The community response was tremendous, and we thank all those who took the time to submit nominations! We received a total of 76 nominations for 68 locations in Monroe County.
The Steering Committee had a tough task to choose from so many quality submissions and deserving locations! A set of established judging criteria helped guide us through the selection process. Here we are, hard at work examining each and every submission:
So What’s the Good Word?
In the end, we selected the following locations as this year’s winners:
COMPLETE STREETS MAKEOVER WINNER: Orange Street & Orchard Street in the JOSANA neighborhood
CITY DESIGN RENDERING WINNER: Arnett Boulevard between Genesee Street & Warwick Avenue in the 19th Ward neighborhood
SUBURBAN DESIGN RENDERING WINNER: Monroe Avenue between Highland Avenue & 12 Corners in the Town of Brighton
The Orange & Orchard location presented the right mix of community support, evidence of safety concerns, and potential for a street re-design that would create real, transformative change for the community through our project. We are eager to get to work with the families at School 17, Charles House Neighbors in Action, the Americorp Vista team, and JOSANA neighbors on a project to transform the intersection and create a safer space for the community.
The Steering Committee also selected two Design Rendering Winners. These locations might not be suitable for the on-street makeover project (because of their size or other feasibility issues), but we want to highlight them as places where the community would like to see improvements made.
What Happens Now? Let’s start with our Complete Streets Makeover Winner.
The Complete Streets Makeover will kick off with a community input session in January (facilitated by the Community Design Center) to hear from the residents of the JOSANA neighborhood about their experiences and ideas. No one understands what it’s like to use our streets better than those who walk, bike, roll, and ride along them everyday.
Based on feedback from this session, the complete streets design team at Stantec will draft conceptual design improvements of an improved streetscape. The design will be brought to life through a temporary on-street installation in May. We will rely on people power from the neighborhood community, and equipment from the Healthi Kids traffic calming library to lay down the temporary design on the street. Stay tuned for project updates as we go along!
What About the Design Rendering Winners?
The design team at Stantec will provide each of our Design Rendering Winners with a conceptual drawing of street design improvements. The neighborhoods can use these illustrations as a launch pad for community discussion, and a tool to help advocate for changes that would make these streets safer for everyone.
A few nights ago I was riding my Onewheel through the residential streets of Rochester’s South Wedge neighborhood. I slowed as I approached a lightly traveled 4-way stop sign controlled intersection, where a car stopped and yielded the right of way to me as I had reached the intersection first.
A few minutes later, I tried to cross Rochester’s South Ave. while carrying my device across a crosswalk. And while the signage clearly states that pedestrians in the crosswalk have the right of way, 8 cars blew through said crosswalk before a car finally stopped and allowed me to pass.
Tonight I was trying to cross another street near Rochester’s historic Mt. Hope Cemetery (final resting place of Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony) at a RRFB-controlled crosswalk. I pressed the button which activated the flashing yellow lights indicating that a pedestrian is ready to enter the crosswalk, and subsequently watched in horror as 19 cars drove through the crosswalk without so much as a brake tap.
Here’s my question… why aren’t pedestrian crosswalks simply controlled with a traditional stop sign? For the life of me I’ve never been able to understand this. Let’s break it down…
If we think of stop signs as safety signals for everyone on our streets, then why is it that our most vulnerable population, people on foot, only receive “yield” status?
If we claim that a pedestrian always has the right of way in a crosswalk, why do we treat pedestrians as “yield” worthy instead of “STOP” worthy like we do cars? Why doesn’t every non-signal-controlled crosswalk simply have a universally recognizable stop sign instead of an innocuous yield sign or flashing yellow lights that most drivers simply dismiss?
We claim to prioritize pedestrians with bright signage and flashing lights but until we prioritize a person the way we prioritize a car, truck or SUV, the number of people killed by cars will continue to rise.
Arian took this to the next level when he conducted a filmed experiment with an RRFB crosswalk — take a watch below:
Did that peak your interest? Consider attending this week’s Rochester Street Films Event: Silent Epidemic on the growing number of pedestrian injuries and fatalities on our streets. We’ll be featuring this video along with several others + local data + live discussion with community leaders and crash victims.
Guest blog by Rachel Barnhart, who represents District 21 on the Monroe County Legislature and has been a longtime advocate for safer streets.
