putting out information in a timely and proactive way. This isn’t a dig on Jim or TT&P—a severely understaffed and underfunded budget can not hope to do the work they do AND crow about it!

The city pays for communications people—imagine if they had responded to the half dozen seeclickfix posts, e-mails, independent comments, and more, to inform them that the city had heard our voices and was planning to do something? We may never have seen a guerilla crosswalk at all.

I am often left scratching my head at all the “damage control” our tax dollars pay for, when the exact same (already filled) positions at City Hall could be used to proactively educate & communicate.

Maybe—instead of having multiple staff members devoted to public image damage control, aldermanic liaisons, and other “communication” staff, the city should task some of them with reading See Click Fix (which taxpayers fund) and then talking to the Department heads.

“Hey, TT&P, looks like a lot of people are upset about Whitney and Audubon.”
“Oh, of course, it is an awful crossing. We are working on a plan.”
“Great! I’ll go on SeeClickFix and update the report, letting citizens know that you are working on it. Let me know when you have a diagram or two, and I’ll go post them.”

If the city is going to pay money to opt-in to “transparency” solutions, is it really too much to expect that they’ll go the extra step and actually task staff with engaging citizens via them?

posted by: oh i see on May 23, 2011  9:19am

gosh, i’m on both of their mailing lists.  nice to see what they look like.

posted by: streever on May 23, 2011  9:23am

@Limited Life:
Do you realize how incapable people are of getting literally anywhere without “government assistance”?

America spends about $300 billion on automobile infrastructure per year. You want to make this political? It already is. According to the Federal Highway Administration (Highway Statistics 1990, Tables HF-10 and SMT) 40% of the cost of highway infrastructure is paid not by user fees but by everyone—$18 billion per year.

Don’t get me started on “government assistance” as it relates to improving our streets.

posted by: anon on May 23, 2011  9:25am

Limited Life, perhaps you should tell that to the families of the hundreds of pedestrians killed, and the thousands severely injured, within Connecticut over the past several years. 

As to the elderly people you see crossing, I hope they were being careful: the death rate for pedestrians over 65 years of age is 175% higher than the death rate for pedestrians under 65.  In fact, elderly folks have been hit while crossing Whitney Avenue in the recent past.  Children are also at higher risk.  I don’t think these two citizens are particularly motivated by the risk to able-bodied, middle aged people.

posted by: Noteworthy on May 23, 2011  9:48am

I find it very interesting that people have an never ending list of problems they expect government to fix. Inevitably, what government does costs a thousand times more than a practical one: Painting a crosswalk on the street. Flashing lights, raised walkways, consultants, yadda yadda. I agree with Limited Life and had a good laugh. The city should do two things: Put up a sign that says pedestrians ahead and secondly, paint a crosswalk permanently on the road perhaps with white warning stripes leading up to it. I have driven through this area many times and contrary to what people say, drivers are not going faster, they’re going slower because people are going to the Neighborhood Music School, looking for spaces to park to go to any of the stores in that strip. Keep it simple. Keep it real. And not real expensive.

posted by: Bill on May 23, 2011  9:59am

It would help if the city finished work on the Farmington canal, with access ramps at the music school park and at Temple Street. This would provide a completely safe alternative for pedestrian and bicycle traffic to reach the Audubon street area from the north west, and therefore reduce the number of pedestrians (especially children) who need to cross Whitney.

posted by: anon on May 23, 2011  10:06am

I agree, Noteworthy. Especially when the expensive “improvements” actually make things even more dangerous than they were with nothing there. Simple problems call for simple solutions - I think most people agree with you that this could be fixed very cheaply if the city was willing to.

posted by: anon on May 23, 2011  10:15am

Bill, it is likely that the development of the Canal Trail will actually bring even more pedestrians and cyclists to this area, because it will become even more of a destination.  Infrastructure investments of that scale almost always lead to more activity and investment.  So the completion of the Trail (most likely next year) will make the need for safer crossings even more urgent than they are now.

posted by: Anderson Scooper on May 23, 2011  10:33am

I’ll say it again, “Where is Yale in all of this?”

I’m grateful for the annual $$$Millions$$$ they spend on downtown police safety. But to my knowledge they spend nothing on downtown pedestrian safety?

