Saturday, March 12, 2016

Team Gahan's walkability gap (1 of 3): "If you want to make a walkable city, you need to do the little things well." WE DON'T.

Previously at NAC:

Dear Jeff: "When Drivers Hit Pedestrians, Where Do We Lay the Moral Blame?"

Team Gahan seems unable (read: unwilling) to do little things well, and consequently, the mayor's minions are failing to lead New Albany toward walkability.

Of course, publicly stated aims and goals would provide a better checklist. Seen any of these lately?

I didn't think so.

Tim Kovach writes here about Cleveland, but many of his comments bear relevance to New Albany's perennial degradation. Shouldn't it be easier in a small city than in a larger one? Not if presumed "leaders' have no moral compass.

If you want to make a walkable city, you need to do the little things well, by Tim Kovach

 ... It’s a scene that haunts me to this day. While the driver was found not to be at fault, this was a visceral reminder of the stark imbalance between drivers and pedestrians. If a teenager makes one bad decision, he may never make another ...

 ... The City Planning Commission seems committed to moving towards form-based zoning, at least in limited areas, in an attempt to make our city more walkable and pedestrian friendly (but) the City seems preoccupied with big, shiny, expensive projects, rather than the types of small changes that can immediately improve peoples’ lives.

If you know me or have read things that I’ve written here in the past, you probably realize that I’m a proponent of incremental progress. It’s great to push for the Big Things that can help shift paradigms, but we shouldn’t ignore the types of small, tangible changes that help people at the margins. It’s just as important to do the little things well.

Kovach goes on to highlight three "small details that can go a long way towards improving pedestrians’ quality of life." I've edited them, and my answers/comments are in red.

1.) Do all intersections include crosswalks and pedestrian signals?

No, not in downtown New Albany. The most egregious examples can be found on Main Street.


On the advent of Underground Station, rank political poseurs and a dangerous street without crosswalks or stop signs.

As Team Gahan snoozes, the intersection of West 1st and Main is an accident waiting to happen.

One of the simplest and most important things a city can do is to ensure that every intersection is equipped with crosswalks and pedestrian signals. This simple addition of some painted lines and signals carves out a small part of the street where pedestrians have a legally enforceable right to space.

And ...

2.) Are all pedestrian signals set to actuate at all times (i.e. not pedestrian actuated)?

Maybe, maybe not, though it's hard to tell when so many of the push buttons are broken so often. One thing is certain: If the button is broken, there'll be no signal. I've witnessed it again and again.

Once again, this seems like a small thing. It makes a pedestrian’s life a lot easier if she knows that regardless of when she gets to the intersection during the cycle, the walk signal is going to trigger when it’s supposed to.

Finally ...

3.) Has the city installed “leading pedestrian interval” signals, which allow pedestrians to start ahead of vehicular traffic?

No, though Louisville just now has introduced a few of these.

 ... Realistically, I just want the City to ensure that every pedestrian signal is synced to the traffic light. That is, the walk sign should activate as soon as the light turns green for cars, and the signal should not switch from flashing don’t walk to sold don’t walk until that traffic light turns yellow. At the very least, pedestrians should be afforded the same legal rights as the cars, right?

His conclusion:

All too often, we spend money on things that look nice or seem nice in theory, even as we overlook the little things that can make a tangible difference. I understand that elected officials don’t get to attend a ribbon-cutting ceremony when you sync a pedestrian signal to the traffic light, but these seemingly small things matter. Until officials commit to tackling these easy-to-fix problems, the focus on the Big projects will seem like little more than PR.

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