No matter how you cut it, reengineering University Avenue into a “Complete Street” is going to take years of work and millions of dollars. Frankly, the cyclist and pedestrian death toll on Gainesville’s “signature street” argues against waiting that long.
Fortunately, there is something we can do quickly and fairly cheaply that would both improve bike-ped safety and help “tame” traffic. University and 13th Street form the northern and eastern boundaries of the University of Florida, and as a result the intersection where those two state highways meet is a pedestrian magnet.
It’s time to put pedestrians on an equal footing with motorists at that dangerous intersection.
It’s time for a pedestrian scramble crossing there.
Scramble crossings are increasingly being used the world over. At busy intersections. In Tokyo.
In Miami (yes, even in auto-centric Florida).
And there’s nothing radical or revolutionary about it. It is simply giving pedestrians a traffic light cycle of their own in which to cross from any one corner to any other corner of a busy intersection while cars wait for them.
Yes, that additional cycle obliges motorists to wait a little longer before they get the green light. That’s called “traffic calming.”
It also eliminates right-turns on red, which are the intersection maneuvers most likely to result in pedestrian injuries.
Why University Avenue? Because it is quite simply, ground zero for foot traffic in Gainesville. It is that intersection most likely to witness foot/auto traffic conflicts.
Why a scramble crossing? Here are some of the arguments for it.
“At intersections with a heavy flow of pedestrian traffic that must unavoidably cross paths with car traffic, pedestrian scrambles are a no-brainer. Most of the intersections around my university campus employ these well. It means that a large amount of people can safely cross on foot, but car traffic also gets a turn to go through.” Strong Towns: A Pedestrian Scramble Can Make An Intersection Safe For Everyone.
“Pedestrian scrambles aren’t just more convenient for pedestrians. They’re also safer, advocates say, because they help reduce accidents in which cars or buses turn through crosswalks and hit pedestrians.” Governing: Cities revive an old idea to become more pedestrian-friendly.
“The pedestrian scramble, aka The Barnes Dance, is basically an intersection which has a “pedestrian only” phase in its signal timing. During this time, pedestrians are not just limited to crossing east-west or north-south, but can actually cross to the opposite corner by cutting straight through the middle of the street. Streetsblog LA: Scramble crosswalks ready for their star turn in Hollywood.
“Not surprisingly, pedestrians loved them as scrambles allowed them to cross the street without having to worry about what motorists were doing and allowed them to cross diagonally instead of standing through two different traffic cycles to get to a destination.” Treehugger: Why we need more pedestrian scrambles.
Frankly, University and 13th is not the only likely candidate for a scramble crossing. I’d also put one at University and 17th Street. It is also a major student crossing point, and the site of a recent pedestrian death.
And the intersection of SR 24 and NW 16th Avenue is ground zero for patient-pedestrian traffic between two major UF Health hospitals. People in wheelchairs and on crutches take their lives in their hands every time they cross.
Let’s stop playing with lives on University Avenue, Gainesville. Get behind pedestrian scramble intersections now and then get on with the necessary business of making University a Complete Street.