Wednesday, February 14

A Simple Solution to Pedestrian and Bike Safety Concerns

I know I’ve been raising my concerns about a gas station going in at McCormick and Kernan because it might detract from the neighborhood, but I’m not really a person who rails against every idea or thinks any new idea is a bad one. I sometimes even see a solution I can identify as the right idea. For example, there’s a really nice pedestrian and bike path along Kernan in Jacksonville that’s supposed to be even nicer when the road is widened. I think that’s great, and as I was driving on the road recently, I saw the way to make it at least a bit safer for those on foot or on bikes.

Most of the subdivisions along Kernan have signs identifying the community. Since they’re not actually gated and everyone now has a smart phone, the purpose of these signs has become mostly to inform passers by of some kind of level of fanciness within the subdivision. I am not going to critique the existence of the signs to any great extent. They give those of us living here a sense of place, I suppose.

Most of these placards are around four feet high and maybe ten or more feet wide. Not tiny. It seems that the recent innovation for placing these signs is to use the island of a boulevard that extends out towards Kernan, which allows to one double-sided sign to be seen from traffic heading both north and south on the road. What this also does, however, is create a dangerous blind spot for motorists leaving the neighborhoods. While this blind spot is not a problem for getting onto Kernan, it presents a real problem for being able to see pedestrians or bikes.

Yes, the stop sign is back behind the signs, meaning people are supposed to stop about 20 feet before they get to Kernan, slowly pull out, and then stop again at the road. I understand the intent, but the practice does not live up to the aspirations of planners and developers looking to save money on a single-sign system. Drivers blow past the sign, unable or unwilling to look for pedestrians or bikes, and then stop out at the major road.

Here’s a simple diagram of how it works: |K|==|s== Kernan is represented by the K. Then the access road (=), and then the path that is parallel to Kernan, followed by the sign (s). Driver’s don’t stop at the path, and they can’t see it to the left because of the sign and landscaping. That’s it. You’d have to have police stationed outside every subdivision along the road for months on end to affect change, and then it would revert after countless tickets.

A simple fix is just to go Old School. Mt. Pleasant subdivision has safer exits because of a two-sign system that probably cost each resident a hundred dollars more in construction costs. Here’s how it looks in another simple diagram: |K|==|==ss== The signs are not quite as visible from the road, angled out towards traffic, but the drivers leaving Mt. Pleasant can see the path. I am not saying they look or care, but the planning design elements are not hindering them from safely stopping for pedestrians or bikes. While it’s kind of sad developers could get away with this money-saving scheme, it’s the city that ultimately dropped the ball on this one. Since I’m not sure when the bike/walk path was built, I can’t say it was done in spite of the path, but it’s a situation that needs to be corrected along with the road widening of Kernan. And I’m sure it will be corrected.

I usually just suggest those in charge take a drive to the area in order to see it for themselves. They tend to put measurement devices or cite planning regulations. Just take a ride on a bike from Atlantic to McCormick along the east-side path on Kernan. Then take a drive and exit all the subdivisions along Kernan.

I know there are probably more complicated ways to make the path safer. There might even be simpler ways. The point is that there are ways, and my solution would be to just move the stupid signs. Stick them where Mt. Pleasant has theirs, or integrate them into new street sign holders or banners on street lights. Maybe in the center of the new boulevard on Kernan itself. I’m not the one to say for sure, but not moving them will eventually prove to be a tragic mistake.

Recently, Magnolia Grove went and put its new sign in the same dangerous spot, so it seems as if it’s the way to do things around here. I hope a solution to this is found with the widening of Kernan, which should happen in the next decade or so.

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