Downtown Louisville has the most important sidewalks in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Not only are the walkers here incredibly numerous, but they're also the economic engine that keeps the state afloat. The business deals, the bus stops, the remote parking lots, the lunch meetings - all these trips have a walking component. So you would think that we would take special measures to keep walking downtown safe and dignified - it's just common sense.
Our elite cadre of CART photographers recently took to the streets to see how we're doing on that...
Here you see the long-standing Arena construction site. We're looking at Main Street between 2nd and 3rd. You can see they've blocked the sidewalk with a fence and some orange-and-white barricades (they're technically called "longitudinal channellizing devices" or LCDs).
It's not clear why they chose to close this sidewalk - these fences and barricades are exactly the raw materials you use to create temporary walkways (technically called "pedestrian diversions"). By simply re-arranging the components they have there into a pedestrian diversion, they could have kept this vital sidewalk open for however many years they've been there.
After our photographers got back, I was intrigued to notice this pic, taken on the same block:
What's going on here? There are LCDs placed with a walkway-space between them and the fences ... of course, that's where the sidewalk is supposed to be, but ... could they be doing some pedestrian accomodation between those barriers? I went down to see for myself:
Sigh. During construction, the sidewalk has been reduced to gravel, and the LCDs are to keep Morontorists from driving up onto the interim "sidewalk". Needless to say, if I was coming over the river in a wheelchair only to find my path blocked by this, I'd be extremely chuffed to have to backtrack 1 mile to the only legal/safe crosswalk in Indiana. I hope there's a "sidewalk not accessible to wheeled devices" sign at all the crosswalks on the Indiana side of the bridge, right? Right?...
[update: no sign on the Indiana side]
This is the block of Main St from 1st to 2nd. Currently, the left side is blocked because of deteriorating buildings which might collapse. And the right side is obstructed because they're installing fancy curbs. There is no legal way to cross, though the construction workers turn a blind eye to the hordes of people walking through an active construction zone. The barricades are rearranged on a daily basis, so why is it so hard to rearrange them to afford people a safe way to walk down the street? This double-sidewalk-blockage is now in it's third week! KYTC and Public Works are "aware of the problem". Well, that and a buck will get you a cup of coffee...
Hat tip to flickr's modeknit
Pedestrian diversions are a way to keep people walking even when the sidewalk is closed.
In every American city, they seem to be standard operating procedure, except, for some reason, in Louisville, Kentucky. Here there seems to be the perception that they're "too hard on developers and contractors". But in many cases, like at the sites above, and more below, the contractors have the equipment they need on site, they just need to spend a few minutes rearranging the various cones and barricades with walking in mind.
This problem is not limited to a few isolated incidents. It is status-quo in downtown Louisville and throughout the suburbs...
June - sidewalk was closed at Broadway & Brent St for over a month - to "repair" the sidewalk. Again, you see the troubling trend of having most of the tools for a pedestrian diversion at hand, just no desire to use them.
At Broadway and Floyd, mothers are faced with a tough choice - either walk in the traffic lane, or cross Broadway twice (14 lanes total) in the hot, hot sun and hope motorists yield correctly. This 20 foot sidewalk will be closed for about a year.
January - can you spot the 10 walkers on Bardstown Road, as they all are simultaneously forced into the street by one closed sidewalk?
Grinstead Drive, where your choices are closed sidewalks on one side, and sidewalk-free forest walls on the other. It's a 14 minute time-suck between legal crossings, so choose your preferred obstacles carefully. Meanwhile, motorists get a 4 lane road where 3 would be safer and could handle the volume.
Whoever makes these decisions seems too willing to allow the closure of sidewalks, sometimes with a sign directing the user to use the other side of the street. People making these decisions seem blissfully unaware of real world human behavior, and the huge productivity loss of going blocks out of the way.
Some mention that Louisville must give developers everything they want, else they will leave. Cooperation is one thing, but if you create a dangerous traffic situation, you're essentially asking the population of Louisville to subsidize the development with their health - and not just the health hazard of getting struck by an automobile, but also the destruction of the viability of walking as transportation - those people are going to learn they can not walk places, and some will mode shift to other forms of transportation that are in turn more dangerous and congesting for all of us. Cars, for example.
Not to mention that most of these projects appear to be paid for with government funds.
Diversions are not the only solution out there - there are also temporary crosswalks and sidewalk sheds. The occassional sidewalk closure is appropriate - but only on narrow, low traffic streets with conveneient crosswalks which motorists respect.
In Janurary CART staged "Operation: Sidewalk Defense" in response to the closing of a Bardstown Road sidewalk. After the protest the sidewalk was reopened, and the city began distributing the pamplet titled "Accomodating Pedestrians in Work Zones" when contractors applied for sidewalk closing permits.
It has since been announced that the sidewalk will be closed again ... that it's "impossible" to keep it open. Perhaps ... I'm not an engineer after all ... but it seems highly unlikely that it is "impossible" to keep so many walking paths open in so many construction zones around the city all at the same time, while there are no known examples of pedestrian diversions anywhere in Jefferson County right now. Either this is an amazing coincidence, or it's time for the city and KYTC to conduct a policy review.
Our next protest is planned for this Friday, July 9, noon-12:45, at the corner of 2nd and Main. Come hang with the Chicken! Please come out and join us. And let us know you're coming. Share it on Facebook.
We are now calling on the Mayor, Metro Council, Public Works, KYTC, and our community's developers to actually abide by MUTCD and "Accomodating Pedestrians in Work Zones". Let's make Louisville a livable city, where people can walk out the door and expect to reach their destinations in dignity and safety.
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