A driver struck and killed a woman walking on Lake Ave on September 17. She was at least the 90th pedestrian or cyclist injured or killed on Lake Ave in the mile-long stretch between Driving Park Ave and Lyell Ave over the last decade. That’s an average of nine people hurt every year in a distance we can walk in less than 20 minutes.
It’s time to make Lake Ave safe for everyone, particularly the people who live there.
About half of the people who live in the two census tracts on the west side of Lake Ave between Driving Park and Lyell live in poverty. More than one-third of the households do not own cars. They are using other means of transportation — walking, cycling and public transit. Yet Lake Ave is not built for the use of the people who call the surrounding blocks home.
Lake Ave is built for speed. The road has 11-foot-wide lanes, 3-foot shoulders, recessed bus stops and turning lanes. These are all design elements conducive to high speeds. The speed limit on Lake Ave is 35 mph, a speed at which pedestrians have a 45 percent chance of being killed when struck. Speed data indicates that between Emerson St and Lexington Ave, half of drivers are going above 36 mph, and one in seven drivers is going above 42 mph. Driving on Lake Ave can be stressful, with tailgating, aggressive lane changes, and, yes, speeding.
When examining crash data over the last decade, it’s evident Lake Ave does not have enough traffic lights and they are not timed properly. There are not enough crosswalks, as you have to walk nearly a half-mile in one location between Driving Park and Lyell before encountering a designated place to cross. Lake Ave also takes pedestrians time to cross — it’s six lanes in some spots! In many locations, drivers can turn right on red and they can make left turns everywhere, further endangering pedestrians.
Imagine being a pedestrian or cyclist in this environment, especially on a cold, snowy or rainy day. You just want to cross the street to get to your bus stop, the grocery store, your job, or your friend’s house. But Lake Ave is not built for you.
Despite the carnage, there is predictably no outcry to make Lake Ave safer for all who use the road. Lake Ave’s crash history sadly shows the correlation between poor street safety, race and poverty. Our culture is oriented toward the needs of drivers, no matter the collateral damage. We have an intense bias reflected in news stories that regularly use the passive voice to describe crashes. A pedestrian is “hit by a car,” not the person driving the car. We blame pedestrians for not following the rules of the road, even though drivers on Lake Ave routinely disregard traffic laws, such as the speed limit.
We can make Lake Ave work for everyone by redesigning the road. Unfortunately, drivers will fight for their ability to speed through neighborhoods, like when public opposition killed a road diet planned for a northern section of Lake Ave in 2014. There are still ideas on the table, such as Reconnect Rochester’s concept to make the Phelps Ave intersection safer.
City leaders kicked off a Pace Car program on Lake Ave in 2016, which encouraged drivers to be more mindful of pedestrians and cyclists. That effort faded, but should be revived as part of a more comprehensive Vision Zero plan, which focuses on road design, enforcement and education to reduce crashes.
Lake Ave is not built for everyone, but it could be one day, if we value the safety and quality of life of everyone who uses this corridor.
Last weekend my wife and I enjoyed a quick overnight trip to one of our favorite cities, Philadelphia, PA. In an effort to avoid toll roads, we took Route 15 for much of the way through the Keystone State, marveling at the beautiful rolling hills while skirting the Susquehanna River.
But in many places along the way, Route 15 transitions into Big Box Store Islands. One such place is in Shamokin Dam, home to massive parking lots servicing Best Buys and AutoZones, featuring every restaurant chain from McDonalds and Burger King to Pizza Hut, Chipotle, Denny’s, Red Robin, Applebee’s and more. What caught my eye on this particular journey through the minimum-wage wasteland was the total lack of sidewalks.
Let’s unpack this for a moment. We have a sea of low paying retail jobs that literally cannot be reached on foot or by bike. If you can’t afford a car, you don’t get a job here and you don’t get to shop here, plain and simple.
Furthermore, and this is my favorite… not only do they not have sidewalks, the local signage actually forbids pedestrians!
And beyond that, I tried to see if there might be a public transit option so that residents of nearby Selinsgrove, for example, might be able to access this area without owning a car. Spoiler alert, there is no public transit option.
A similar collection of big box retailers and chain restaurants exists south of Rochester, New York in the suburb of Henrietta. And while the land use and development strategies in this area are hideously car-centric and exclusive, at least it has sidewalks on both sides of the road and regular transit access.
