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Cedar Springs Pedestrian Deaths Prompt Safety Improvements

by Eric Miller
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Jan 20, 2012

The good news is more people are walking in Dallas. The bad news is there have been more pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities on bustling McKinney Avenue, on the Jefferson Boulevard bridge and elsewhere. And this trend has also played out recently on Cedar Springs Road.

Two pedestrian fatalities last November on the Cedar Springs Strip, plus two additional accidents has lead to a number of pedestrian safety improvements and a long-term plan to control traffic.

Dallas City Councilmembers Angela Hunt and Pauline Medrano unveiled the changes at the Round-Up Saloon last week with the Cedar Springs Merchants Association and other community groups.

"We've been working on Cedar Springs for five years going back and forth with the city for different improvements," said Scott Whittall, president of the Cedar Springs Merchants Association. "We got more lighting last year, unfortunately it took a holdup to get that done. We have more security, it took a death at an ATM to get that done. Now we're talking about pedestrian safety and unfortunately it took two deaths and two other incidents to really get some serious conversations going."

Whittall said unfortunately that's the way it works in a big city like Dallas.

"It's a big city and there are a lot of entertainment districts and it takes something press-worthy to get some attention and actual tangible results," he said. "I think we actually have that now, finally."

The improvements are to come in three stages and also range from funded and certain to under consideration.

Already in progress this week is the painting of new crosswalks at Knight Street, the installation of "no pedestrian crossing signs" in front of Kroger and the Illume apartment building as well as increased police enforcement. Also in progress are the installation of crosswalks at Knight and Reagan Streets, enhancement to the sidewalk in front of the Round Up Saloon and the creation of an educational pamphlet to warn residents about the dangers at cross walks.

The mid-term plan calls for the removal of a right-turn lane at Knight Street, removing a turn lane on the southeast corner of Douglas Avenue and the possible installation of trees and other vegetation to help calm traffic.

Long term prospects for the district include a complete remake of the street design that could including the possibility of narrowing of the roadway from its current four lanes to two.

Patrick Kennedy, an urban planner who blogs about planning issues, said the most important improvement may be the removal of the non-stop right-turn lanes. He said, however, the signs and enforcement may be a waste of time.

"That's a cheap way out. Enforcement and regulation are two things that are just tell-a-tale signs of poor design," said Kennedy. "Cars will always drive as fast as they feel comfortable on a road and pedestrians will cross where they need to. I find those things to be overly simplistic and fruitless."

Looking at Google Earth, Kennedy estimated there are between 15,000 and 16,000 cars in Cedar Springs each day. He said local roads could possibly be narrowed to one lane each way, but more important is the potential reduction in the number of curb cuts into the sidewalk.

Curb cuts, he said, mean that cars are "diving in and out and the pedestrian experience that is frightening at best when there are cuts every 50 feet or so."

That speaks to a long-standing issue about parking requirements in the district in which Whittall said zoning requirements have made it difficult to open or expand a business. The former owner of a popular coffee shop on the strip, Whittall sold it after his plans for expansion were denied because of parking requirement.

Kennedy says those parking requirements contribute to the risk for pedestrians in the district. Not only are patrons being encouraged to drive to places where they can drink, he said the parking requirements insure the curb cuts through pedestrian pathways.

"As long as you make it as convenient as possible for the car, it's always at the expense of the pedestrian," said Kennedy. "If you make it inconvenient for a car, then proximity becomes a premium and things want to cluster closer together. It's better use of the land and creates a safer environment."

These are relatively new issues in Dallas, said Whittall, because additional retail and residential development has people opting more often for shoe leather instead of rubber.

"Now that there are more residential areas, people are walking all the time," said Whittall. "All of a sudden Dallas is becoming a walking city."

Agreement seems to be emerging that Dallas also has to become a pedestrian-friendly city.

"We're at the right point where the business community is starting to see that if it is pedestrian-friendly, they'll have more customers because more people will be out and about walking," said Kennedy, who estimated most of the customers for Cedar Springs businesses are within a two-mile radius. "Once you get the that rhetorical start, I feel like eventually we can get there."

Eric Miller is a freelance writer and public relations professional based in Dallas. Eric is also publisher of www.newcolonist.com and co-creator of www.calendarofantiques.com. Eric has a Graduate Certificate in Public Relations from NYU, a Masters in Urban Studies from the University of Akron and is author of a chapter on Ayn Rand’s life in New York in the book Literary Trips: Following in the Footsteps of Fame. He lives with his partner and four cats. Follow Eric on twitter @ericwmiller.


Comments

  • , 2012-02-14 11:38:55

    I moved to Dallas a few months ago. I am an avid walker. The amount of times I would/could have been hit by a car are numerous. I don’t think drivers have bad intent, I think Dallas is so car centric that drivers are generally unaware of pedestrians. At stop lights drivers turning right, are so intent on looking at the oncoming traffic, waiting for a break that when I get the light to cross, I ALWAYS try to make eye contact, if I can’t I don’t step out. Drivers also tend to be overly distracted by their cell phones. I encourage all pedestrians to make eye contact before stepping out in front of ANY vehicle at a stop sign or light.


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