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Saturday, April 5, 2014

Connecting Neighborhoods Across Mosholu Parkway

Mosholu Parkway is a great shared civic space between the Bedford Park and Norwood neighborhoods. One of the aspects that first impressed me about this area was the groups of older men who walk together and talk on the parkway. Yet while the parkway is a place where the community comes together, it also acts as an inconvenience for movement between the neighborhoods.

There are some long stretches on Mosholu Parkway between intersections, which are the only locations where pedestrians may legally cross the roadways. At several of the intersections, pedestrians are confronted with regulatory signs prohibiting them from crossing at certain corners, imposing yet more limitations on their ability to get around easily.

These locations where pedestrians are prohibited from crossing should be changed. Prioritizing the turning movements of drivers cutting through the community over the residents walking between neighborhoods is the wrong choice. At these locations, the prohibitions appear to do very little to benefit the drivers anyway. The volumes of turning vehicles and pedestrians appear modest enough that allowing pedestrians to go where they want should not create any real problems with turning delays.

Of course, there is a potential risk to pedestrians whenever turning vehicles are allowed a conflicting movement. This is, in fact, an issue at the locations where pedestrians are allowed to cross the parkway, and the pedestrian crashes have been concentrated at the corners. A real analysis of the crash rate would be necessary to be conclusive, since there may (or may not) be more people who cross at the corners than at midblock locations, but there is reason to suspect that the conflicts with turning vehicles contributes to the collisions. 

Some signage has been installed warning turning drivers to yield to pedestrians and cyclists. More complete treatments should be considered:
  • High-visibility crosswalks
  • Leading pedestrian intervals (signal timing that gives pedestrians a head start to enter the intersection before vehicles start turning across their path)
  • Improved refuge islands at locations with longer crossing distances
This pedestrian refuge, consisting solely of markings at Hull/Marion Avenue feels unsafe as drivers frequently cut through as they make their turns
This new pedestrian refuge, recently installed at the termination of the Grand Concourse, provides more protection for pedestrians and includes tree pits
Many neighborhood residents believe they are safer crossing at midblock locations where they can see all the oncoming traffic and comfortably cross during the long gaps between cars. Others feel uncomfortable with the illegal crossing, and perceive crossing in an unsanctioned location as dangerous. Whether or not the current illicit behavior is, in fact, safer, there certainly is an opportunity to create officially designated, properly designed midblock crossings that would be safer than the corners and the current informal crossing locations (with a precedent from Pelham Parkway, which was installed sometime around 2007, if memory serves me correctly). The additional paths of travel would also create more convenient options for the neighborhood residents who do not feel comfortable crossing illegally.

The midblock crossings and some of the prohibited crossings at intersections do lack sidewalks or paved paths. This may discourage making these connections as short-term improvements, but there is no reason we cannot start working on permanent solutions to complete the pedestrian network across and along Mosholu Parkway as expeditiously as possible.

Since the parkway is such an important public landscape, it is also important to note the damage caused by the paths pedestrians have worn to meet their daily needs. The slopes, in particular, are continuing to erode, and properly designed pathways are important to stop this destruction.

There seem to be no serious constraints that should prevent pedestrians from enjoying a full range of movement between the neighborhoods that share Mosholu Parkway. Appropriate treatments to increase pedestrian visibility and signal timing improvements to prioritize the pedestrians crossing the parkway should be able to address any potential safety risks, and these measures could improve conditions at the limited locations where pedestrians are already allowed to cross. 

It is time to treat the parkway more like a park, which allows people to enjoy their walk, and less like a motorway that curtails the freedom of neighborhood residents.

Update 4/12/14
On further observation, I suspect the pedestrian crossings are prohibited because of the limited storage space for vehicles between the eastbound and westbound roadways. Adding crosswalks would require moving the stop lines farther back, reducing the storage space even further. There may be other options. One would be to limit turns to give neighborhood pedestrians priority. A more attractive option is to reduce some of the excess lanes and realign the roadways to provide adequate storage space without penalizing the pedestrians.

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