Shamokin Dam, on the other hand, is an island of minimum wage jobs that is only accessible by the most expensive form of transportation. Pennsylvania’s citizens living in this area must own a car and all the incredible costs that come with it in order to access these retail opportunities, either as an employee or as a customer. This is a perfect example of how flawed and shortsighted our U.S. development patterns and land use constructs truly are.
Like every non-profit, the pandemic forced Reconnect Rochester to pivot fast to re-tool our planned programs and goals for the year. Luckily, we are small (but mighty), and nothing if not nimble. Despite all the challenges, we managed to move our mission forward with intensity. Check out (below) the “Top 10” list of accomplishments we’re most proud of in 2020.
We also faced financial uncertainty this year as prospects for grants and sponsorships dissipated. You know what got us through? The generosity of supporting members during our last membership drive, especially our sustaining members whose monthly donations proved to be extra crucial this year.
TOP 10 THINGS WE’RE MOST PROUD OF IN 2020 (In no particular order of importance.)
Releasing a new original short film titled Think Transit First to highlight transportation as a systemic equity issue in our community, and the innovative ways some local organizations are meeting transportation needs. The film premiered at our Nov 12 Rochester Street Films event, which also included a presentation of local statistics and a panel discussion. Please watch and share this important film!
Hosting a 3-hour virtual Complete Streets Training attended by 60 local public officials, planners, engineers and advocates. Justin Booth of GObike Buffalo led a discussion about the benefits of active mobility and complete streets, and how we can make our roads safe for people of all ages and abilities.
Rolling out a set of bike education offerings to encourage more people in our community to experience the health and financial benefits of biking to get around, and deliver the information they need to do so safely and comfortably. p.s. Find out more about classes & presentations you can bring to your workplace, campus, community library or schools.
Getting our Monroe County Crash Map (which had crashed) updated on our website with a fresh new design! The map is a resource for looking up crashes that involve pedestrians and cyclists, and serves as a tool for local advocacy efforts around safe streets in our community.
Adding new multi-modal themed products and designs to our online shop. All sales and proceeds are reinvested to support our work in the community. p.s. Several new products are available as membership gifts!
Blog by Arian Horbovetz. Arian is a Reconnect board member and the creator of The Urban Phoenix, a blog focused on conversations around the elements that create healthy cities, neighborhoods and communities today. Arian covers walkability, public transit, financial solvency, bike infrastructure, smart development, public space, public pride and ownership of our futures. While he discusses issues of public policy, legislation, statistics and money, The UP specializes in addressing public perceptions and how they affect the way we see our cities.
Your heart sinks when you see that orange symbol of uncertainty. You grip the wheel tighter, curse, and check your watch to see if the impending redirection will inevitably make you late to your destination. We’ve all experienced this frustrating dilemma, brought about by that never-welcomed sign that reads “DETOUR.”
While detours encountered on the road may be frustrating, fear not! The Department of Transportation has outlined the most convenient alternative navigation for you to traverse instead. Abundant signage will guide your new direction, showing you exactly where to go in order to continue along your new route. Your safety on this detour has been considered. The new route will accommodate all vehicles, from small cars to big trucks. While inconvenienced, a tremendous amount of thought has gone into ensuring that your detour will be as impact-free as possible.
But what happens when you’re walking down a city sidewalk and you see a sign like the one below?
What happens when you’re rolling down an urban bike trail and you encounter a piece of construction equipment blocking your path?
This piece of machinery was blocking a trail in Buffalo, NY while the operators were on a lunch break. “Oh sorry, I was about to move that” one of the workers said as I snapped a photo…
Or maybe you’re making the trek home from the bar on foot, only to encounter this blocking your path…
Finally, you and your family are taking a winter evening stroll in your neighborhood. While the street you’re on is perfectly plowed, you can’t help but notice that your children are struggling to stay on their feet while traversing the icy sidewalk.
Walkability is something we talk about with regard to healthy communities and neighborhoods these days. And for good reason… areas that are more walkable have higher property value, and have shown to be better for business growth and proliferation. But even with all the positives that come from strong pedestrian connectivity, construction projects, infrastructure maintenance and good old fashioned Mother Nature can lead to sidewalk closures and/or unsafe walking environments. Most of these can be remedied with proper planning and foresight, but that foresight is often lacking. Developers and workers don’t always understand the importance of pedestrian prioritization, and this is, to some extent, understandable. It is only just now that we are beginning to realize the importance of giving pedestrians welcoming, connected, comfortable and safe environments to traverse neighborhoods on foot.
