Monday, April 23, 2012

Raised Crossings for Wide-Offset Sidewalk/Path, Forsythe Way

by: Teddy Masse

The redesigning of Forsythe Way had been in the making for a few years until completion in mid-2011. The new design includes bicycle lanes in both directions, five-foot wide sidewalks along the street, and a safer, twelve-foot wide ADA (American Disabilities Act) compliant wide-offset sidewalk for pedestrians. Included in the plan to revamp the wide-offset sidewalk was to add raised crosswalks across both Hemenway Street and The Fenway. According to Charlotte Fleetwood, a senior transportation planner at the Boston Transportation Department, "We were looking to create a zone where cars would have to slow down." (New Forsythe Way Plan Aids "World Series Path" Vision).

Old Design
As you can see in the Google Maps link to Forsythe Way, this old satellite view shows what the street looked like before being redesigned. There were no bicycle lanes or sidewalks next to parking spaces, and most relevant to this blog entry, the wide-offset sidewalk was old, unattractive, and not compliant with the ADA. In the first image below at Hemenway Street, we see a twelve-foot wide crosswalk with  what looks like a three-foot wide ramp with some unsafe wing walls. The second image shows the crossing at The Fenway.  There were no curb ramps on either side of the street, which most likely made it difficult for the disabled to cross, caused cyclists to avoid and ride with traffic, and for other pedestrians to feel uneasy.

Image 1: Old view of wide-offset sidewalk at Forsythe Way and Hemenway Street

Image 2: Old view of wide-offset sidewalk at Forsythe Way and The Fenway

New Design
Raised crossings are designed to provide extra safety and help drivers recognize that there are pedestrians present.  The sharks teeth and the arrows pointing towards the crosswalk (as seen in the photos below) also help to alert drivers that they should be prepared to yield to pedestrians.  In Image 5, you can see that parked cars can obstruct the view of pedestrians seeing vehicles and vehicles seeing pedestrians. Markings such as the sharks teeth will help drivers approach the raised crosswalk with caution at a lower speed.  Although these are not high-speed intersections, this is a good place to test out raised crossings and to help drivers get used to seeing these painted symbols in the road. From observation, I noticed many drivers approaching Forsythe Way coming from Hemenway Street did not significantly decelerate because of the crosswalk, but because there was a stop sign about twenty-five feet after the crosswalk.  Overall, this design gives pedestrians a better level of comfort to take a stroll towards The Fens, Northeastern University, or just to relax on a newly installed bench along the wide-offset sidewalk.

Image 3: New view of raised crossing at Hemenway Street

Image 4: New view of raised crossing at The Fenway

Image 5: Parked cars hinder the view for both peds and vehicles on Hemenway

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