how pedestrian-friendly is the ‘burg?

Brent Finnegan -- April 4th, 2007

WSVA and TV3 are reporting that an “elderly” unnamed pedestrian was struck by a car last night on South Main Street, and flown to UVA. Details are still pending, but it reminds me of how unsafe I often feel walking or riding my bike around town.

Ever try walking from Target to Plan 9? Would you want to? How much of the “pedestrian friendly” environment of a city is up to urban planners, and how much is the responsibility of the drivers?

Slightly off-topic, but speaking of urban planning, Corbin had an interesting post a few days ago about what to do with the land behind Food Lion, in front of South View apartments.

28 Responses to “how pedestrian-friendly is the ‘burg?”

  1. Josh says:

    The only place I feel safe walking to do stuff (shopping etc.) is downtown. I wouldn’t even consider walking from Target to Plan 9.

    I think it’s the city’s responsibility. Unless there are sidewalks and good crosswalks in place, pedestrians can be a danger to drivers.

  2. corbin says:

    Communities that are “pedestrian friendly” have safe streets that people want to walk along. Roads around Harrisonburg are not “pedestrian friendly” because they are not designed to be so. In the areas outside of downtown, the roads are generally wide, governed by high speed limits, and have narrow sidewalks (if any sidewalk at all).

    I don’t think drivers are responsible for the “pedestrian friendly” environment. Even if drivers exercise all of the necessary safety precautions, the mere presence of their cars on the street is a threat to pedestrians. It’s up to the urban planner, traffic engineer, city government, and private developers to create an environment that is conducive for safe pedestrian travel.

  3. Eli says:

    The fellow hit was Douglas, an older man who spends a lot of time at the Grill. I don’t know his last name, but I’m sure Ron Copeland would.

  4. Barnabas says:

    Maybe passing laws against talking on the phone and other distracting activities while driving within city limits could help. Does the city have that kind of power?

    Whatever happened to getting a pedestrian bridge over mainstreet on the JMU campus?

    I noticed that they are beginning to put sidewalks along market street at cloverleaf shopping center. So maybe that side walk will grow and stretch all over harrisonburg.

  5. finnegan says:

    Oh, man. I think I’ve met Douglas. Any word about his condition?

    I think the long-term goal is to put sidewalks in all along east market, but that will be a while. And I believe the campus tunnel under main street is due to be started this summer, but I could be wrong about that. I’ll try to find out.

    Corbin, ever thought of running for city council? ;)

  6. Frank Witt says:

    University Blvd above JMU is NOT walker friendly. I don’t know how many college and older people I see walking on the grass, thru parking lots and the such. I can’t beeive more peole aren’t hit over here. Between us and Kroger…3 big city blocks and all aroun the otherr bars/restaurants, no sidewalks at all but they want you to walk intead of drive at night…no way it is safe!

    as far as the tunnel, JMU has to start by re-routing the sewer lines, electrical lines and the such and I heard the end time for the project isn’t till spring ’09

  7. ktr001 says:

    I think the HPD should start handing out jaywalking citations for JMU students. Driving down main street is ridiculous sometimes. I personally have had to, and witnessed many others, brake suddenly and screw up traffic because students are sprinting across the street, just expecting traffic to stop for them. Call me crazy, but thats what the crosswalks are for.

  8. finnegan says:

    ktr, I agree that jaywalking on main street is pretty bad, but I don’t think the HPD needs to be handing out more citations. Charlottesville has many crosswalks (not only at intersections) which are clearly marked, people use them, and it’s less of a problem.

    The tunnel is one solution, but like Frank said, it will be years.

  9. corbin says:

    “Corbin, ever thought of running for city council?”

    Never. A career in politics is not for me. I’ll stick to pretending to be an urban planner.

    I agree that University Blvd is a major problem at JMU. University Blvd is supposed to be a 25 mph road, but whenever I drive on it traffic is moving at about 35-40 mph. The problem is that it doesn’t feel like a 25 mph road — it has a long, wide-open stretch and nothing is around it. Maybe if the city placed wide sidewalks along the road people would feel more inclined to slow down.

  10. Daytonres says:

    Year(s) for the tunnel is correct, but probably not as many as you think. I believe the aim is to have the tunnel completed sometime in 2009. I’m more worried about what the construction period will do to traffic. Yikes.

  11. JGFitzgerald says:

    There may be some info about the timeline here:

    For those with a million bucks laying around, there are also naming opportunities, a phrase that always gives me a chuckle for some reason.

