Can better design save lives? That question is at the center of a proposal by Ogrydziak Prillinger Architects (OPA) to transform crosswalks along San Francisco’s Divisadero Street. The project, Sous Les Paves, originated in a GOOD design challenge by the Center for Architecture and Design. With help from AIA San Francisco, OPA partnered with local advocacy organization Walk San Francisco in a bid to improve pedestrian safety at street crossings. The proposal couldn’t be more timely. According to Walk San Francisco, at least three pedestrians have died in city crosswalks since New Year’s Eve alone. OPA began its design with a rudimentary pedestrian-safety tool: the bulb-out, which projects the sidewalk into the street. But while bulb-outs increase visibility, they also make pedestrians more vulnerable. OPA Principal Zoë Prillinger explained: “Our first thought was, when we looked at the curb extension, was that it should be modified to protect the pedestrian.” The designers elected to build protective ridges along the edge of each bulb-out. This led to a second thought. “If you’re building up the curb extension, what else can it do? If you’re creating a kind of public space, what can we do to augment that public space?” OPA hit upon the idea of treating the protective ridges as planters, creating a new kind of green space at pedestrian crossings. At an urban scale, these mini-parks would connect to median plantings and, eventually, city parks. The designers chose Divisadero Street for their project in part because its traffic lanes are separated by a median. “Median strips [create] a kind of link between intersections, a language of green space: median strips, curb extensions,” Prillinger said. “[You] start to see streets stitched together by these green moments.” As for the architectural language of the crosswalks themselves, OPA employed a variation on the black-and-white zebra crossing. The diagonal hatch extends into the sidewalk as well as the street. “The hatch implies a dual condition,” Prillinger explained. “It’s kind of a hybrid condition. We’re thinking of streets as a place where both cars and pedestrians belong.” OPA’s relatively simple design, comprising the hatch pattern, curb ridges, and median ridges, is a kit of parts designed for flexible use around the city. The firm “created a language that’s modular, that can fit different situations, to create a kind of new public space,” Prillinger said. That language, moreover, could be used to help define an area, like Divisadero Street, that doesn’t yet have a distinct aesthetic identity. “San Francisco is conservative, it’s very hard for planners even to think about doing anything that has a real presence,” Prillinger said. At the same time, “There are real opportunities [to do things] that are more consciousness-raising.” OPA worked with the city Planning Department late last year to outline some of the obstacles to implementing Sous Les Paves. Next, the designers will meet with the Municipal Transportation Authority (SFMTA), representatives of the Fire Department, and other stakeholders to explore opportunities to realize the design. “I really would like some element of this project to get off the ground,” Prillinger said. “It would be lovely for San Francisco to do something that’s not just progressive environmentally, but also combines progressive architectural language.”
Posts tagged with "pedestrian safety":
Nicknamed the “death bridge,” the Hyperion Bridge between Atwater Village and and Silver Lake in Los Angeles is a hazard to both pedestrians and cyclists. “At heavy traffic times, I often think to myself that I am grateful that I have no children or pets that might be saddened if I were to be flattened while playing this real-life version of Frogger,” Sahra Sulaiman wrote in an article for Streetsblog LA, describing her experience crossing from one sidewalk to the other on the Atwater Village side of the bridge. In an opinion piece for the Los Angeles Times, Paul Thornton—who swore off traversing the bridge by bike after one attempt—called it “one of the scariest stretches of road in Los Angeles.” The situation is about to get worse, pedestrian and cycling advocates warn. The city’s proposed seismic retrofit would remove the sidewalk along the eastern edge of the bridge, add a pedestrian crosswalk across Glendale Boulevard in Atwater Village, place a median barrier between the two directions of traffic, and widen the lanes to 12 or more feet. No designated bike lanes were included in the proposal. In addition, the city plans to build a permanent pedestrian crossing on top of the existing Red Car piers downstream of the bridge before construction begins. Opponents of the city’s proposal don’t have a problem with the project’s main premise: that the Hyperion Bridge is unsafe in case of an earthquake. Instead, they argue that the Bureau of Engineering’s proposal flies in the face of the city’s stated commitment to make LA safer for cyclists and pedestrians. “They should never have been allowed to put forward a design that was in violation of the city’s bicycle plan and the city’s protocol for how we deal with pedestrian access today,” said Deborah Murphy, Executive Director of Los Angeles Walks. Murphy’s group began advocating for changes to the Hyperion Bridge plan in October, and participated in an awareness-raising walk across the bridge on November 3. Several organizations have submitted alternative designs, including the Los Angeles County Bike Coalition (LACBC) and architecture firm RAC Design Build. LACBC’s proposal allows for one seven-foot sidewalk, plus two six-foot bike lanes and two 11-foot drive lanes in each direction at the bridge’s widest point. As the bridge narrows, the sidewalk thins to five feet; the bike lanes and drive lanes are reduced to five feet and 10 1/2 to 11 feet, respectively. RAC Design Build envisions a sidewalk along either side of the bridge, with the road surface divided into a two-lane vehicular street and a bike path. Comments on the city’s preliminary environmental review were due November 7. City Council Member Mitch O’Farrell, previously a supporter of the Bureau of Engineering’s plan, has called for a citizens’ advisory committee on the issue, on which Murphy was asked to serve.
Downtown Brooklyn is growing at a fast pace, but it looks like transit is having trouble keeping up with the spike in population and increased congestion that has resulted from the Barclays Center and the onset of new commercial and residential developments. The Tri-State Transportation Campaign, along with the help of Councilwoman Letitia James and local civic groups, have put together a report called “Brooklyn Gateway Transportation Vision,” which outlines a variety of transit problems and potential solutions, including: enhanced bus service, residential parking permits, congestion pricing, improved safety and access for pedestrians, and more cycling amenities such as a bike share program and parking.
Yesterday, Chicago's Department of Transportation (CDOT) began a new pedestrian safety initiative, in hopes of taming the aggressive driving habits of city residents. Following in the footsteps of the grassroots Ghost Bikes campaigns--where cycling advocates place anonymous white painted bikes at the sites where cyclists have been killed--the program includes 32 white mannequins placed along Wacker Drive. The mannequins refer to the 32 pedestriand deaths in the city last year. According to CDOT, the mannequins will be in place for the next several weeks. The campaign also includes public awareness messages in bus shelters and on trash receptacles and information panels, as well as outreach to schools, senior centers, and taxi drivers. Pedestrian accidents have been declining, but CDOT hopes to make Chicago the safest walking cities in the country by 2020.