Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Walkability might as well begin with the intersection of Main and West 1st, so can it begin now?

At yesterday's downtown merchant meeting, a representative of the YMCA observed that it can be very difficult for cars coming from Y's side of West 1st Street to see eastbound oncoming traffic on Main, owing to cars parked in front of what will soon be the Floyd County Brewing Company.

She asked David Duggins, the city's economic development director. if something might be done about the parked cars.

Granted, it's a question for the Board of Public Works and Safety, but as we've seen, the board doesn't emerge from its Tuesday morning lair, and naturally it is fitting and proper for city official like Duggins to attend meetings like the merchant mixer.

Listening to this exchange, it immediately occurred to me that (a) the true danger lies with the speed of traffic and the concurrent absence of four-way stop at the intersection, and (b) it's an inexcusable state of affairs not only for drivers of cars, but more importantly, for people walking.

When FCBC opens, there will be heavily patronized businesses (and the non-profit YMCA) on all four corners. Already we've noted the dangers for people trying to cross these streets. In fact, it's been eight months since I pointed to this (see the links below). Pins drop, crickets chirp.

So, yesterday morning, taking all this into consideration, and understanding that my question is better directed to Warren Nash than David Duggins, I decided to ask it, anyway.

Given the hazards for walkers at this uncontrolled intersection, does the city have any plans to calm traffic and/or install crosswalks (and, as Ian Hall subsequently noted, improve lighting for nighttime walkers)?

Duggins' answer: Well, uh, no.

It's the perfect example of a city potentially using the infrastructure (streets and sidewalks) it already owns and manages to help local businesses without directly awarding them grants, abatements and other direct subsidies.

It's the perfect example of complete streets as economic development drivers AND quality of life enhancers for non-automotive users -- and the drivers of cars would benefit, too.

It's the perfect example of an opportunity to promote public safety.

But in order to succeed, City Hall has to get a grip, have a pulse, and grasp what walkability really means. Currently it does not, and with each passing day, the odds of a tragedy occurring get better, not worse. It is inexcusable.

Let's transform this intersection into a human-friendly, safe conduit for patrons of these businesses and the YMCA to pass back and forth between them without fearing for the lives.

My links from last October:

Must we wait for a traffic study to slow traffic and put crosswalks at the corner of Main and W. 1st?

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