I understand the fall-out from a student getting shot is 100 times greater than when a student gets hit by a bus. But still, you’d think they’d be pushing for, and investing in, a safer downtown infra-structure.

And Mr. Travers, whatever your solution ultimately is for Audobon/Whitney, please implement the same things at George/High,—which to my mind a far dangerous intersection. (where cars routinely hit 45mph on a street wider than a highway, and where the AT&T garage empties out, 300 George people cross mid-block, and of course suburban rush-hour drivers eagerly bully cars and pedestrians in their rush to get to the highway.)

PS—Kudos to Downtown Doug for taking the bull by the horns.

posted by: Elaine on May 23, 2011  10:37am

Why not use an orange, black and white lighted crosswalk sign hanging over the crosswalk?  That would allow approaching cars to see it prior to reaching the top of the hill.

posted by: roger huzendubel on May 23, 2011  10:50am

limited life made my day,especially the comment about the old guy. We look at petty issues and make a huge deal out of them. Then we look for the the most ridiculous reasons to attack each other on this site. How are our schoolkids doing compared to the rest of the state? Do our poor have enough to eat and their kids have at keast a fighting chance of succeeding? That is what i worry about, not some crosswalk.

posted by: Wiggy on May 23, 2011  11:02am

How about a pedestrian bridge?

posted by: anon on May 23, 2011  11:21am

Pedestrian bridge, road signage, blinker lights… how come every single improvement is suggested from the perspective of “what is it like to DRIVE here”? 

Instead, why not design this corner from the perspective of a 10 year old kid, or an elderly person in a wheelchair, who is just trying to cross in a safe and comfortable way? 

Get a group of kids and a group of wheelchair users out here.  Show them illustrated examples and videos of what every other city does to create safe streets to cross, and then let them decide what to do here.

I guarantee that if you did this, the corner would look completely different from just about anything that the city has come up with.

Unfortunately, this is never done in New Haven.  As long as virtually every decision-maker within our city drives in a car from someplace else to get to this area, it seems unlikely that we will ever have a corner that’s actually pedestrian-friendly and that helps grow businesses and jobs in this area.  Instead, we’ll have more blinkers.

posted by: anon on May 23, 2011  11:22am

@wiggy

how about a tunnel for all the auto traffic?

posted by: Atwater on May 23, 2011  11:25am

One can walk about 50 yards in either direction and find a crosswalk. Why waste the time and money to create another one?

posted by: streever on May 23, 2011  11:50am

@Atwater:
the actual distance—from Audubon & Whitney to Gourmet Heaven or the other neighboring businesses—is slightly over 1000 feet. (I measured)

There are 3 different schools on Audubon, and I watch kids as young as 10 from the Arts & Music school and kids as young as 13 from Center for the Arts crossing here every day to go to Gourmet Heaven.

10-13 year-olds are not going to walk 1000 feet out of there way for something which is roughly 20 feet in front of them.

The very sick and elderly people who live at the project at Orange/Audubon and need to pick up supplies from the pharmacy on Whitney or Gourmet Heaven are not going to walk 1000 feet out of their way.

Considering the dangerous intersection is ENTIRELY created by a several hundred billion dollar government subsidy for automobiles, I’m really not sure why one would argue that the poor, elderly, sick, and young should be forced to walk 1000 feet out of their way while the well to-do get to zip by in cars, on a roadway paid for almost entirely out of general tax dollars (and not out of car taxes).

Is that really fair or equitable in any way?

posted by: anon on May 23, 2011  11:55am

Atwater, it is about 200 yards to either of the nearest crosswalks, not 50 yards.  Are you suggesting that people will walk 400 yards out of their way just to cross a street?  More likely, they’ll just stay away.

posted by: Atwater on May 23, 2011  12:31pm

@streever and anon: 200 yards or 1000 feet is not that far to walk in order to safely cross a street. I walk the rout often and usually I do use the crosswalks. There is something about getting hit by a car that doesn’t appeal to me so I don’t mind the extra exertion. The children coming from the school nearby can jay-walk across the street, but they do so at their own risk, like everyone else.
Any expenditure for this reason is superfluous and wasteful.

posted by: Pedro Soto on May 23, 2011  12:53pm

If this road truly were a 25mph road, a painted crosswalk would easily suffice. But it’s not, and there are many roads in New Haven which are 25mph by mere suggestion, but their travel speeds are far, far faster.