When sidewalks are closed due to nearby construction, pedestrians must find a way around. This either means backtracking to the last crosswalk, or worse, venturing out into the a potentially busy street in order to cross, or walk in the road along the blocked sidewalk until they pass the construction area. It is important for everyone to understand that people on foot, like drivers, will often choose the most convenient option, even if it is not the best or safest.
This cement truck was not only parked in a crosswalk leading from Rochester’s Genesee Riverway Trail, it completely blinded pedestrians from being able to see oncoming traffic on South Avenue
Construction companies should do everything in their power to ensure that a pedestrian right-of-way is not impeded by their work. Actions should be taken to ensure that pedestrians don’t have to find an alternate route. Sidewalk sheds and scaffolding, much like the ones we see in larger cities, should be built to keep the sidewalk functional and protect those on foot.
Furthermore, construction site and maintenance workers should be trained to ensure that equipment, machinery and other barriers never block a sidewalk or path. Workers may not realize that blocking a sidewalk, even for a short while, could put pedestrians in an inconvenient, or even dangerous situation.
Even plow companies need to appreciate the negative impact of moving snow out of our streets and into the direct path of our pedestrians.
Failing to mind these amenities is even more detrimental to the safety of persons with disabilities. A closed sidewalk can make for a precarious situation for those in our community with mobility issues, and/or folks in wheelchairs or motorized scooters.
Finally, blocking sidewalks is not just inconvenient and unsafe for pedestrians, it sends a message that this vital piece of infrastructure is not important. When car traffic is moving smoothly while the adjacent sidewalk has been blocked, torn up or interrupted, it clearly signals that those who choose to walk or have to walk are not welcome, and seen as less important.
While Rochester’s Nathaniel Apartments were being constructed, pedestrian access was accommodated on the building’s north side with a pedestrian tunnel. The East side of the building, however, did not effectively accommodate foot traffic during construction.
Meaningful accommodations for pedestrians and cyclists are out there. In our most dense urban areas where walkability is more appreciated, these accommodations are plentiful. But even in our smaller cities, there are excellent examples of developers making every attempt to ensure sidewalk use is unaffected during construction.
This construction project not only accounts for pedestrians and cyclists, the circled signage clearly instructs both on the appropriate path to use while traversing this stretch
Sidewalks are the connective tissue in our urban communities. They are the final link between homes and public transit. They are the needle the weaves the fabric of our neighborhoods together. They are are the highway for those who cannot afford a car, or make the choice not to own one. In our cities, sidewalks have a level of importance that often goes unrealized and under appreciated in our car-centric world. Accommodating and maintaining their convenience, their appeal and their safety is of paramount importance to creating a healthy, walkable environment for all of our citizens.
Copenhagen is famous for having the world’s best bike infrastructure and highest rates of bike transportation. (OK Amsterdam, you’re not bad, either.) Transit nerds love to extol the engineering details, celebrate the signage, and explain the traffic patterns in excruciating detail. While I admit getting excited by those nerd-outs — I’m an engineering professor and a lifelong cyclist, after all — the real point is the beautiful lifestyle enabled when communities “Copenhagenize.” So here’s a snapshot, one typical day of the lifestyle, as lived by my family and me during our sabbatical year away from Rochester.
After a Danish breakfast of pastries, yogurt, and coffee, I hop on my bike for the morning commute. Neighborhood roads bring me to Lyngbyvej (pronounced “loong boo vye”), busy at rush hour with more car traffic than almost any road in central Copenhagen. Still, it’s a pleasant place to cycle, because its wide bike lanes are separated from the cars by curbs, and because automotive traffic is held to reasonable speeds by stoplight timing and posted limits. At rush hour, Copenhagen’s roads carry more bikes than cars, so I feel like part of the crowd. Some cyclists ride slower, and some ride faster, passing on the left, often after ringing their bells to avoid surprises. (Impatient commuters sometimes ring excessively.) As I head south, motorists turning right wait at the intersection for a gap in the long line of cyclists passing in their own lane.
