Sunday, August 26, 2018

Pedestrian Observation: Part 2

This afternoon, Peter Spear published Part 2 of the series of videos he is calling "Pedestrian Observation." This time, Spear set up his camera at the crosswalk at City Hall Place and Warren Street. If you watch carefully, you'll see some familiar people making their way across Warren Street, not necessarily in the crosswalk.

A little history of this crosswalk: Back in the day when I when was on the Common Council, the late Christina Malisoff, who worked at the Opera House, was a staunch advocate for a crosswalk at this point on Warren Street. A visitor to Hudson, after leaving the Opera House, had walked out into the street and been hit by a car. I tried to make the crosswalk happen, appealing to then chief of police, Ellis Richardson. Richardson responded to my appeal on behalf of people trying to make their way across Warren Street by arguing that the progress of local drivers making their way up and down Warren Street would be impeded by having to stop at crosswalks. A couple of years later, I learned that the way to achieve the goal was simply to ask DPW superintendent Rob Perry to make it happen.


  1. This cross walk also illustrates our continuing failure to provide accessibility in many places in Hudson. No curb cuts for ramps. Mark Orton

  2. Carole
    I am so appreciative that you have shared these videos, I am hesitant to leave this comment.

    But I must stand up and defend Ellen's honor - and the honor of all people who choose to walk in Hudson.

    One thing I have learned since talking to people about walking in Hudson and pedestrian safety, is that almost all of us end up blaming the pedestrian.

    Like you have done by showing Ellen walking outside the lines of the crosswalk.

    This is a reaction I want to explore.

    Why do we focus on the behavior of the pedestrian when talking about making the streets and intersections safer?
We all do it, though.

    Mention pedestrian safety with someone, and see how long it takes for them to mention pedestrians jumping out from behind cars and leaping in front of traffic.

The fact of the matter is that Ellen is walking on what is called a desire line - the shortest and most natural path between two points. The mapping of desire lines would be part of a pedestrian planning process - to ensure city services align with actual use.

    My goal with these videos is to give us all an opportunity to simply observe how intersections and crosswalks are actually used by people.

    What I see when I sat there with the camera was drivers who, for the most part, responded to a traffic calming device in the way that they should.

    And I saw people using the crosswalk and calming device when they needed it, and not when they didn’t.

    The goal for me is any intervention - for drivers as well as pedestrians - that makes the streets of Hudson safer and more walkable. 

I suggest a different screenshot for the image to go along with this piece. At the 34:40 mark a man walks into the crosswalk and senses that a car isn’t slowing. He points at the traffic calming device to remind them of their legal responsibility to yield.

    And, for a wonderful piece by the ex-chief planner of Toronto on the role that culture plays in shaping the conversation about walkable streets, I highly recommend this:

  3. When I made trips to San Luis Obispo, CA to visit my mother and sister, the city had sensors at crosswalks when pedestrians were at the curb waiting to cross. Flashing lights and sounds were made to alert drivers that pedestrians had the right-of-way and should stop. Worked great I thought.

  4. As a not unrelated topic, in 2014 Gossips wrote about the difficulty under former HPD Chief Richardson to get stop signs established at Allen and 2nd streets:

    "I imagined that, since I was an alderman, getting stop signs at this intersection would be a slam dunk, but it wasn't. Former police chief Ellis Richardson was unsympathetic. .... [whereas years later] Police commissioner Gary Graziano was receptive to the idea and .... made the determination that stop signs were needed on Allen at Second Street. ..."

    Now that the city is without a Police Commissioner (by design), it's again more difficult for residents to bring such concerns to the attention of a/the responsible party.

    As one example (and others have other examples), the yield signs on lower Front Street encountered by vehicles approaching Broad Street from both directions have occasioned many near-misses. Vehicles exiting the waterfront rightly assume they have the right of way, since there's no signage on Broad Street and any delay in their forward motion may strand them on the railroad tracks.

    Recently I had a near-miss with a CSX truck which ran Front Street's northbound yield sign. I followed the truck-and-driver to their destination to inform the fellow he'd run a yield. But it was our civil discussion which followed that had astounded me.

    Acknowledging that he spoke on behalf of his employers (the rail company itself!), he informed me that even though the yield signs are on Front Street both are attached to signs indicating a "railroad crossing." According to that single CSX spokesman, the yield signs instruct drivers to yield for a railroad crossing, and not for Broad Street itself.

    Now if anyone thinks I'm going to sit through a Police Committee meeting so I can share that story then they're nuts. In that case, thank you Gossips for this opportunity.

  5. I've just spoken with the mayor, who's aware of the right-of-way problem at Front and Broad Streets, but did not know the bizarre opinion of CSX on the matter.

    The mayor assures me that the Police Chief can act as the Police Commissioner, and that is entirely alright with me. Chief Moore is always available and responsive to my requests and/or complaints.

    I suggested that the SWAT team - which I greatly value - drop the camouflage. The mayor wondered, too, why the standard police gear wasn't enough for the job? I suggest we find out, and then substitute something more municipal and less military for the well-disciplined response team. It may be a fiscal matter, at which point we can all decide on the best uniform coloration for the community.