Archive for Sunday, June 29, 2008

Crosswalk caution

Upgrading downtown crosswalks is just one step in increasing pedestrian safety.

June 29, 2008


The thing about pedestrian crosswalks is that they only work if both pedestrians and motorists pay attention to them.

At their meeting Tuesday, Lawrence city commissioners will consider two issues related to downtown crosswalks. The Traffic Safety Commission has recommended that a mid-block crosswalk be added on New Hampshire Street between Seventh and Eighth Streets and that an existing crosswalk in front of the Lawrence Arts Center be equipped with a pedestrian-activated traffic signal.

The purpose of the crosswalk in the 700 block is to accommodate heavy pedestrian traffic in that area, particularly in the evening hours. This can be confirmed about any evening by the number of pedestrians crossing the street between parking lots east of New Hampshire and destinations on Massachusetts Street. Channeling this pedestrian traffic into a mid-block crosswalk would increase safety for pedestrians and convenience for motorists. The key is for pedestrians to use the crosswalks rather than continuing to bolt across the street anywhere in the middle of the block.

A crosswalk in front of the Lawrence Arts Center illustrates the other side of this coin. There is a fully marked, raised crosswalk that runs between the arts center and the multi-level garage that provides parking for people participating in the center's classes and events. The only problem, according to numerous speakers at the Traffic Safety Commission meeting, is that motorists don't stop for people waiting to cross the street.

This is not news to people who use about any crosswalk in downtown Lawrence. A signal on the Arts Center crosswalk could help get the attention of motorists, especially after dark, and perhaps increase the safety of pedestrians, including many people with small children. Interestingly, signal lights were removed some time ago from mid-block crosswalks on Massachusetts Street because city traffic officials decided they gave pedestrians a false sense of security - meaning that when the light was red, they actually expected motorists to stop. What a concept.

Building one new crosswalk and adding a signal to another seem like reasonable steps to try to channel pedestrian traffic in downtown's long north-south blocks. Ensuring pedestrian safety, however, still is a two-way street. Pedestrians need to use the crosswalks rather than jaywalking, and motorists need to travel at low enough speeds to allow them to stop when pedestrians enter those crosswalks.

It also never hurts to be a defensive driver or walker and be ready for someone else to do something they shouldn't. Even if you're right and they're wrong, avoiding an unfortunate pedestrian-vehicle accident is well worth the effort.


repaste 9 years, 9 months ago

downtown crosswalks are a joke, Art center is lucky no child has been hurt there, Looks to me like many cars speeding through there were city emp. . . I think a P.R. push is what we need, I bike around this town a lot and cars zip to and fro and look up at me like "what are you doing?" Side walks are in such poor shape, design that only getting the cars to hang -up and be aware.

Richard Heckler 9 years, 9 months ago

"If they put one in front of the Arts Center, won't this lead to all the schools wanting them in strategic places?I mean..the list could get very long. I know the group at Sunflower would be first in line."If the community wants to encourage more biking and walking exercise for our youth traffic signals may be a good idea at busy traffic locations. USD 497 could bring on patrol boys and girls that hold stop signs to stop traffic. It worked in my Wichita elementary school butttttt your GPA had to be up there in order to participate.

igby 9 years, 9 months ago

Put one of those street cams in too photo all the license plates of those drivers who do not stop for the crosswalk and then send them a ticket in the mail; too appear in court or pay the fine.

Richard Heckler 9 years, 9 months ago

Here again I will suggest making use of working traffic signals being replaced at 23rd and Haskell. Four working traffic signals are being replaced with new traffic signals.In order to save the city $35,000 why not retrofit two of those signals at the Art Center crosswalk?Crosswalk markings at the intersection of 11th and New Hampshire could be considered as well. Only one designatedcrossing is marked as we speak. It is a busy pedestrian crossing 5 days a week at all 3 "corners". Maybe the other two 23rd street signals could be placed at this location...let's not throw them away. These could be set to operate identical to the traffic signals at the South Park pedestrian crossing.

1029 9 years, 8 months ago

Fix the traffic light at 7th and Kentucky.

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