Sunday, April 7, 2013

Off-ramp "improvements", terrible for pedestrians

If you thought all the CA-41 on-ramp widening projects were finally finished, there's more work planned for this year. This time, it's an off-ramp that's getting widened.

This project will widen the off ramp of northbound SR41 at the intersection of Shaw Avenue from three lanes to four to provide dual left and right turns. Existing equipment affected by this project will be updated and this project will also upgrade the existing curb ramps to meet ADA standards. The project will improve traffic flow and relieve congestion at the off-ramp intersection with Shaw Avenue.
Council Documents (PDF)
Like most Fresno road projects, this one is yet another widening of the road to "improve traffic flow". Not mentioned at all in the report is the negative impact the work will have on pedestrians and cyclists using the busy Shaw corridor. 

Take a look at the off-ramp today.

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I can think of many ways to improve it. One could add a bike lane. The on-ramp curve could be changed to a hard right turn, so that the crosswalk is actually respected. The off-ramp could see the extremely generous turning radius tightened to promote slower speeds and people actually coming to a stop on red. A stop bar could be added so cars don't block the crosswalk.

You know, improve it by making it safer.

Something like this

 photo shaw2_zps2575c272.jpg


But not in Fresno. Here the use of "improvement" is almost exclusively used when referring to more vehicle capacity. And because Fresno doesn't actually lack vehicle capacity, the improvements simply result in higher speeds - for vehicles.

Cyclists and pedestrians? They have to slow down....and wait, and wait, and wait, because at 45mph+ speeds allowed by these designs, the crosswalks are not respected. 

One of the main problems with the current design is the extremely generous right turn radius from the off-ramp. Thanks to the right-turn-on-red laws, many people don't come to a stop as they whiz around the corner. Most drivers arrive, heads craned to the left, hopeful that even on a red, they'll never have to go below 15mph. The pedestrian approaching from the right? Completely ignored.

Even when the vehicles do have to come to a complete stop, the lack of an advance stop line means  the crosswalk is always (always!) blocked. Google streetview, unsurprisingly, caught that in action.

Indeed, from every possible angle shown, while the vehicles coming off the freeway had red, they blocked the crosswalk.   (Explore yourself at http://goo.gl/maps/36z8A )

From above

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A different view from above

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Yet another view from above....

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One more....

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On the street...

 photo shaw5_zps5e685ded.jpg

Again...

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And again....

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I did say every possible angle right? In this last one, don't just notice the car blocking the crosswalk.....notice that the pedestrian ramp doesn't even direct people the right way.

 photo shaw92_zps5d61087b.jpg

 photo shaw93_zpsa04a0021.jpg

Now let's take a look at those proposed improvements....

They take the same poor design, and simply expand it

 photo shaw94_zps124fd41c.jpg

There was more than enough room to actually add the new lane, and still make the pedestrian experience somewhat acceptable. Here, the yellow trapezoid is what I would make concrete sidewalk, but they propose as asphalt. I also add an advanced stop bar and make the crosswalk visible with stripes.

 photo shaw96_zps95411fd0.jpg

The difference? In a design that prioritizes multi-model safety, the curve wouldn't be designed for high speed turns. 



The crossing distance for pedestrians gets expanded from 40 feet, to 54 feet.

 photo shaw95_zps9c8bc964.jpg

So now instead of taking about 13 seconds to walk across this ramp, it will take 18 seconds.

And now there will be one more vehicle, guaranteed to be blocking the crosswalk, attempting a right turn on red.

And the cost of this "improvement"?

The consulting alone is a bit over $80,000.

Total price?

$1,075,500

Why does making things less safe cost so much?

4 comments:

  1. Thank you for doing this blog! I recently found it through Reddit, and I found it very interesting.

    As for the pedestrian crossing ramps... To me, it appears they just about never point at the right direction. My best guess is that whoever designed them attempted to satisfy both crossing directions with one ramp placed at the middle angle... and thus failed to satisfy either of them.

    As a bike commuter, I consider myself fortunate to be living in Tower District, as it's a lot more pedestrian/bike friendly... I usually just try to avoid anything further north than Shields or Dakota, which is somewhat sad, considering that comprises about 2/3 of Fresno.

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    Replies
    1. Thats correct, they use the diagonal model because it's a cost savings. In Fresno, when it comes to pedestrian accommodations, they do the bare minimum. Adding a second ramp would cost pennies compared to the price of the entire intersection.

      Besides being an issue for bikes, the ramp that currently exists is not ADA compliant - it's a federal violation, as wheelchairs are sent away from the crosswalk, and the ramp is not flush with the asphalt.

      Another downside is that the diagonal ramps dont help the blind in knowing which direction to walk...diagonal ramps send the blind straight towards death.

      Something you may be interested in is that Shields will supposedly get improved (continuous) bike lanes this fall.

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  2. Amazing: 8 views of motorists blocking the crosswalk! In addition to your changes, I'd add a seperated turn lane into the on-ramp loop with a "porkchop" island between it and the through lanes. For example, a similar interchange was reconstructed here a couple years ago: http://goo.gl/maps/ekC9Z (U.S. 151 & state hwy. 30 in Madison, WI)This was designed by HNTB with a lot of input from residents. Another problem with the proposed design is if one is traveling along the sidewalk you don't know whether an approaching motorist is going to turn right across your path or continue straight ahead. I hope this can be changed before it is constructed.

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