The reason it takes a city engineer, a proposal and a whole rethinking of the intersection hows you just how much this is not the case.

What needs to happen is that a relatively short (for a car) road like this needs to be slowed down so that you CANT drive more than 25mph. There are tons of ways of doing this that don’t entail multimillion dollar redesigns of a section of road.

Put some big planters between parking spots, angle cars. Place lots and lots of stripes and signs on the streets. Make stuff that deliniates this as not a speedway so that drivers intuitively slow down, and many many problems go away here.

Reading through the commentstwo fundamentally opposite lines of thinking about pedestrians, cars and how the two can learn to inhabit the space together.

The car-centric way says that cars are dangerous, and pedestrians need to be protected at all costs, so it is THEY that need to deal with it and walk 1000 feet or take their life in their hands. That’s just how it is.

The pedestrian-centric way says- “hey, this is where I spend my time and my money and don’t just pass through this space”, why are you imposing on me taking my life in my hands, when you should be avoiding the speed limit which would make life easier for everyone, except the 15 seconds or so of lost time as you cruise through slower.

As ample evidence has shown, the most vibrant and healthy cities employ the latter, and not the former. Cars can be managed and make their way fine through a city with a slower speed limit, and the more pleasant it is for the people who live there, and not just those passing through, the better it is for the city as a whole.

posted by: where are the parents on May 23, 2011  12:57pm

Why don’t these parents teach their kids to use the crosswalk?  Instead of taking time to complain, take some time to explain (to your kids how to use a crosswalk and not be lazy)!

posted by: streever on May 23, 2011  1:31pm

@Atwater:
Personal choice and the government creating systems to enable safety are two different things.

The government spends 100s of billions on making roads more convenient to drive on, but they can’t spend a measly 10 or 20 thousand on putting a crosswalk for LITTLE KIDS AND SICK ELDERLY FOLK?

Give me a break. The capable healthy people who drive 35 mph on this road are the ones receiving a nice fat government subsidy. No reason for that, either.

1000 feet is a substantial distance for a little kid with short legs and a 10 minute break between classes to go to Gourmet Heaven and get a snack. You honestly think that they should just have to “deal with it”?

posted by: robn on May 23, 2011  1:35pm

ATWATER,

The city isn’t creating the crosswalk, it’s just marking one that exists by state law.

posted by: anon on May 23, 2011  1:43pm

pedro’s right.

also, this is about jobs, people.  when cars slow they also have more time to look at the shops. this gives a big boost to all the local mom n’ pop shops.

no amount of advertising in the new haven register can buy the exposure businesses get when people look at them.

one more reason to use common-sense road design instead of the stuff we have now, which is all left-over from the 1960s. we need to get out of the 1960s mindset. we need to do so asap.

posted by: streever on May 23, 2011  1:52pm

@where are the parents:
A. The parents aren’t USUALLY present while children are attending school
B. As a matter of state law, this crossing IS a legal crosswalk. The city has failed to mark it, but it is a legal crosswalk, and the city is currently liable if an accident occurs and it is determined that the absence of a crosswalk contributed to the accident.

posted by: flax on May 23, 2011  2:19pm

The very sick and elderly people who live in the projects cannot afford to shop at Gourmet Heaven, and neither can I.

posted by: Atwater on May 23, 2011  2:20pm

Believe it or not I do think that people should just have to deal with it and walk to the crosswalks if they want to safely cross the street. Children looking for school snacks can go to Koffee if they don’t want to make the trek to the crossing at either corner. This area is busy only on weekdays, on the weekends it is dead, like most of downtown. So, to have the city spend any time and, more importantly, money on this issue is frustrating. It is honestly one of the reasons why few things ever get done in New Haven, too many opinions and too many people complaining.

posted by: anon on May 23, 2011  2:35pm

@roger

there’s a lot of evidence that shows kids aren’t doing well in school because they’re not healthy and living in vibrant communities (mix of healthy food access and access to walking/exercise). so if you take a step back from the problem of the education gap, and look at contributing factors, you’ll see that the crosswalk (and getting fruits/vegetables from gourmet heaven) is exactly where you can have some affect on children’s learning ability.

