Home > Public Anecdotes, Representing > Observational walk of Division St. (re-cap, finally)

Observational walk of Division St. (re-cap, finally)

A couple of weeks ago, MyWHaT organized an observational walk of the Division St. corridor between Grandview and 14th St. The goal was not to solve the issues, but to get a street level understanding of them. Looking for a combination of observing what’s there or not there, how people navigate the corridor and acquiring some emotional intelligence of the experience.

Front St. intersection is an example of unfriendly pedestrian crossing, despite attempts to make it better. Crosswalk is close to traffic, side of road is uneven and notice the location of the pedestrian light in the middle of the sidewalk.

For the latter, it was apparent that spending two-hours along this route wasn’t the most uplifting way to start one’s morning. One of the participants, Dave Skibowski, sent me a comment to this effect after the walk:

Wow! One certainly gets a different perspective by walking Division from the Parkway to 14th, then when driving it.

The gathering

A group of about 10 met up at 8am at the Veteran’s Memorial Park at Bay & Division. There was a healthy mix of interests and backgrounds that was reflected in the discussions, albeit conversation was spaced between moments of heavy traffic and at times surprisingly little traffic. My observations are mainly taken from my notes and are influenced by discussions during & after the walk. I’ve organized them in one block chunks, working south from Grandview Parkway.

Note: these notes tend to be more like an audit than originally intended, and instead of fighting it, I’ve allowed commentary to occasionally slip into the post. More images from the Division St. walk are on Flickr, click images to view the set.

Section One: Grandview to Randolph

Physical observations

  • Deteriorated pedestrian crossing at Grandview. Uneven, pot-holes and faded paint.
  • Social trail on east side of Grandview crossing connecting to Bay St.
  • Ramp sidewalk at Bay and Division St. that goes into Division with out crosswalk.
  • No sidewalk on east side running length of the block.
  • Unintentional parking on Bay St. communicates a lack of value to the place.

Other observations

  • Veteran’s memorial park entrance is more of a wall than an invitation. The open lawn needs a project to add vitality to it. This will help the character of the place be more people orientated.
  • The service entrance to the Elk’s Club and the adjacent vacant lot (where for sale automobiles are often parked) do little to communicate the mixed-use character of the corridor. It is drab, run-down and encourages people to ‘quickly move through’. Nothing to see here, keep moving.

Section two: Randolph to Front St.

Physical observations

School crossing at 2nd Street in front of school is narrow, ill-defined and poorly placed.

  • Narrow or no separation between sidewalk and street. (Issue along entire corridor)
  • Pedestrian crossings at alleys are not defined well.
  • Poor storm-water drainage in crosswalk at 2nd St. ramp.
  • Sidewalk from 2nd. to Front St. is cracked and uneven.
  • On street surface, there is a big lip dropping into gutter.

Other observations

Broken sidewalk at gas station at Front St.

  • Driveway access is bountiful. some businesses have multiple entry points to their parking lots. The impact is an increase in conflict points for all users and a clear communication that this place has been designed solely for automobile use.
  • The Randolph intersection has no crosswalks in any direction despite supporting a large number of pedestrian and bicycle traffic. neighborhoods and businesses on both sides of Division St. here would suggest that the people centered development could really boost the economic chances of this section.
  • Division St. passes over Kids Creek and you’d never know it. It is overgrown and dark section. It’s a shame as Kids Creek as historical significance to the city and water bodies can be used to help make a place somewhere to be rather than to simply pass through.

Section three: Front St. to 7th Street.

Physical observations

  • Lack of sidewalk on east side, south of Front for entire length.
  • Timing of pedestrian signals is quick. Red flashing signals communicate anxiety, not encouragement.
  • Faded, broken up crosswalks at 7th St.

Crosswalks faded and set too close to moving traffic, with a large unused gap between stop bar and crosswalk.

Other observations

  • Street lighting is non-existent on edges and overhead lighting is dim and unattractive. Barely noticeable. It was mentioned that it was like hanging a single incandescent in a room.

Section four: 7th St. to 14th St.

Physical observations

Around 7th St., sidewalk is overgrown by bushes. Effectively pushing walkers closer to the road.

  • TCLP power poles are hidden in trees.
  • Sidewalk very narrow south of 8th St. (runner rage incident)
  • On the west side, south of 11th, a mixed-use trail veers away from Division St. about 20 feet. Moods changed considerably with just this small distance. (recommended for north of 11th as well.)
  • Lack of street trees and pedestrian scaled lighting the entire length to 14th.
  • A high amount of lane shifting and inconsistent speeds. Some well over 40-mph, many at speed limit, slower and at zero as driver makes a turn.

Other observations

  • Consistent breaks in traffic were noticed at 10th and Division. A rush of traffic would last for 15 seconds, followed by 40-60 seconds of little or no traffic. At times it would be clear in both directions, at other times only in one direction. This was around 9am and it was very clear that the gaps in traffic suggest there is the capacity is built for about one hour out of the day where there is more consistent traffic.
  • Speed-limit south of 7th increases to 40 mph for the half-mile to 14th. (speed limits are set by the State Police at 85% of what the flow of traffic was last recorded. Precisely why design measures to slow down traffic are so crucial.)

Walls going up to separate homes and businesses from road. Increases speeds as it becomes more and more like a shoot rather than a neighborhood.

South of 8th Street, corridor visually opens up. Lack of trees and homes on west side communicates a more rural, highway setting.

___

The walk was instructive. Being at the street level, walking slowly with others opens up new ways of looking at this major piece of public space that many of us complain about, but seldom really experience. This little list of observations is by no means comprehensive, but a lot longer than expected. The next walk, which I will announce later in the week needs to be shorter to allow for more than the visual observations.

  • If you were one of the 10 that participated in this walk, what was your experience?
  • What did you see and feel?
  • Was it worth two hours out of your Friday morning?
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  1. November 30, 2010 at 9:35 am

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