Protecting and Enhancing Crosswalks

Main Street at John Street, June 16, 2017. When a car is parked on top of a crosswalk, it forces pedestrians into unmarked, less safe areas.

Ensuring safe streets for all is central to the work of Livable Tarrytowns. Of particular concern is the well-being of the most vulnerable: our seniors, children, and individuals with mobility challenges. It was for this reason that our first public presentation—to the Tarrytown Transportation and Mobility Council on January 28, 2021—focused on improving the safety of crosswalks, particularly those on Main Street, not least because drivers often block the crosswalks by parking on them.

Since September 2017 (see “Background” section below), there have been plastic bollards—off and on—at the crosswalk on Main at Kaldenberg Place and John Street, as well as on John Street at Main. The bollards were originally intended as a temporary measure to test their utility. When they’re in place, the bollards generally work. The problem is, they are often not in place as people move them or motor vehicles damage them. At the time of the meeting, no temporary bollards were present on Main Street.

For such reasons, we asked the Transportation and Mobility Council to move beyond this temporary intervention and take permanent measures to provide robust protection and to enhance the visibility of the crosswalks. We provided various suggestions on how to do so (see “What Other Places Do” below).

The Council’s position—and that of Village officials who were present—was that permanent changes (e.g., bollards attached to the ground, sidewalk extensions in the form of bulb-outs) were not necessary. Instead, they advocated more of the same: moveable plastic bollards.

In July 2021, the new plastic bollards finally arrived on Main Street. The results are not encouraging in terms of crosswalk protection and pedestrian safety. Rarely are the bollards where they are supposed to be. As has happened in the past, people are moving them and Village officials do not ensure that the bollards are put back in place. The result is unprotected and less visible crosswalks and persistent pedestrian vulnerability.

Here are photos from two different days that illustrate the problem.

Kaldenberg Place, looking across Main Street. One (misplaced) bollard out of four (the other three are elsewhere). There should be two bollards, one on each side of the crosswalk, at least few feet from each end to prevent drivers from entering or backing into the the crosswalk. August 23, 2021.
Main Street at John Street, looking toward Kaldenberg Place. Note lack of bollards on both ends of the crosswalk. September 28, 2021.
In case you’re looking for the bollards, here they are! September 28, 2021.

These images (ones that are hardly unique to the two days illustrated above) show—once again— that moveable bollards are inadequate (in addition to a waste of money).

Beyond the Main Street crosswalks, there is a need for a broad program of pedestrian safety and infrastructure. In many places in the Village, crosswalks are unsafe. Bike Tarrytown and the Tarrytown Environmental Advisory Council (TEAC) have made this known in recent years, but the Village has done little in response.

Enhanced crosswalks are beneficial for reasons of pedestrian safety, but they also make walking more attractive. This is is good for air pollution, climate change, and our local businesses—as people who walk a lot are more likely to conduct their business nearby.

As suggested by the images in the next section, there are viable alternatives to the unsafe-crosswalk status quo. Livable Tarrytowns will work with our neighbors and officials in both Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow to identify these alternatives and bring about the necessary changes.

What Other Places Do

This simple, low-cost measure is on Pocantico Street in Sleepy Hollow, across from the Morse School. The photo is the courtesy of Bike Tarrytown.
Downtown Ossining. The bollards coupled with painted crosswalk and white striping greatly increase the crosswalk’s visibility, communicating to drivers the need to proceed with care.
Baltimore, Maryland. Creatively painted crosswalks provide additional benefits, one being an opportunity for area residents to share their creativity and artistic skills.
Baltimore, Maryland.
New York City. The “bulb-out” helps to slow down vehicles as they go around the corner.

Background

Several years ago, the Tarrytown Environmental Advisory Council  worked on a “Complete Streets” initiative. This included a walking audit of streets in and the downtown area with a goal of making them safe, attractive, and environmentally sound. Out of this initiative grew an effort to improve the crosswalks on Main Street—especially because drivers often blocked them.

As an interim measure, TEAC members proposed to the Village that temporary bollards be installed to protect the crosswalks with an eye toward some sort of permanent change. The response of the Village was more or less twofold: we don’t have the money for bollards and we’re not convinced that pedestrian safety is a issue at the crosswalks. So, with a small grant related to Complete Streets, TEAC purchased the bollards and a couple of TEAC members gathered data; this involved three one-hour  “studies” of Main Street crosswalks on three different days to demonstrate the need for the installation of bollards to the Village. When TEAC presented the results to Village officials, they agreed to the installation of temporary bollards.

Below is a small sample of the photos taken from two of the “study” days.

June 16, 2017, 6:22pm. Note car parked in crosswalk at then-laundromat.
June 16, 2017, 6:53pm.
June 16, 2017, 6:55pm.
June 16, 2017, 6:57pm.
June 23, 2017, 6:54pm, Main at Broadway. The Village has never placed even the temporary plastic bollards at this crosswalk despite the well documented need.
June 23, 2017, 6:19pm.
June 23, 2017, 7:03pm. To be safe, because they are worried that a car may back into them, pedestrians are compelled to maintain a good distance from a car parked in a crosswalk

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