Last year I asked for crash stats from the police department and was happy to find that the number of crashes - both pedestrian related and also solely involving motorized vehicles (drivers) - has been decreasing over the past three years. This said, there is more work to be done when we still have an average of more than one pedestrian being struck and injured per week.
So, how to fix it? One thing I notice on Main Street that I think is particularly lousy for pedestrians is the light sequencing that gives turning traffic priority over pedestrian movement. I've stood and watched pedestrians and note that I am not alone in looking at the lights changing and paying more attention to that than to the walk/don't walk signals. I think this is partly because the pedestrian signals are inconsistently applied. Some have them, some don't. Some push buttons are working, some are missing. So, if in doubt, some of us rely on the changing lights. That said, if the light changes and drivers of vehicles coming around the corner are given a green arrow before pedestrians are given a cross signal then stepping onto the crosswalk at this point is not a safe move. Far safer would be to change the sequencing to give pedestrians a head start in the phasing. This also signals to drivers that they need to be aware of pedestrians rather than rushing to catch a green arrow.
In addition, the standard length of time given to pedestrians to get across a crossing is 4 feet per second. Studies have shown that some pedestrians move at as little as 1 foot per second. I blame the decision to set the sequencing at 4 feet per second on young to middle aged with full mobility male traffic engineers who fail to understand that elderly and people pushing baby strollers or holding the hands of toddlers need more time. I haven't timed the lights on Main Street but suspect it is shorter than ideal.
On the positive side I am pleased to see the occasional 'yield to pedestrian' sign on crosswalks. I think this is a good reminder and also creates another obstacle for drivers to maneuver which acts to slow them down.
So, New Rochelle, let's make some fixes and drop the crash numbers further by following through on the GreeNR stated goal of "creating and maintaining a comprehensive system of safe and accessible walking routes"!
Author: Nina Arron
I am an enthusiastic pedestrian, urban planner, and project manager currently living in New Rochelle, New York. I am grateful to be living in a walkable city with affordable easily accessible public transport (both trains and buses). My appreciation became even greater after spending three years back in New Zealand where it was much harder to fit daily walking into my life in what is considered one of the great natural, green environments in the world.