A recent article in Sustainable Cities Collective titled 21 Easy Measures to Create A Walk-able Community made us think about how we could implement this and create a better Fort Wayne. City officials have been busy with paint machines this week, striping new travel paths for both car and bike along major thoroughfares like Main Street between Jackson and Maiden and a small portion of Ewing between the new roundabout and Berry. While these are great steps forward that will make Fort Wayne a top walk-able community, the list provided 15 quick ideas that could be implemented as soon as tomorrow, because they are neither expensive, nor require several studies and reports which often keep the process in slow mode.
1. NO RIGHT ON RED
Sure, we all love to creep into the intersection just slightly and briefly look both ways before hitting the gas pedal to speed around the corner only to be stopped by another red light just a few hundred feet away, but what does this really get you? With a little press and marketing, if Fort Wayne said no more right on red (and used a few signs to enforce this position), the city would quickly see a more bicycle and pedestrian friendly street grid. Now, we aren’t crazy and asking for the city to consider this in all areas, but let’s start at least with the several city blocks in downtown and even into some of the significant neighborhoods such as Nebraska, Bloomingdale, Lakeside and South Calhoun to start.
2. NO RUSH HOUR LANES ABUTTING A SIDEWALK
Not necessarily a direct situation in which our city faces, but spend five minutes on Washington or Jefferson at rush hour and you can see that speed often does not matter, as long as you don’t get stopped at Broadway or Van Buren you can often sail to Jefferson Pointe in less than five minutes. The city is investing several million dollars on enhancements to both streets for street calming features, but there are easy measures to “sample” these effects provided through tactical urbanism.
3. WELL MARKED AND WELL LIT CROSSWALKS
A little paint and some additional signage could go a long way in making Fort Wayne a truly multi-modal city. Crosswalks often are a last thought for many as they are merely a stripe of paint, but these can be extremely helpful for the other modes of travel including pedestrians who use them the most. Even a better idea, hold an art contest with local students who design creative cross walks that will include and promote the arts, but also provide a visible reminder of the potential traffic that could be coming into the intersection without notice.
4. NO PEDESTRIAN SIGNALS REQUIRING PUSH BUTTON ACTIVATION
Honestly, do they work? Why not just remove them and adjust signal computers to provide pedestrian crossing phases automatically.
5, FULL ENFORCEMENT OF PEDESTRIAN RIGHT-OF-WAY
A job for Fort Wayne police, pedestrians are just as important as the cars that use the roadways and assigning enforcement personnel and property instructing traffic wardens will help create a safer and more accessible environment.
6. LONGER CROSSING SIGNAL TIMES
The central computer allows cities to adjust crossing times at all intersections. It seems as if some areas, the city has not truly studied the crossing times needed…take Sherman and High for example. One could walk across Sherman twenty times before the cross walk changes in favor of the other traffic. However intersections along the wider Jefferson and Washington streets lack the time needed for slower and large groups of pedestrians. A simple and easy fix.
7 PROVIDE THE “GO” SIGNAL TWO SECONDS BEFORE VEHICLES
Again, going back to the central computer, a quick adjustment will get the most vulnerable pedestrians into the intersection before vehicular traffic, forcing drivers to pay more attention before entering or turning into a street.
8. FEWER CURB CUTS ACROSS SIDEWALKS WITH HIGH PEDESTRIAN VOLUME
Pedestrian safety and convenience should trump short convenient access for cars. The city recently denied two curb cuts for the Saint Francis parking lot along the reconstructed Ewing to provide safer travel for multi-modal transportation. This is a minor step in the overall redevelopment of Fort Wayne, but one that will continue to make a long term significant impact.
9. NO CLOSED SIDEWALKS
Sure, construction can be tricky and ultimate safety is the concern by all, but to some..closing the sidewalk is the “easy” thing to do. Make construction companies fully review the needs of a closed sidewalk and look at increasing the fee for a closure permit which will weed out projects that truly need closure from those who are looking for an easy fix.
10. NO SIDEWALKS WITH LESS THAN FIVE FEET OF USABLE SPACE
Looking at the 1890’s in the bustling metro of New York, many of the streets saw sidewalks that would vary between 8 and 12 feet wide. Transportation by foot was preferred (and ironically still is). This will take several years of planning and reconstruction, but removing obstacles like light boxes, trees and signs will allow for better walk-ability.
11. TWENTY IS ALWAYS PLENTY
Driving through downtown Fort Wayne, one will find the speed limit range between 20mph and 35mph with several changes between destinations. With neighborhoods requiring a 20mph speed limit, why not require this downtown along the heavily trafficked sidewalks and crossings. Not only would this require the vehicular traffic to slow down and pay attention, but a uniform speed through downtown would eliminate the various traffic issues caused by not knowing the limits posted.
12. REINSTATE THE RED LIGHT AND SPEED CAMERA SYSTEM
I remember driving in the outskirts of Springfield Ohio where traffic was cautious because of the hidden red light camera. The day I saw my own mugshot in the mail, I realized I too had to be more cautious at this extremely busy intersection. By bringing back red light and speed cameras at significant intersections downtown, it will create an overall appearance of a city taking interest in the walking population.
13. NO LARGE PARKING LOT WITHOUT MARKED PEDESTRIAN ROUTES
Every driver becomes a pedestrian once the car is parked but most lots provide poor guidance for pedestrians and rarely a safe passage. When city and county owned lots are re-striped, maybe we look at requiring each lot to have focused pedestrian refuges and routes so cars can be more mindful.
14. INSTALL REST AREAS
When constructing new sidewalks and reconstructing roads, the city should focus on areas of widened space, benches, green lawns, art structures and the like can provide relief for pedestrians and make walking more pleasant, especially for the elderly that need to sit from time to time.
15. REDUCE NUMBER OF ONE-WAY STREETS
While there is no more significant safety for pedestrians between one and two way street intersections, two way street patterns “tame” traffic and especially in narrower streets slow overall traffic habits and change it from freeway to local.
So, what is holding us back? These are simple measures that can easily be worked into budgets by city officials and if designed right, allow the city to apply for significant place making grants from the federal government. Why wait for another pedestrian accident, let’s move forward and begin implementing these ideas today. While they may seem simple, they really are just that…15 ideas to create a better Fort Wayne.