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Workshop explores pedestrian problems in city

April 10, 2005|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

Walking along North Cannon Avenue with a group of city officials and residents taking mental notes of problems for pedestrians, Bob Chauncey stopped and waited for a car to pass before he stepped across the intersection.

"The one thing I fear is: 'Pedestrian expert killed by car,'" Chauncey said Thursday afternoon.

Chauncey, the director for policy analysis of the Bethesda, Md.-based National Center for Bicycling & Walking, was leading a four-hour workshop on how to promote a more pedestrian-friendly city.

About 15 city officials, residents and representatives of other local organizations participated.

One part of Thursday's workshop included a tour along a local roadway. The group walked from Fairgrounds Park to the Dual Highway split and back, a total of about six blocks.

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Before the group set out on its urban hike, Chauncey gave the group a primer, and asked them to think about problems for disabled pedestrians, people pushing strollers or shopping carts, and children.

"Would you let your kid do what you're about to do?" Chauncey asked the group.

Every block or so, Chauncey would stop the group and discuss some of the problems the group had identified.

"The sidewalks are way too narrow," Tina Beatty said after the first block of walking. Beatty was there representing the ARC of Washington County, which aids the developmentally disabled.

Chauncey noted that the clearance between some utility poles and buildings might not be too narrow for a senior citizen with a walker to pass through, but a wheelchair might not make it.

Another problematic area for walkers was the intersection of North Cannon Avenue, East Franklin Street, Dual Highway and West Franklin Street.

While there are crosswalks in the intersection, some paved with brick, there are no pedestrian signals. Group members noticed that on one corner, tire tread marks were visible on the sidewalk.

Group members suggested changing how the traffic lanes were striped and adding pedestrian signals with countdown timers or beeping alerts.

"They have some neat ideas," City Engineer Rodney Tissue said about Chauncey's group.

Tissue said that part of his and his department's job is to balance effective traffic flow on city streets, trying to keep pedestrians safe and keeping other needs in mind such as those of firefighters.

Tissue said part of Chauncey's presentation pointed out that some city streets can handle speeds much higher than posted speed limits. Chauncey offered some ideas on how to calm traffic by using different paint stripes, bicycle lines or angled parking.

At the end of the workshop, the participants took a few minutes to brainstorm ideas for the city, and they will be compiled and looked at for future possibilities.

City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman, who was with the group Thursday, said some of the ideas might be able to be incorporated into this year's budget, which was released last week and will be adopted in May.

"We think we have some opportunities to do some of the things he's talking about," Zimmerman said.

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