to look at education in a silo by itself is a recipe for repeating the previous 40 years. you have to look at the whole body and life - not just the 8 hours in school.

posted by: nfjanette on May 23, 2011  2:39pm

Pardon the pun, but the approach suggested (a triggered warning light) seems like walking in the middle of the road.  Randomly heavy pedestrian traffic crossing the street at that point isn’t good for anyone’s safety.  If the walkway should be regulated, it should have either timed or triggered (e.g. Church Street by city hall) full traffic and pedestrian signals.  Unfortunately, even with such signals, New Haven pedestrians will without doubt continue the pattern of non-compliance that has directly lead to multiple tragedies in the city over the past several years.  Speeding traffic is a serious issue; walking in front of it even more so.

posted by: where are the parents on May 23, 2011  2:48pm

@streever

I’m pretty sure I’ve seen plenty of ballet moms walking their precious little girls to ballet class.  Also, you can teach your kids how to use a crosswalk on the weekends. Or after school.  Or during the early evening.  Or early morning. 

God forbid people spend some time with their children and teach them how to be a participant in society.

posted by: streever on May 23, 2011  3:06pm

@where are the parents:
I’m sorry, did you miss that this is a LEGAL crosswalk, per CT statutes?
The parents leading their ballet student children (whom you seem to think are scofflaws?) are actually following state law.

@NFJanette:
Do you think that the non-signalized crossings on Orange street “create danger”? This is the same—a legal, non-signalized pedestrian crossing. Not sure where all of the confusion is coming from.

I was present for the study that was conducted by a transportation consultant who said it was a “perfectly safe” crossing for pedestrians and recommended the city build a really attractive crosswalk there to normalize the already present behavior of pedestrians crossing at will.

If you are bringing transportation planning experience or street engineering experience to this, please let us know why the consulting firm was incorrect.

posted by: streever on May 23, 2011  3:09pm

@flax:
but they can certainly afford the pharmacy a few doors down, or the Subway to the right.

I just think, you know, legal crosswalk—city on the hook for legal liability if anyone dies crossing here right now—I dunno, sounds to me like putting in the crosswalk and sparing people a 1000 foot walk out of there way would make a lot of sense.

I mean, I get atwater’s approach (don’t spend anything on anything) but the sheer density of foot traffic I routinely see here during week days tells me that the smartest, most proactive choice, is that which TT&P is already carrying out—acknowledge the legal crossing and protect the city from a huge legal liability.

posted by: anon on May 23, 2011  3:25pm

NFJ: A mistake by a child should not mean a death sentence.  You may not know this, but children do not have anywhere near the same perceptive abilities that adults do.  They may see a car approaching at 50 miles per hour (quite possible on Whitney), but it might look like 20 miles per hour to them.  So they die in greater numbers.

The main problem isn’t the crosswalk, it is the fact that speeds are far too high for a multi-modal urban area.  A crosswalk would be a major improvement, but it wouldn’t fix the problem. Local residents have been hit and severely injured or killed on other parts of Whitney Avenue, and you just can’t add crosswalks everywhere.  Nor will pedestrians cross where you tell them to.

Other cities have better regulation that ensures far fewer injuries.  In fact, in London, lower speed areas have led to a greater than 50% reduction in pedestrian injury and death.  As a result, there is a nationwide campaign in the UK to implement 20 mile per hour speed limits in urban areas, which is meeting with great success.  New York City is rolling out 20 mile per hour speed zones in 75 neighborhoods beginning this year, for the same reasons.

Even more important is the comfort level created when you have places that are truly safe.  As Pedro points out very eloquently, if we want jobs and economic growth, we need attractive and comfortable cities.

posted by: Pedro Soto on May 23, 2011  3:46pm

I think this is a generational issue.

This corner has been like this for decades! At least since street cars were yanked from the city streets. It didn’t show up 3 years ago with the SCF post.

This is one of the few successes of urban renewal, which carved out a section of downtown into a true micro neighborhood, and yet even with actual mixed use, with apartments above, shops and restaurants below and lots of office space, the intersection remained the same.

I think a shift as to how we organize our public spaces that is currently underway.

