Tuesday, April 17, 2012

On Crosswalks & North Little Rock

I've been reading a lot about walkability. Driving home from work in downtown Little Rock through the two distinctly different parts of Main Street North Little Rock.

Generally speaking, North Little Rock does a good job trying to promote walkability. The work with the Built Environment Committee, largely focusing on Levy is to be lauded. However, there’s work to be done. When you enter into our fair city from downtown Little Rock, you get the 14 year overnight success story that is Argenta. It looks great, despite numerous ‘holes in the teeth’.

But, there’s a distinct visual change when you cross the viaduct in Downtown North Little Rock. You go from Argenta to Holt/Mid City. I suspect everyone just thinks you’re in “North Little Rock” until you hit Park Hill which has a distinct visual change due to its historic replica light poles & medians. And while I could go on & on about the things we need to do to make Park Hill a truly walkable neighborhood (A Third Place, anybody?)

What caught my eye recently was the inhospitably of this part of town to pedestrians.

It was this stop that caught my attention on my drive home from work.

People were getting off the bus, likely coming home from work just like me. They quickly moved to crossing the street while I was waiting at the light, traveling home, north to Park Hill. If they wanted to cross the street (which they did) at the bus stop, at the four-way traffic light, there was no crosswalk! Now this wasn’t the biggest deal given that it was a bright, lovely day outside. But I’ve traveled this road home from an evening in Argenta or the downtown Little Rock. When the sun goes down & it’s black as pitch outside, absent the over-illumination of Argenta, people crossing the street, particularly when they’re dressed in dark clothing, can make for some dangerous situations. God forbid something were to happen to a pedestrian, all I could think is that we’d have another Raquel Nelson situation on our hands.

You can see that attention is paid to signage & florescent colors have been used for signs in recent years. That wasn’t always the case as the sign in the first photo shows.

Additionally, we miss an opportunity to enhance safety at nearby North Little Rock High School.

As you can see above, some of the crosswalk itself is faded & nonexistent. Compare that with crosswalks in Argenta.

While the paint has faded a bit, you can still tell that there’s a change in color & design for the downtown crosswalks. As a driver, you can feel the difference in the stamped concrete that at one point was painted maroon. And there’s the rumble strips for ADA compliance. Now, this was done with TEA-21 money something like 13-14 years ago and that money hasn’t been as available since.

But shouldn’t we invest to make the areas by our schools more walkable? Sure, there’s a crossing guard out nearly every morning, but let’s give him or her the additional tools they need before they jump out in front of a 2,000 lb. car armed with nothing but a sign.

There’s quite a bit of development in the Mid-City/Holt area, largely done by the Argenta CDC. The area is home to strong housing stock and when the economy finally, fully turns around, I suspect this area will see a serious revitalization. It’s very close to downtown Little Rock & Argenta, gas is rising and North Little Rock is hemmed in geographically. This is a good place to invest early. So we should help that by showing that pedestrians matter here. Let’s upgrade the safety of the area & put into place ‘best practice’ for crosswalks, as we have in the Argenta area. And let’s invest in walkability for all of our schools. If we commit to updating just the crosswalks by our schools in order to again make schools an integrated part of our communities, we’d be off to a nice start.

1 comment:

  1. As a lifelong resident of Park Hill and a frequent driver/ rider on Main, I certainly see your point. Most folks just cross the street wherever they may be. It's hard to say whether this is due to a little laziness or the fact that the intersections offer little or no differentiation from a mid-block crossing in terms of safety is hard to say. When sidewalks were being built in Park Hill, one of my customers was astonished; "What a waste of money! Who wants to walk on JFK?" I did, for one. Fortunately, attitudes are slowly changing and as you point out the current city government is supportive.