From experience I know that the stoplight at Tagensvej (pronounced “tah gens vye”) is slow, so seeing its pedestrian signal turn green up ahead, I pedal harder. A green bike signal comes next, then a green signal for motorists. I sail through as the bike signal turns yellow. Arriving at work in under 10 minutes after a 1.5-mile ride, I’m invigorated and just starting to warm up. Bike parking is ample, with spots in the open by the nearby entrance, covered spots further away, and beyond them, an underground bike-only parking deck for bad weather and expensive bikes. Most folks ride commuter bikes, akin to what Americans might call hybrids, neither flashy nor expensive, just practical. I pull into a covered spot.
Meanwhile my younger daughter, age 12, sets out for school, also biking. She soon turns left from Lyngbyvej, using the usual jug-handle method: ride across the intersecting street, stop until the signals change, then ride left across Lyngbyvej and on toward school. That keeps her in the bike lanes all the time, so she doesn’t have to change lanes and cut across motor traffic. Like the Danes, she gives a hand signal beforehand. A few blocks later, road signs direct her through a slight detour. Construction is blocking the usual bike lane, so the motor-vehicle lanes have been narrowed to make room for bikes and pedestrians, protected by a steel barrier. Construction is no excuse to block important bike and pedestrian thoroughfares.
Copenahgen may have the world’s highest rates of bike transportation, but it doesn’t have the world’s best weather. Today it’s drizzling, so my daughter is wearing a shell jacket, boots, and her new waterproof pants. Danes like to say there is no bad weather, only bad clothing. Sure enough, rain hardly changes the number of cyclists on the road, and today the nearby cyclists wear clothing varying from Gore-Tex to full-body ponchos to soggy blue jeans. Most of their bikes have fenders, and lights are required by law–winter nights in Denmark are long.
Having stuff to carry doesn’t keep people from cycling, either. I take my laptop and lunch to work in waterproof saddle bags. My daughter carries a backpack, like many of the riders around her. Nearly all their bikes have racks on the back, often bearing loads held with bungee cords. Mail, football equipment, take-out, Ikea furniture, and all manner of things get carted around on sturdy flatbed cargo bikes, sometimes with electrical assistance to make pedaling easier. Danish parents commonly carry their kids to school in cargo bikes with boxed compartments on the front. Older kids sit on tag-along bikes attached to mom’s or dad’s. Most have learned to ride solo by age 3 or 4, and are getting to school on their own bikes by age 6 or 7.
My older daughter, age 13, isn’t a morning person and leaves later, finishing her 2.2-mile commute and parking her bike just in time for class. After school, the clouds persist but the rain has quit, so she decides to bike with classmates to Stroget, one of the largest pedestrian-only market streets in Europe, to window-shop and buy some candy to share. As her dinnertime curfew approaches, she considers the headwinds and decides not to bike all the way home, instead catching the S-train, which allows bikes anytime. Metro trains also allow bikes, though not at rush hour, and only with an extra ticket. But she might be tempted to take the Metro anyway once the new Orientkaj stop opens–it’s next-door to her school.
While the rest of us are away, my wife shops for some hygge (cozy) furnishings at the neighborhood secondhand shop, then picks up groceries for dinner, including fresh-baked bread. She could bike both places, but decides to walk for exercise, and anyway the grocery store is only three blocks from our apartment. After working at home awhile, she rides the S-train to Klampenborg to jog in the woods. In summer, she might instead bike to the Nordhavn harbor for a swim, or cycle 25 miles to Helsingør, then ride the train home. Neither she nor I need to plan our day around driving our kids from place to place, since they can capably bike and navigate public transportation on their own.
Home together at the end of the day, the four of us light candles, start a fire in the wood stove, and sit down to dinner. My younger daughter is ravenous after biking home from football (pronounced “soccer”) practice. My older daughter is proud that her new fitness tracker logged 14,000 steps since the morning. We have lived another day of our full and busy lives, traveling to work and school and many other places without driving a car or wishing for one. Our daily travels have required nearly no fossil fuel and put nearly no carbon into the atmosphere. Outdoor exercise lifts our moods and keeps us fit. Alternative transportation gives the kids freedom to move about independently, making extra time for us parents. And in the summertime, when the days are long and the skies are clear, Copenhagen transportation is even more lovely.