The automobile, while currently the defacto mode of transport across the country is now more often than not seen as a hindrance rather than an asset for urban spaces.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a total gearhead. I subscribe to not one, but two car magazines. I geeked out when I saw a Lamborghini Gallardo on Orange Street on saturday night (crazy, right?)

But do we really need to make sure that everyone who chooses to get into their car has the god-given right to fly down elm street at 50 miles per hour, and- at Church and Elm - have the convenience of two turn lanes, 3 forward travel lanes, and no pesky street parking down the north side?

Does this make any sense? There is such a worry that traffic must flow that we’ve overbuilt all of our roads. If speed is such a good thing in a built city, then why are the most deadly roads the high-speed state roads that crisscross our city?

I think that finally the public consensus is to simply stop building primarily for cars, and start building for people. Cars will be part of the equation for the next decades still, but no longer the be-all end-all of what makes a successful urban community.

Just a quick stat as to how central we place cars in our lives currently- the new Q Bridge crossing project is going to cost $3 Billion. For 3 (yes complicated) miles of road. A billion bucks per mile.

At a cost per mile of $30 million, we could have built a 100 mile light rail system for the same price.

The people who want the city to give back an 18 foot strip of asphalt to pedestrians are just the people who are finally turning away from cars as as the central fact of life for urban dwellers.

They’re not crazy or anti-car, they just have a different approach for successful urban spaces, a vision that time and time again has been proven to be the one that pays off.

posted by: Vinny G on May 23, 2011  4:05pm

Is there any statistical data on file pertaining to accident occurrences at this crosswalk?

posted by: Atwater on May 23, 2011  4:28pm

I am all for spending money on needed civic projects. I am against wasting public money on unnecessary projects. If street crossing school children are a big concern then the city can hire a crossing guard when school is in session. Other than that, the sick, elderly, children, Yalies, everyone, should just use the two cross walks already on the street and get over it.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on May 23, 2011  4:29pm

streever,
It’s gotten worse since 1990. As of 2007, non user fees account for 49% of highway funding.

As for the crosswalk, it is already a legal crosswalk that just doesn’t have the paint on the street. The argument that because it is not a visible crosswalk (with markings) it shouldn’t be used, is so incredibly moronic. There are crosswalks all over the city that have worn away and no longer visible, so should pedestrians not use them? Should they walk around the block until they can find a painted crosswalk? What if all the crosswalks around their block have worn off, should they not leave their block? Cars should not be traveling fast enough that they can’t stop for pedestrians in a legal crosswalk. If the drivers cannot drive slow enough on their own, then measures should be taken to narrow travel lanes, raise the crosswalk, bump out the curbs or other moves until cars travel the speed limit or slower.

posted by: nero on May 23, 2011  4:36pm

The key to calming New Haven car traffic to 25 mph is to synchronize the city’s traffic lights so that drivers don’t have to stop if they go a steady 25 mph. People driving in New Haven get mightily frustrated stopping at every single traffic light and wasting time, gas, money and causing tremendous pollution. It doesn’t have to be this way. If we get traffic light cameras that issue tickets, every penny of those fines should be earmarked for synchronizing traffic lights. This isn’t rocket science. It’s tragic that this simple traffic engineering has not yet been done.

posted by: streever on May 23, 2011  4:41pm

@Pedro: Wow! Well-said.

@Hopkins: Great questions. I mean, I see the outrage from drivers over pot holes, it leaves me wondering—do these commentators get angry if there are potholes on street x? I mean, really, they can just drive down another street, or take a bus. Perhaps the city should take their advice, however, on the issue of this legal crosswalk?

If we were to apply their thinking process (“People can easily go out of their way to avoid the cities failure to paint a legal crosswalk”) to road issues, we’d institute an immediate freeze on ALL government spending on roads in New Haven.