  12. finnegan says:

    That link is about the performing arts center.

    From WSVA today:

    Harrisonburg 04/05/07 Bicycle and pedestrian safety is the emphasis of a new ad campaign planned by the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Metropolitan Planning Organization.

    The M-P-O is currently soliciting firms to help the organization develop a radio advertising campaign to promote safety awareness for both cyclists and pedestrians in the area.

    The campaign will run for a minimum of six months targeting Harrisonburg, Rockingham County and beyond according to a request for proposal

    It’s a start. This place has to become more pedestrian friendly.

  13. JGFitzgerald says:

    If memory serves, somewhere in the post about the Arts Center is a mention of the groundbreaking date daytonres mentioned, as well as some mention of the “viaduct.” For those who, like me, think we’re an English-speaking country and shouldn’t have to learn classical Latin to cross the street, I think that means “tunnel.”

  14. compassless says:

    My favorite place to walk around is downtown, but it’s getting harder with all the cracked and uneven sidewalks. There is so much potential for our downtown (look at Staunton and Charlottesville’s pedestrian-friendly areas), but the city has to step up and realize how much of an effect unsafe walking areas has on business, let alone the safety of their residents and visitors.

  15. David says:

    If you are interested in seeing our downtown become more pedestrian-friendly please come to next Tuesday’s City Council meeting to support our request for funding for the streetscape project downtown (ie brick on Court Square, all new sidewalks, buried utilities!). See you at 7:30 pm Tuesday April 10th at the Municipal Building.

  16. Josh says:

    To follow-up on JGFitzgerald’s link post, check out pages 6 and 7 of
    for renderings of the “viaduct.”

  17. Andreas says:

    re. “viaduct”: According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a viaduct is…

    “An elevated structure, consisting of a series of arches or spans, by means of which a railway or road is carried over a valley, road, river, or marshy low-lying ground.”

    The American Heritage Dictionary provides a similar definition.

    So, it’ll be a tunnel that’s called a bridge. Can tunnels have an identity crisis?

    BTW, hope Douglas is going to be ok.

  18. finnegan says:

    I don’t know if this blog conversation had anything to do with it, but TV3 just posted a story about lack of sidewalks.

  19. JGFitzgerald says:

    Sidewalks are an expensive solution. Many people would consider it a good compromise if they could walk on the street with some hope of the cars slowing down to something approaching the speed limit. Options exist, and pestering the city can help. On, for instance, Central Avenue, painting lines divided what had been 40 or 50 feet of uninterrupted Daytona-style pavement into two driving and two parking lanes of about 10-12 feet each. A similar approach was suggested for Main at JMU, but couldn’t get past turf-conscious city officials. That could change now that council election are a few weeks after homecoming instead of a few days after graduation — assuming students find out.

  20. Barnabas says:

    So the bridge has been changed into a tunnel, but we’re calling it a bridge, in Latin.
    This could be confusing if there are any people in harrisonburg that speak a Latin based language.

  21. corbin says:

    Sidewalks are great, but if you don’t have anywhere to walk they’re practically useless. The problem with Harrisonburg is that everything is spaced out, and it’s difficult to walk to the market, local bar, or shopping center. Sidewalks are a great addition, but the desire to walk won’t increase unless there are desirable places to walk to.

  22. writergirl says:

    I almost got taken out on a sidewalk downtown the other day. I don’t think its safe to walk anywhere around here.

  23. Del Marval says:

    Douglas McDonald, pronounced “Doog-las.” I’m hearing that he’s in critical condition at UVA.

  24. April says:

    I work at the hospital and when I leave work at 3pm, JMU kids are walking all over Grace Street and south main, paying no attention to the crosswalk lights. Those on bikes are just as bad, if not more dangerous. I watch them run red lights, weave in and out of traffic and pass cars in the opposite lane. It’s a mess over there at 3:00. All the safety precautions are there, the kids just aren’t paying attention to them…surprise surprise.

  25. Tom says:

    Coming from Norther Virginia, one of the first things I noticed were the lack of sidewalks around here. Expensive or not, the city should seriously look into putting them in around town and surrounding areas as well as more street lights. I live within walking distance to the mall and it’s very dangerous to attempt this once it starts getting dark around here.

  26. Walking around Harrisonburg has gotten to the point that if I have to go from point A to point B in-town, no matter how close it is…I’m driving. Some areas are worse than “one-way” Richmond!

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