Crucially, you don’t have to live in Copenhagen to enjoy this lifestyle. Ride RTS. Rent a Pace bike. Stroll to your neighborhood cafe. Bike to work and to the Public Market. Though Rochester’s bike infrastructure doesn’t match Copenhagen — nobody’s does — you can bike to many destinations without using big, ugly roads clogged with motorists. Pedal on the Canal Path, on the River Trail, on the cycle tracks along Union Street or Elmwood Avenue, on the network of Bike Boulevards, or simply on quiet streets that parallel the big thoroughfares. Teach your kids to bike, show them safe and effective routes, let them walk, and teach them to use public transportation. Tell community leaders about the importance of building alternative transportation infrastructure. And support organizations like Reconnect Rochester that are enlarging this lifestyle in Rochester.
Guest blog by Arian Horbovetz. Arian is the creator of The Urban Phoenix, a blog focused on conversations around the elements that create healthy cities, neighborhoods and communities today. Arian covers walkability, public transit, financial solvency, bike infrastructure, smart development, public space, public pride and ownership of our futures. While he discusses issues of public policy, legislation, statistics and money, The UP specializes in addressing public perceptions and how they affect the way we see our cities.
Not long ago, a professor at Brockport Central School teacher was struck and killed by a pickup truck about 25 minutes from my hometown of Rochester, NY. The driver was ticketed for “failing to safely pass a bicycle…” a far too familiar slap on the wrist for a deadly crime of negligence.
This is the latest in a rash of similar pedestrian and bike related deaths in my area over the last several months, a tragic but predictably dismissed epidemic that is simply accepted as “the cost of doing business” in American car culture.
This afternoon, I was riding my bike home from work when a speeding pickup truck flew by my just a foot and a half or so away. The driver was trying to make the light up ahead while avoiding the oncoming car in the opposite lane.
As is often the case, the driver missed the green light, stopping before the intersection. I rolled up behind him, calling to his open driver side window, “hope that was worth it!” I received an aggressive hand gesture in response.
This was far from the first time this has happened… I can’t count the number of times a driver has made an aggressive pass on me at an unsafe distance and speed, only to sit at a light or next several lights with me alongside just a few seconds later. But this time, I had a thought that I never did before. I’ve heard so many cyclists and urbanists talk about how many drivers see cyclists as “less than human.” Indeed, I’ve written articles talking about the lack of respect for cyclists because of the inability for drivers to see bikes as viable forms of transportation. Instead, drivers see cyclists in the road as a recreational nuisance impeding their commute, nothing more.
Today, I realized it’s even worse than that. In order for drivers to see cyclists as sub-human, they have to acknowledge humanity in the surrounding environment in the first place. Even to see someone as less than you is to see them and be aware of their existence. I truly now believe, based on everything I’ve seen in driving behavior, that most drivers don’t see the cars, bikes and other vehicles around them as being piloted by living things at all. I believe the average driver sees other motorists and cyclists simply as video-game-like obstacles that need to be overcome in order to advance in a game of speed and power. In other words, there is something about the automobile that disconnects drivers from the reality that anyone else on the road or in the surrounding environment is worthy of their respect as human beings with spouses, families, jobs and dependents. It’s not that drivers see cyclists and pedestrians as less-than-human, it’s that aggressive motorists will stop but nothing to reach their destination in timely fashion, seeing all others as sand traps and water hazards, cones and barrels, or any other inanimate barrier to success and “freedom.” It is a level of self-absorption rooted in a century of individualistically auto-centered American behavior so ingrained that it blinds the power-infused driver to the presence of potential human impact.
This might seem like an extreme assumption, and perhaps it is. But I can think of no other explanation for the incredible disregard for the physical safety of pedestrians, cyclists and other drivers that motorists routinely display. In our eyes behind the wheel, people become objects, cyclists become hazards and other drivers become enemies.
We can’t solve the problem of pedestrian, cyclist and auto fatalities unless we get to the root of the mindset that enables their frequency. Next time you pass a cyclist, think of her family. Next time you enter a crosswalk without looking both ways, think of the young man trying to get to work or to class. Next time you move aggressively around another car, think of the children that might be strapped in the back seat. Think of the lives these people live, the people who love them and depend on them instead of the 10-30 seconds that putting them in danger may save you. We’re all in this together out there, so let’s start driving like it! Or better yet, take the bus, get on a bike or walk to where you need to go whenever possible!
We can all do our part to make our community safer by paying more attention behind the wheel.