I wonder what type of vitriolic, angry comments we’d see from drivers if we did that?
(as opposed to the pretty reasonable comments by anon, hopkins, and soto on the issue of the city failing to provide adequate infrastructure for walkers)

posted by: anon on May 23, 2011  4:42pm

i agree with jonathan.  so let’s stop talking about it, and just do it. 

the usual approach is this: identify serious problem, immediately implement solution—any solution that addresses the issue.  then, evaluate solution and correct if necessary.

much more often than not, the new haven approach seems to be this: identify serious problem, wait a year or so, evaluate possible solutions and then give technical brushoffs to all of them. repeat for 10 years so nothing is accomplished.

the first approach is called experimentation, and it is what has led to successful cities around the globe.  this is what CONNDOT did when a whole slew of people were killed at the corner of boulevard & route 34 over the course of a few months. mass carnage = action.  sure, it took a couple months to install bollards, something which should have happened overnight, but kudos to CONNDOT.

posted by: Bill Saunders on May 23, 2011  5:07pm

I think that all of the rhetoric and back and forth is because of the lack of a robust pedestro-metric.

I have been doing some research on my own, and have discovered a little know measurement known as the Milli-Streever, which is the direct measurement of how many times a reasonable person can cross the road, while a safety-first fanatic walks 2000 feet to ultimately go the same distance.

Or, get a traffic-calming art grant, and hire this chalk artist.  Brakes will be squealing, I promise you.

posted by: alexey on May 23, 2011  5:12pm

I probably should have read of this a bit more in detail, but please consider this…

I worry that a raised crosswalk—I take that to mean it extends the sidewalk level curb-to-curb—might also give pedestrians a false sense of security to cross the street at the same time a driver is headed into the intersection, going too fast, and somewhat blinded by the well-discussed rise in the road.  I have fallen into this trap with a similar set up outside of the Burlington Coat Factory in Orange, where the sidewalk pattern and grade extends into the parking lot, to make it easier for pedestrians.  But, it makes it much more likely to think you’re not in the road.

Instead of a blinking yellow light, couldn’t there just be red light, but as follows?:

The red light at the intersection could be double-leveled—one at the “normal” height for a red light, the other at a higher elevation that could be seen from further up the street.  (not sure of the aesthetics or legality of that).

And, could a second “warning” sign be posted—warning of an upcoming red light, much as the one that is on Tower Parkway, alerting drivers coming around the curve approaching Payne Whitney Gym that the crosswalk is occupied?

How is that crosswalk—from Payne Whitney Gym to the Morse/Stiles complex—much different than the one that is talked about here? It’s a crosswalk in a spot that is blind to drivers.

Additionally or alternatively,  a speed bump or hump could be added upstream from the crosswalk that would slow down traffic to a speed that would be conducive to a driver being able to stop in time for a red light at that intersection.

It’s not insoluble, it just takes some discussion and thinking—and maybe a bunch of school kids without preconceptions to figure it out.

alexey

posted by: anon on May 23, 2011  5:18pm

@atwater

you just proposed a solution that is $17,000 more expensive than the paint that was proposed -

More to the point, this application was 2 citizens’ ideas with some public input. That doesn’t mean it’s correct, or necessarily the best idea. If you have ideas, you can fill out a project request form: http://www.cityofnewhaven.com/Engineering/pdfs/CS-Project Request Form.pdf

I personally don’t think we need the blinking light, but could get by with repainting a lot of angled parking on the left on Whitney, and putting in the stamped crosswalk would do it
http://newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/you_can_walk_on_it._dont_eat_it/

posted by: Bill Saunders on May 23, 2011  5:24pm

Forgot the link…...

http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://moranmustangs.org/madisonb/files/2010/10/3d-chalk-art-waterfall-parking-lot-edgar-mueller.jpg&imgrefurl=http://moranmustangs.org/madisonb/&usg=__j4TQ52KzUBK_OO0ZaCLCn2iFH74=&h=625&w=800&sz=156&hl=en&start=0&zoom=1&tbnid=VQOK8YtcPh1rsM:&tbnh=136&tbnw=174&ei=IczaTZDuPI7AgQeNqLBY&prev;=/search?q=chalk+artist+child+in+street&um=1&hl=en&client=safari&sa=N&rls=en&biw=1908&bih=879&tbm=isch&um=1&itbs=1&iact=hc&vpx=128&vpy=84&dur=115&hovh=198&hovw=254&tx=156&ty=123&sqi=2&page=1&ndsp=49&ved=1t:429,r:0,s:0

posted by: Threefifths on May 23, 2011  5:24pm

How about going after jay walkers,I almost hit three today.

posted by: anon on May 23, 2011  5:26pm

I agree with the above anon. Also I doubt having a guard there for a few hours at a time would create as many jobs as having a nice street to cross 24/7.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on May 23, 2011  5:45pm

alexey,
My understanding of a “raised crosswalk”, or at least what I’m referring to when I say it, is that it is similar to a speed bump that is painted to look like a crosswalk, or paved with textured materials like brick, stone or synthetic materials.

