Sunday, August 12, 2018

Walk | Don't Walk

I have often observed that pedestrians in Hudson don't seem to distinguish between mid-block crosswalks and crosswalks at intersections controlled by traffic lights and will boldly step into crosswalks in front of cars that have the green light. There seems to be the expectation that a zebra stripped crosswalk is a charmed and protected place where the pedestrian has the right of way no matter what the circumstance.

Pedestrians don't seem to be able to interpret how traffic lights affect them either. Last week, for example, heading up Warren Street, I was stopped at the red light at Seventh Street. A family--man, woman, and two children--were standing at the corner, in front of Lick, waiting to cross Warren Street. They were watching the same traffic light I was, and instead of crossing when the light was red for Warren Street, they waited until the light turned green and then stepped out into the street in front of cars that had just gotten the green light.

Earlier this month, Peter Spear monitored the corner of Third and Warren streets over the course of three days and edited the resultant three hours of video recording down to twenty-five minutes. That video, called "Pedestrian Observation," has now been published on YouTube and can be viewed here.

Spear's video documents all the things I've experienced driving around Hudson lately and makes an implicit recommendation: we need pedestrian crossing lights at the Warren Street intersections that have traffic lights--especially Warren and Third, since Third Street is a truck route. Whether they say WALK|DON'T WALK or just use icons, we need them. I would suggest that since many of the people captured in Spear's video appear to be visitors to our city, the newly created Tourism Board, empowered to determine how a portion of the revenue from the city's lodging tax is spent, consider investing in pedestrian crossing lights to improve the safety and walkability of our city.


  1. Monies collected under the "tourism tax" are not to be spent on needed city infrastructure, such as Walk and Don't Walk signals. The law states..."The Board is hereby empowered to take all reasonable steps it determines desirable, necessary and proper to market the City of Hudson as a destination for overnight and daytrip visitors by making use of the funds set aside by the City Treasurer. It's a real stretch to believe these signals would attract more visitors.The signals may be a needed improvement, but the monies must come from another source.

    Many if not most of our visitors come from New York city. Pedestrians there pay very little heed to these signals. What would suggest they would change their behavior here?

    1. I don't think they would attract more visitors, Bob, but I do think they might ensure that visitors have a pleasant experience in Hudson, thereby ensuring that they return. If "market" is defined narrowly as "branding" and advertising, then of course this would not be an appropriate investment. But if you adopt the thinking that if you want people to visit your city you make it a nice place to be, then it could be appropriate.

    2. One of our visitors took a nasty fall this evening on one of the city's now famous very poorly maintained sidewalks. Sidewalks should be a first priority of every property owner. Perhaps we are waiting for a lawsuit to bring us to our senses.

  2. a related subject is the behavior of bicyclists in this city----no signals, no helmets, and sometimes no hands on the bars...this is the order of the day in Hudson

    1. LOVE that - it's what makes the town edgy including skateboarding down the Warren !

  3. Carole, thank you for posting.

    What I see in this video is ordinary people using a system that does not acknowledge their existence.

    The fact is that Hudson intersections and streets are designed exclusively for cars and trucks - not people who walk, bike, or are developmentally disabled.

    It's tempting to blame people who walk, ride bikes in town. But there is no avoiding the fact that the city is responsible for their safe passage. I feel that responsibility - even more so because it is life or death.

    “Pedestrian fatalities in the U.S. have skyrocketed 46% since 2009, creating an emerging public health crisis as researchers grasp to understand the reasons.”

    What I’ve learned since getting interested, is that streets that are designed for the most vulnerable users are safer for everyone. Streets that are designed for the least vulnerable are safer only for drivers.

    Cuomo made funds available in 2011 to municipalities who embrace a people-friendly approach to road management called Complete Streets.

    I have been working with Eileen Halloran and Dominic Merante of the DPW committee to encourage the city to adopt a Complete Street ordinance that would fundamentally alter the way the city views and manages streets and intersections.

    Please ask anyone you know who walks in Hudson what it’s like, and ask your alderperson to support Complete Streets.

    If you have personal stories of feeling unsafe as a pedestrian or cyclist on Hudson streets and intersections, please send them to me at

  4. Carole
    I also wanted to share the actual low in the state of New York as it pertains to pedestrians in crosswalks.