Check out the Drive 2B Better campaign website to learn how. Watch some super cool ad videos. Test your knowledge of the rules of the road. Take a pledge and commit to doing your part.
Story By Arian Horbovetz. Arian is a Rochester resident and creator of The Urban Phoenix, a blog that discusses urban and community design and topics as our cities transition to a better future.
As I write this, the city of Rochester is passively preparing for yet another battle with a dreaded but familiar foe, lake effect snow. Winter boots and labored commutes will surely be the icebreaker (pun intended) conversation starters at the office water cooler today. But for the Urban Planner, as well as the casual observer, periods of light snow can be opportunities for great discovery.
In that time when the first whispers of a snow storm cover our streets and the plows are still dormant in their stalls, we navigate our vehicles on roadways by following the tracks left behind by the cars that recently came before us. To an Urban Planner, these tracks, especially with regard to their path through intersections, are of particular importance.
The ability to see the space that cars use (or rather don’t use) when traveling through an intersection by looking at these tracks through the snow gives us a golden opportunity to demonstrate how and where our streets can be narrowed. Think of it like an Urban Planner’s forensic blacklight, revealing the key unseen evidence of superfluous roadway.
These visual clues created by snow and tire tracks through our intersections are called Sneckdowns. While the name might conjure the image of a Dr. Seuss character, it is actually derived from the combination of “snow” and “neckdown,” which is a term for sidewalk additives and extensions that reduce traffic speeds and increase pedestrian access.
Photo courtesy of Jon Geeting
Photo courtesy of Jon Geeting
In 2014, urbanist Jon Geeting authored a Slate article in which he took simple photos of sneckdowns on Philadelphia streets. His efforts inspired walkability advocates around the world to do the same, but best of all, it led to real change in his own backyard.
Before Picture. Photo courtesy of Jon Geeting
Jon Geeting’s Sneckdown photo of this intersection paved the way for this concrete island which acts as a traffic calming measure and a pedestrian island for safer crossing. Photo courtesy of Jon Geeting
Clarence Eckerson’s famous STREETFILMS video shows some incredible examples of how overbuilt our streets really are. With a measuring device and some cold weather grit, Eckerson puts the power of sneckdowns right in front of the viewer, showing how snowbanks that accumulate on city streets can give us a clearer understanding of how to construct and reconstruct our streets going forward.
Sneckdowns also give the average citizen the ability to see where change can be enacted. It doesn’t take a traffic engineer to spot tracks in the snow, it takes a conscious observer who is genuinely concerned about safety and walkability in their environments.
Hey Rochester! Next time it snows, take to the streets and see if you can spot overbuilt space on our roads and intersections. It can be a fun, interesting and positive way to start the conversation about safer streets in your neighborhood, and may even lead to the change we want to see!
In this final installment of our Complete Streets Blog Series, guest author David Riley will highlight a sampling of intersections and trouble spots that were nominated for theComplete Streets Makeover project, and share his ideas for how they might be made safer for cyclists and pedestrians.
Back in May, we launched our Complete Streets Makeover project by asking the general public to help identify theintersections and trouble-spots where you live, work and play that could be redesigned to make them safer for everyone. We received over 90 nominations, and after a careful process to examine each and every submission, we selected the following locations:
Every year in Rochester, hundreds of people are struck by vehicles while out walking and biking on our community streets. The top two factors in traffic fatalities in this country are alcohol and speed. And the percentage of crash deaths that involve speeding is higher on minor roads (like our neighborhood streets) than on highways and interstates.
How fast we drive on our community streets impacts that safety and quality of life for those who live, work, play and shop along those streets. Around the country, cities such as Cambridge, MA, New York City, and Seattle, are lowering their speed limits to make residential streets safer. Many are hoping Rochester will soon follow suit.
Join the effort led by HealthiKids to reduce the City speed limit from 30 to 25 mph on residential streets.
Can 5 or 10 mph really make that much of a difference?
The higher the speed, the greater the risk to a pedestrian or cyclist.
A person has more than a 90% chance of surviving if hit by a car traveling 20 mph. If that car is traveling 40 mph, there is about a 90% chance that person will die. Those risks increase if the pedestrian is a child or older adult. The human body can only handle so much.
Reduced speeds are good for pedestrians AND drivers.
