County Intersections Pegged for Pedestrian Improvement

With gas above $4 a gallon, and with no reason to expect a substantial drop any time soon, suddenly it’s not just a handful of pedestrian-advocate whackos like me arguing that we’ve got to make our city usable to folks who aren’t in cars. “Daily Progress Correspondent” (?) Sharon Fitzgerald writes about how dangerous it is to move around town on foot, especially in a dozen key locations around town. VDOT, the county, and ACCT have come up with that list of spots badly in need of improvements, and that includes areas along Rio and Hydraulic, Commonwealth Drive, South Pantops Drive, and the entirety of route 29, among others. There have been 57 car/pedestrian accidents in Albemarle in the past couple of years, with two deaths.

If you doubt that the city (especially the urban ring) is badly planned for pedestrians, recall what’s gone through your mind when you see somebody walking along 29N or, worse yet, trying to cross it: Is her car broken down? Is she OK? Is it safe for him to be pushing that stroller here? Between dangerously curved intersections and shopping centers surrounded by a moat of blacktop, we’ve got an enormous amount of infrastructure that’s just not compatible with the increasing cost of fuel.

8 thoughts on “County Intersections Pegged for Pedestrian Improvement”

  1. You’re right, Waldo. We’ve gotten used to being moved around by cars, going everywhere we want anytime we want, frequently one rider per vehicle. We need to start rethinking how people move around, especially in situations where movement is basically very local. Not only do we need to consider safety for pedestrians and cyclists, we need to start creating the sorts of living environments provided in cities like London, where you don’t need a car to shop for groceries, buy clothes, or grab a pint. In terms of safety, London’s sidewalks are easily three times as wide as ours. If a car runs through a pedestrian crossing, there are hefty fines. If you want to get anywhere other than your little neighborhood, you ride a bus.

  2. Improvements are fine but all the crosswalks, countdown lights, embedded lights in crosswalks, signs and rules, laws, ordinances and regulations are pretty much meaningless without enforcement. With quick and sure enforcement the situations facing pedestrians, cyclists and drivers could be dramatically improved. Of course, the first thing to do is to get the police themselves to drive according to the laws. I walk a lot and I see police officers drive too fast, fail to stop for pedestrians and fail to stop before making right turns at red lights among other things. I also see a lot of them driving while using their cell phones. I know some of the calls are necessary but it still amazes me to see them on the phone so frequently.

    For my part, I try to be an assertive but friendly pedestrian in the hope of encouraging respect and cooperation. When I have the right of way I take it and then when people yield to me I wave, say thank you and walk (I never run) across the street. I don’t walk against the lights unless it’s totally clear and I don’t take unnecessary risks. If someone drives like they are going to run me down, and it has happened a couple of times, well then I may get a little looney.

  3. It is a long walk from Earlysville to Charlottesville where I work. I would do it in a heartbeat but it would take a few hours to get to work.

  4. Pedestrian friendliness in the 29/Hydraulic/Rio area would be great. It’d be interesting to see how much traffic might decrease from such an initiative – not only would the people living around there not have to drive to locations like the mall, the fast food places around there, Whole Foods, etc, but the people who work in that area who travel up and down 29 during lunchtime would be able to walk instead and get a less-stressful lunch break.

    But I do wonder how in the world 29 could possibly become significantly more pedestrian-friendly – walk lights and crosswalks would be a start, but I suspect many pedestrians would still jaywalk because the traffic lights are pretty far apart, from a walker’s point of view. A crosswalk in the middle of the road just doesn’t seem like it’d do much good. I would not trust that four lanes of drivers going 45 mph, chatting on cell phones, eating and fooling with the radio, are all going to see me and yield to me. I agree anything is better than what we have now, but I don’t want to see these areas turn into something that appears to be pedestrian friendly but really isn’t.

  5. Look, pedestrian enhancements generally equate to some form of driver inconvenience. I couldn’t care less about inconveniencing drivers but the fact of the matter is that most people who drive look at pedestrians as being some kind of impediment.

    Next, in terms of regional priorities, you can do all the “studies” you want, publish all the reports, write all the newspaper articles, etc. etc… but just let me know when even a small fraction of the amount that is spent on widening and building new roads for cars is spent on building pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. Until then we know what the regional priority is: car-topia.

  6. It’s absolutely a fascinating challenge to redesign car-dependent developments like the 29 north sprawl. I’ve done half a dozen projects for school and work on just that, and there are tons of effective techniques, from pedestrian friendly development (think Downtown Mall), to pedestrian safety improvements like pedestrian islands, bridges, and tunnels, to new transit ideas like bus rapid transit and light and heavy rail. It takes money, but investors will spend if they think they can make a profit, and local government can work to create an attractive environment for that reinvestment. This is an exciting time.

  7. Just a few of my thoughts:

    …recall what’s gone through your mind when you see somebody walking along 29N or, worse yet, trying to cross it: Is her car broken down? Is she OK? Is it safe for him to be pushing that stroller here?

    The increase in pedestrians around the 29/Hydraulic/Rio area is due primarily to the clustering of low income and subsidized housing in those areas. (The same reason the Fashion Mall has had their problems as well).

    Additionally I read somewhere that Albemarle County wanted to put even more “affordable” low income housing somewhere in the area behind Putt Putt and the low income apartments that area already there. Great idea- lets put more poor people in an area unfriendly to pedestrians.

    With regard to the 29/Hydraulic/Rio area: I say No to Crosswalks. I think they are a bad idea for roads with that many lanes. You think the jam ups are bad now- add in crosswalks. Pedestrian foot bridges or tunnels are the only reasonable solution.

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