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Sightings: Storm Grates and Pedestrian Signals

Bike Friendly Storm Grate
Bike Friendly Storm Grate

While riding my bike on Pratt St. in the new bus/bike lane, one of the 200-year-old storm grates almost caught my front wheel. If I had fallen, perhaps my super human reflexes would have allowed me to roll and duck underneath the approaching bus. Maybe not. Never-the-less, living without a car shouldn’t require super human abilities.

I’m told that the old grates on Pratt will soon be replaced with bike-friendly grates like these:

In other news, BCDOT’s traffic division is looking at ways to make the downtown intersections of President St./Pratt St. and Light St./Lombard St. safer for pedestrians. Though the Institute of Transportation Engineers has guidelines for how long the pedestrian “walk” phase should be, I think there should be enough time to sit down, eat a light snack and play a hand of poker in a crosswalk before traffic gets the green.  But that’s just me.

This is especially important with a growing aging population. Check out what New York City is doing:

  • Mark T

    I just discovered this blog and am catching up. Background: I live in Otterbein (after living for two years in Federal Hill), and since my company just completed a long-anticipated move from Millersville to Little Italy, my fiance and I have been able to go down to one car, which we used fairly infrequently while she was finishing up her law degree at UB. Hopefully when she finds a full-time job we’ll be able to continue that situation.

    Anyway – as I cross President on Pratt daily (nowadays mostly on two wheels, but I walk to work a lot too, and walk to the harbor for lunch at least every week or two), I find the timing of the walk signal completely unfriendly to pedestrians. It seems that it was designed with the intention that pedestrians should make the crossing in two stages, which to me is a ludicrous expectation. It’s easy going eastbound, since you cross the right-turning lanes on the dedicated walk signal, but coming west you’ll only make it if you anticipate the light and are already moving as northbound President traffic stops, and book it across the median so that you’re into the street when the light turns green and the cars are forced to yield to you. It’s a little confusing since typically when the hand starts flashing you expect to finish your crossing, but here the drivers aren’t prepared to allow that. (One of my coworkers likes to point up at the ‘yield to pedestrians’ sign as we bully our way through the crosswalk). I hadn’t heard before that DOT was looking to improve this intersection but it’s definitely good news and I’ll be interested to see what options are on the table.

  • Thomas Gonzales

    I’m also catching up on your blog!

    Remember that the length of time you have to cross the street is the length of time those crossing the second street have to wait! In my opinion, the trick is to make the crosswalk distance as short as possible. That way you can have a short walk phase that still allows plenty of time for all users to cross, but isn’t so long that just missing the opposing walk phase costs you minutes (while someone is playing their poker hand), which also encourages jaywalking.

  • Guest

    Your assumption is correct about having to cross in two stages. The crosswalk is very long and the amount of time that would have to be given to a pedestrian to cross both legs would not work with the signal timing of the intersection. If you get to that median and the hand is already flashing, by law you are supposed to not cross the second leg of President Street (and thus the cars shouldn’t have to yield to you). Hope that clears things up.

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