Lower speeds allow drivers more time to notice things and react. If something is in the road 100 feet ahead of you when driving 40 mph, you will hit it going 36 mph. If you are traveling 25 mph, you can stop well within 100 feet.
At lower speeds, crashes are likely to be avoided altogether. And if they do occur, they will be far less severe.
Reduced speed limits on our residential streets alone aren’t the silver bullet, but are an important tool in the overall solution to safer streets. Done in concert with education, enforcement and design, the culture of how we use and share our streets can begin to change.
Let City Council know you want Rochester to be the next city to make streets safer by lowering the speed limit on residential streets!
Attend this month’s City Council meeting and “Speak to Council” to show your support for safer streets: Tuesday, October 17th at 6:30PM (Call before 5:30 PM or email before 2PM the day of the meeting to sign up to speak)
Guest essay submitted by: Michael Tomb & Marcia Zach, Highland Park residents…
As many of you are aware, because of a crash near the intersection of Meigs & Linden, in 2009, we created the HPNA Traffic Calming team which eventually became “The Highland Placemaking Team”. We came up with a plan for traffic calming in the area of our playground and, although quite a few items were implemented, many of the safety related traffic calming features were not because of County resistance, City policy and other things.
Our intent was to avoid something as what JUST happened in my neighbor’s front yard. No children should have to witness such a scene in their front yard while waiting for the school bus. I am thankful we avoided (barely!) a major heart-wrenching tragedy, but it was NOT because of this driver’s fear of the consequences of being so careless. It was only a matter of timing that prevented something much worse from occurring. You and I both know we need to do better.
We are also both saddened and absolutely outraged the driver was NOT ticketed. Maybe I am bit ashamed of my city as well. My assessment after working on matters of traffic calming in Rochester has actually been to expect that kind of response from law enforcement. Indeed, I have been telling friends that if a person desires to damage property and and even kill innocent bystanders, in order to face the fewest number of consequences, the car IS your weapon of choice. It wasn’t always that way… the tolerance for irresponsible driving was a hard -earned privilege.Read more
We were proud to be part of today’s launch of the City of Rochester’s Pace Car program! We joined Mayor Lovely Warren and other community leaders to introduce the new citywide initiative that asks drivers to be part of the solution to make our community streets safer for all who use them. Pace Car drivers sign a pledge to drive within the speed limit, drive courteously, yield to pedestrians and be mindful of bicyclists and others on the street. Drivers display the yellow Pace Car sticker on their vehicles to show others that they are taking accountability for how they drive on our community streets.
Regular, everyday citizens rallying together can set in motion great change in our communities. After all, the people who are most in touch with what is needed in our neighborhoods are those who live, walk, ride, play, drive, shop and work in them every day.
Reconnect Rochester is happy to announce a new initiative that is a direct result of everyday citizen action: Streets for the People…
In January, DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx unveiled the Safer People, Safer Streets Initiative . The goal is to address “non-motorized safety issues and help communities create safer, better connected bicycling and walking networks.” He called it the most comprehensive and forward-thinking initiative the DOT has ever put together on bike and pedestrian issues. It aims to engage transportation specialists, safety experts, leadership and the public to make streets safer for a variety of transportation options. And it recognizes the vital role biking and walking play in a reliable multimodal transportation network…
Congress introduced a bill this week that will help streets across the country become safer for all people, regardless of their mode of transportation. With bipartisan support, The Safe Streets Act of 2015, was introduced by Representatives Doris Matsui (D-CA) and David Joyce (R-OH):
It’s been a tough winter for anyone having to be outside in Rochester. Transit riders have to hike over ice encrusted snow drifts and stand in streets, because their stops are buried. Pedestrians have to wear crampons to trudge across the uneven icy places where sidewalks once were. Those who are less steady, have things to carry or have to walk with assistance, have been forced to use the plowed streets. Cyclists hold on as they brave traffic, since the bike lanes are no longer there. And drivers cautiously turn corners blocked by snowbanks higher than their cars, taking turns on residential streets with only enough room for one car at a time. But the people walking out in the elements have clearly been given the lowest priority of attention.
Posted by: Brenda Massie, Board Member and Secretary, Reconnect Rochester.
Getting around during winter in Rochester is challenging — no matter what mode of transportation you choose. Subzero temperatures, snowy sidewalks, and dangerous street conditions become part of everyday life. As a pedestrian, it is especially hairy…