At Turk Street: The "refuge" juts out into walking space on the inside
At Fell Street: pedestrians have to negotiate around vehicles or, sometimes, step into oncoming traffic lane to use the crosswalk
At Page Street: In what pedestrian design scheme does this make sense?
They were meant to increase safety for pedestrians using the crosswalks on Divisadero, but the pedestrian islands or refuges that are part of the recent makeover of the Divisadero corridor make little sense with few exceptions. Nor do they conform to the city's code.* Instead the islands sometimes jut past the inside line of the crosswalk or float in the middle of the crosswalk blocking easier passage. It's no news that motorists often stop in the crosswalks for signal changes, thus blocking pedestrian passage. With the current island or "thumbnail" refuges, walkers are often forced to negotiate around the intruding vehicles and proceed outside the crosswalk just to cross the street.
BIKE NOPA reader Jeff Gibson first wrote about the odd array of crosswalk islands as a guest contributor on May 4th. He compiled the several anomalies and sent them to the Department of Public Works with a request for an explanation. Kris Opbroek, DPW's Great Streets manager for the Divisadero project, explained that the configuration at Fell Street was a safety measure to protect pedestrians from motorists turning left from Fell. But Opbroek was unable at the time to explain the great variation of traffic island placements along the busy corridor. Gibson is still waiting for a reply about those.
San Franciscans live with oddities in the physical environment all the time, but the obstruction of pedestrian passage -- in crosswalks, no less -- is more than a quirk to endure. Unless there are solid traffic and safety design justifications for each of the variations, those that pose an unnecessary risk need to be changed.
What happened here? Unless there are some good reasons for the peculiarities of these island placements that have yet to be explained, the other possibilities are disturbing:
- City staff provided the contractor with unclear directions and designs for the crosswalks
- The contractor, Synergy Construction, cut corners with the designs or misread them in its desire to complete the project on time or ahead of schedule
- The city conducted inadequate supervision of the work
- City inspectors -- or their supervisors -- noticed the problem but decided to let it pass
Perhaps we're missing something that explains the curious case of the Divisadero islands. Jeff Gibson and quite a few pedestrians crossing the neighborhood's primary business corridor would like to know.
- Raised thumbnails should be provided on the intersection side of refuge islands. Ideally, thumbnails should be located outside of the crosswalk.
- To accommodate turning radii for large vehicles, the thumbnail may need to be within the crosswalk or have a mountable outside edge. Mountable thumbnails should be built so that pedestrians are discouraged from standing on the thumbnail itself (for example, by using cobbles or other uneven paving materials.