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Reader feedback … Are 3-D crosswalk illustrations worth it?

By Charles Sercombe
Hamtramck Review readers had a lot to say about last week’s City Life column, regarding school and city officials agreeing to create a special pilot program.
The program in question would create 3-D illustrations at key crosswalks – especially those near schools – to slow drivers down.
The illustrations give the illusion that there is something blocking oncoming motorists, which forces drivers to slow down substantially before passing through.
It’s a technique that has worked in other cities and countries.
On our website (hamtramckreview.com), former Hamtramck School Boardmember Nasr Hussain linked some articles that pooh-poohed the idea, calling the concept unsafe and possibly illegal.
“How many school children will be injured or, God forbid, killed when immature drivers (of which we have plenty in Hamtramck) speed up heading to these crosswalks to scare and/or impress their out-of-town friends riding in their cars,” Hussain said.
He added, sarcastically: “The city should set aside more money to settle these future lawsuits.”
The solution? Hussain said “strict enforcement should be the answer.”
He also listed a number of debate points that people had raised in the articles he linked:
“I asked Palo Alto’s Transportation Manager about this five or six years ago, and the reason Palo Alto doesn’t do it is for two reasons: the first being that neighborhood drivers start ignoring it after seeing it the first few times, and the second that when the paint gets dirty, the optical illusion gets wrecked fairly quickly.”
“You are still going to have more vehicle accidents up front with this weird crossing design. You might as well pay someone to stand by the roadside and randomly throw soccer balls in front of cars to slow down traffic. That’s the mindset here — that pedestrian safety is best achieved by confusing or scaring drivers, instead of trying to provide some kind of better warning that someone is in the crosswalk.”
“Frankly, I don’t see how this 3-D design is in any way better than a set of flashing crossing lights. These are proven systems that seem to work well, at least in my area. Let’s put more of those in, or — if you want cheap — a simple speed bump can do wonders.”
“Consider that confused drivers are likely to panic, and maybe even veer onto the sidewalk at the last second, as they suddenly think there is something blocking the road. This can happen when nobody is even in the crosswalk. You might actually hurt more pedestrians with such a stupid crosswalk design.”
“I believe this type of crosswalk is far more likely to generate a big increase in rear-end collisions as drivers come to a screeching halt, thinking there are concrete blocks across the road. I sure would the first time. Cute, but a very bad idea. Standards matter in traffic design.”
Fatema Hossain also weighed in.
“No street in Hamtramck has a speed limit above 35-miles-per-hour (mph), yet motorists on Gallagher and other roadways commonly exceed 50 mph,” Hossain said.
“This has been an ongoing problem that has been reported on local TV news for the last several years, yet the problem continues to occur.
“More aggressive and visible community policing needs to be put into place. Other gimmicks such as 3-D illusions are not going to have any significant impact.”
The writer of The Review’s City Life column, Walter Wasacz, has a response to Hussain:
“In his online comments regarding proposed 3D crosswalks along the Gallagher Street corridor, former school board member Nasr Hussain incorrectly cited the cost of the project as $50,000. In fact, it is a $25,000 expenditure, to be split by the City of Hamtramck and the Hamtramck Public Schools.
“Hussein also linked to articles published in 2016 that cited Federal Highway Administration recommendations against artful crosswalk designs, suggesting incorrectly that the designs are ‘apparently illegal.’
“It is true that some communities have followed the federal guidelines, while others have chosen to install innovative designs similar to the Hamtramck proposal. Within the last year, neighborhoods in Kansas City and Medford, MA, )in metro Boston), painted 3-D crosswalks.”
On the subject of the city’s recent financial setback, Dennis Nowak suggests going back to being under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager:
“Perhaps we need another emergency manager like Cathy Square to dictate control of the city’s finances.
“Even though residents grumbled about having her in control, the bottom line was that she re-structured the city back to “profitability” – surplus resulting in cash reserves.
“Square was a GOP appointee who worked fiscal magic.
“Same with Katrina Powell — who ruled with an iron fist. Remember how she battled city vendors, and placed a number of city officials on administrative leave?
“Lou Schimmel ruled Hamtramck a number of years ago and residents are better off due to his leadership.
“State receivership has historically been a good thing for Hamtramck.”
And finally, Nowak had a succinct farewell to Hamtramck Public Schools Superintendent Tom Niczay, who is retiring on June 31.
“You leave in honor, and the district is forever in your debt,” Nowak said.
June 28, 2019

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