3/5s,
As soon as the average human starts weighing 2000 lbs, running at 50 mph and leading to 45,000+- traffic related deaths per year, then we should crack down on jay walkers as much or more than cars.

posted by: Atwater on May 24, 2011  7:46am

I think it is funny that someone referred to this area as a “micro-neighborhood”, it is a collection of mostly empty buildings (Audubon street), a music school, an art school and some boutique shoppes. The area is a little busy on the weekdays but it is a ghost town on the weekends. What this story is an example of is what happens when a few vocal citizens, overly concerned and perhaps bored, create an issue where one does not exist. Sure it is dangerous crossing the street without a visible cross walk, this is something I learned when I was 5 years old.
I’m not defending drivers, it if it were up to me cars wouldn’t be allowed downtown. However, it seems that there is a push to have the municipal and state government over-compensate for our collective lack of personal responsibility (drivers and pedestrians). It would be funny if our city wasn’t facing very real problems, problems our elected officials should be concentrating on solving. Instead we have an agency wasting valuable time and resources on a non-problem.

posted by: anon on May 24, 2011  9:50am

@atwater - have you considered the place is dead on saturday/sunday because the retail district is being held down by unwalkable attributes of Whitney Avenue? the success of businesses (especially by not creating impediments) and vitality of neighborhoods is an essential part of government work. i’d love to meet you there on a weekend - because i challenge that this place is not alive. i wonder if anyone does ped counts for saturdays and sundays -

posted by: Atwater on May 24, 2011  10:56am

The area is dead on the weekends because no one really lives there, most of the weekday traffic (foot and car) comes from the businesses, courts and offices that surround it. Actually on the weekends, because of the light traffic, crossing the street is pretty easy and safe. Downtown is a business district, that’s all. Once people are done with their business they leave.

posted by: anon on May 24, 2011  11:00am

@atwater - there’s well over 10,000 residents downtown within 4 blocks of here - it’s not dead because of lack of people. it’s dead because of design.

posted by: anon on May 24, 2011  2:54pm

“Dead by Design” is a perfect way to describe it.  If not for the misguided city and state policies of the past 50 years (ones that are still being perpetuated today, as shown by the “Q Bridge”), our city would be far more vibrant and easily able to support enough jobs for all residents.

posted by: Atwater on May 24, 2011  3:34pm

At least we agree, it is a dead zone most of the time, especially on the weekends. Thus there really isn’t a need to expend time and/or money on any additional traffic signal to aide pedestrians. The few that venture out can and should make the effort to use the two available crosswalks.
It’s amazing what bourgeois Americans will complain about, like having to walk 1,000 feet to use a cross walk.

posted by: anon on May 24, 2011  3:54pm

@atwater - no we don’t agree that nothing should be done. we also don’t agree that just because it’s a dead zone you shouldn’t do anything. we also don’t agree that it’s a dead zone. anon will take a ped count one weekend to prove it to you -

in short - it sounds like we don’t agree on anything

posted by: streever on May 24, 2011  4:00pm

atwater
... Yes, the people who don’t want to walk 1000 feet to make it across a narrow street are CLEARLY the ones with the problem—not the cars zipping by who don’t want to stop.

Glad to see the level of discourse allowed on this site is so civic.

posted by: Bill Saunders on May 27, 2011  4:25pm

I know this is a deadish thread, but here is an interesting anecdote:

I was up in my quaint home town of New Milford, CT today, and waited to cross the street, as a car was approaching.  However, the car stopped for me.  I then noticed that I happened to be standing in a marked crosswalk, with the signage of the silhouette dude crossing the street.

As a side-note, there was also free three-hour parking on the green.

Maybe there is a correlation between free parking and pedestrian safety, who knows, I don’t think that study has been commissioned yet.

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