Monday, July 16, 2007

County: Give Bham Clear Crosswalks on N. Thomas Street

My children and I ride our bikes to Arlington Forest Club, where we swim. My kids are still small, and we’ve only just started the biking, but it’s been an eye-opening experience: clear crosswalks can work.

The club sits on N. Carlin Springs Road near the intersection with N. Harrison Street. The club has its own “ladder style” crosswalk (one that looks like a ladder painted on the street) and flashing yellow lights with diamond-shaped “pedestrian crossing” signs. The crosswalk is not raised; there are no speed bumps.

The crosswalk at Arlington Forest Club on N. Carlin Springs Road.

Each day that my kids and I have walked our bikes across the road there, we’ve started when no cars were approaching in the lanes we have stepped into, yet I can still feel my heart pound as I warn them to watch for cars, and to stop at the island in the middle of the street (Carlin Springs is a boulevard at that point). Each time, a car has approached in the lanes on the other side of the island; once a car approached in our lane after we had left the curb.

Most times, the cars in both directions have stopped. At times, cars in the opposite lanes have stopped before we have even made it to the center island. Check it: we were three lanes away, and still the cars stopped.

It is amazing to see: cars speeding along Carlin Springs Road come to a complete stop in order to allow me and my kids a chance to pass. There’s no stop sign. The flashing yellow lights do not turn red. Lines on a road and people in sight are enough to stop cars—at least one car has stopped in order to let us START to cross.

(If you think that happens everywhere, read this post.)

The crosswalk at N. Thomas Street and North Pershing Drive. At least there are signs at this crossing.

All because of an obvious crosswalk. It is not perfect, the cars are less forgiving when I have tried it with myself alone. This morning, we arrived at the crosswalk closer to the morning rush hour than usual, and cars were decidedly less forgiving. Still, the vast majority seem to understand what the crosswalk means.

Can’t we have this too?

I mean, really, what is it about Buckingham that makes the county refuse to paint lines on the road?

How difficult can it be to paint ladders where N. Thomas Street crosses N. Pershing Drive, N. Henderson Road, and dead-ends at Carlin Springs Road?

The crosswalk at Thomas Street and N. Carlin Springs Road. No signs, no ladders, only two of three corners have markings.

I’ve been told by county staff, especially those in the Department of Transportation, that if the traffic is not equal from both directions of an intersection (Thomas Street gets much less traffic than Pershing Drive, Henderson Road, and Carlin Springs Road), people will not stop for stop signs. (I have arguments with this, but I’ll get to them later.)

Fine.

Then give us the crosswalks. And do not give us any excuses about “arterials” and VDOT. If it works on Carlin Springs Road, it will work in Buckingham. If you can put all the trappings on Carlin Springs Road, the county can make it happen in Buckingham, too.

The crosswalk at Thomas Street and N. Henderson Road. No signs, no ladders, and again only two of three corners have markings. Hundreds of cars pass by this corner everyday, and visibility, because of parking on the street, is low.

I will list what the community needs so that it can be easily transferred to a purchase order:

  • Four Signs (and posts to hang them), hung diamond-style, bright yellow, with icons of families walking in intersections. Two already hang on N. Pershing Drive, so add two on N. Henderson Road, and two on N. Carlin Springs Road, all at the intersections with N. Thomas Street.
  • Striping paint, white, enough to draw 11 “ladder style” crosswalks at the corners of those roads mentioned above where they intersect on Thomas Street (Carlin Springs only needs three ladders).

  • I know this might run into the thousands of dollars for a county with a billion dollar budget. So, what’s the excuse?

    We don’t even need the lights, just make them look like the crosswalks in Westover:

    Aren't they pretty? If you didn't notice, there's a sign and ladders on each corner for as far as the eye can see. Must be nice.


    Comments:
    Ladder crosswalks across multi-lane roads are extremely dangerous for pedestrians. I've seen many near fatal accidents where the nearest lane of traffic stops, the pedestrian crosses and the next lane of traffic does not stop because they can't see the pedestrian and assume the stopped car is stopped to park, double park or just picked a bad lane. The more prone to traffic backups, the more likely this is to happen.

    The most terrifying time I ever witnessed was by Listrani's in Courthouse. A woman crossed like I described, but a tow-truck never saw her. She crossed the front of the first stopped car, and stepped into the tow-truck's lane thinking she was safe. He was traveling at the speed limit. He slammed on his brakes at the last possible second and skidded to a stop with 6 inches of the frozen woman. She made it across. The truck started on his way. She sat down on the curb and cried uncontrollably.

    That's how dangerous those ladder crosswalks can be. Someone will be killed at one.

    Frankly, in this area, with 3 jurisdictions, two types of crosswalks, sometimes signs, sometimes not, it's unsafe to trust a crosswalk blindly or stubbornly. As a pedestrian I don't trust them.
     
    I suppose I could have included in my comments that I am VERY VERY careful at all crosswalks, and I agree, I could see how one car crossing around another one could be dangerous. --ST
     

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