    This language clearly puts the onus on the city of Hudson when it can be demonstrated that most pedestrians are unaware that there is a traffic control signal at the intersection of a main street and a state truck route:

    "Which traffic laws apply to pedestrians?
    Pedestrians must obey traffic control signals when they are crossing a street (Sec. 1150).

    What law governs crosswalks?
    When there is no traffic control signal, drivers must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians in the crosswalk. (Sec. 1151). "

    1. Isn't $4 million of the $10 million DRI intended for Complete STreets? Do we need alderpeople support since it will be happening anyway? What changes will we see and who decides those changes/improvements?

    2. Bill, I could be wrong, but it is my understanding that the DRI only applies to the Bridge District, so any Complete Streets work will not impact the rest of the city, and not third @ Warren. Again, I could be wrong.

    3. Peter is correct. The DRI money is only being spent on the BRIDGE District--the area of the city below Second Street.

    4. As a taxpayer (and driver) in Hudson, I am willing to pay a little extra for pedestrian traffic control signals on Warren Street. What if the signs were to employ the Hudson mascot whale as the red/green image? Similar to the use of the Ampel Men/Women in Berlin, the novelty of this might actually get people to look up from their iphones. I am sure there would be an extra cost....

  5. Why is this suddenly news ... pedestrians will do what they want and this video proves just that. The truck route is the problem not the pedestrians. Do we really need signs to save people from themselves? This is not NYC and people in the city get killed too in spite of the flashing signs. What's needed is more cross walks mid blocks to get traffic to slow down and respect the pedestrians.

    1. Leonardo

      I will respond to this, because it’s me that’s trying to make it news - and hope to persuade you that it’s important.
For me it’s news because I spent so much time in the past year pushing a stroller around town. Intersections are different with a stroller with a baby in it.

      It’s newsworthy because we have had more first time visitors every year. Not because I am more motivated by visitors, but because first time users have a great habit of exposing flaws in design.

      By watching first time users of the intersection mis-use and mis-understand that intersection, it made flaws that I had come to accept as the norm glaring. I think over time I had come to tolerate unacceptable conditions because it never occurred to me that it could be another way.
I don’t know what NYC has to do with the intersection at 3rd & Warren, but since you mentioned it, they have been creating Neighborhood Slow Zones where the speed limit is 20mph, since 2012, because

      “according to traffic data, a pedestrian hit by a car going 40 m.p.h. had only a 30 percent chance to survive. Those struck by a car at 30 m.p.h., she said, survive 80 percent of the time. At 20 m.p.h., the figure climbs to about 95 percent.”

      It appears to be effective:
      “In New York City areas where Neighborhood Slow Zones have been implemented there has been a 10-15% decrease in speeds, 14% reduction in crashes with injuries and 31% reduction in vehicles injuries.

      But, I share your skepticism.

      I am almost as afraid of a Hudson solution as I am of a Hudson problem.

      I worry that we are too eager to solve problems, as opposed to treating them as opportunities to better understand the issues, and develop long-term solutions. I worry that we will miss the opportunity to think deeply about what it means to live, walk and drive in Hudson.

      That is why I am working to create a map of Hudson using the past 10 years of accident reports.

      My hope is that being able to visualize the city according to its road accidents will inspire a creative and comprehensive approach to making Hudson a safe and walkable city.

      I encourage anyone reading to go to 3rd & Warren and try to cross. Give yourself a task or a mission on the other side of the intersection, start a block away. Don’t go to evaluate the intersection. Use the intersection. Let me know what your experience was like.

  6. I live on upper Columbia and we have no crosswalks at all at what is probably one of the most dangerous intersections in Hudson for both cars and pedestrians. Crossing to go into cemetery you take your life in your hands. Who should be approached about this problem?

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Apologies. I just realized I didn't share both emails.

      My suggestion would be to talk to your alderperson, email Eileen Halloran:

      and Dominic Merante:

      and to show up at the monthly DPW Committe meeting:

  7. Yes, colordoctor -- go to DPW meeting and speak your mind at the end of meeting. Ask Rob if what you want will be done -- get an answer or some semblance of one if you can and keep him to it. If there is not enough time for you speak at the public comments time allotted, complain to Eilleen that the meeting should be longer than 45 minutes to allow everyone to be heard. It is a PUBLIC works meeting, after all. Last year I strongly suggested that that area at the triangle needed at least one crosswalk (across Prospect). Sadly, it looks like another year will go by without one. It's not smart.