Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Road diets for Norwalk

Source: Virginia DOT's Lawyers Rd Roat Diet
Have you ever seen what happens on a 4-lane road like East Ave when a car stops to make a left turn? Traffic stacks up behind it and those trapped drivers often make aggressive moves to get around the stopped car, snarling both lanes of traffic and making the road more dangerous.

Because of this, traffic flow can often be made smoother and safer by something called a road diet. The 4-lane road becomes a road with 2 travel lanes, a center shared turn lane and bike lanes on the outside. This modification has been found to reduce accidents by between 19% and 47%.

In addition to easing traffic flow, these improved roads make the street easier to cross for pedestrians and, thanks to the bike lanes, much improved for cyclists.

Because of these obvious benefits, there have been--according to Wikipedia--"perhaps 20,000 road diets in the United States with another 500-1,000 conducted each year." And yet, they are almost always controversial.

Despite data showing otherwise, many motorists fear the diet will cause congestion. The road diet is misunderstood as a project to take space from drivers to give to cyclists.

There are many Norwalk streets that could benefit from the safety and livability improvements of a road diet. The Stroffolino bridge into SoNo would create an improved corridor between SoNo and Calf Pasture Beach. An East Avenue road diet could transform the livability of East Norwalk.

We should ask for road diets in Norwalk and as we do so, we should keep in mind the winning argument. The pedestrian and cyclist benefits are great, but road diets are good for cars too.

Friday, August 20, 2010

A dangerous intersection claims a life. Will DOT do anything?

The dangerous intersection in front of the DMV was designed for cars, but is seeing more pedestrian activity. Despite a recent fatality, the DOT has no plans to make the intersection safe for pedestrians.
The intersection in front of the DMV (US-7 / Grist Mill) is a bad intersection even by Norwalk standards. Despite a steady trickle of pedestrian traffic navigating the heavy vehicle traffic, there are no crosswalks and no pedestrian signals. The only amenities are a set of broken "push for green light" buttons on the north side of the intersection.

On June 29th this intersection claimed a life. John Pluas, a 17-year old who had just finished work at the Tuscan Oven, tried to cross US-7. If the "push for green" buttons had been working, he at least would have had a protected window for a cross-road jog. Instead, replicating an experience common to many Norwalk pedestrians, he had to run across the highway.

He didn't make it. Struck by a minivan heading north, he was removed from life support a few days later.

The worst bus stop in Norwalk?

On the southwest corner of the intersection, there is a bus stop, the northernmost stop for the Route 3 bus. Every 20 minutes, all day, a bus drops off a few people on a patch of grass. There is no sidewalk for them, no crosswalk and not even a placebo "push for green" button. Like John Pluas, they must run across the road.

Being transit passengers, some of them are seniors or disabled. I have personally witnessed a person in a motorized wheelchair make this crossing.

This intersection design is not just unsafe and unpleasant, it is negligent. Basic fixes for this intersection--crosswalks and pedestrian signals--would cost little and save lives.

Asked whether any upgrades are planned given the fatality, DOT spokesman Kevin Nursick confirms, "We do no have anything in the works for this area in the short term". The DOT will, however, send a crew out to check on the "push for green" buttons.

Regarding the accident,
To the best of my knowledge this is still being investigated by authorities, therefore, it would be premature for me to comment about this particular incident.

Generally speaking, human error is overwhelmingly the cause of accidents on our roadways. The same goes for accidents involving pedestrians. Unfortunately, no matter what the design of a particular section of infrastructure, the fundamental issue at hand is the failure of users (including operators of motor vehicles as well as pedestrians and others) to obey basic rules, which leads to accidents.
I disagree. When an intersection is designed this dangerously, accidents are inevitable. The DOT needs to take the minimum steps to make this intersection safe for pedestrians.