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SRTS Engineering – Parts I & II

Webinar dates: March 31 and April 21, 2009

Q: In my area there are a lot of streets w/out sidewalk; most SRTS maps have arrows on one side or the other. Aren’t pedestrians to walk facing traffic, which would be one side of the street to school and one side leaving school?

A: If paved sidewalks are nor available, children (especially young children), should be walking out of the street and on a shoulder or landscape strip instead of in the street. If this is not possible, they should walk in the street facing traffic. While this may be acceptable on low speed streets with few vehicles, it is not a good practice for higher speed, busier streets. The School walking/bicycling route plans should take this into account and either avoid those walking areas or target them for sidewalk enhancements (or other improvements) to improve the safety of children. As an aside, the Safest Route to School Walking/Bicycling route maps show the walking route to school (along both sides of the street) using directional arrows as our standard protocol. There is nothing wrong with an agency using a different method, or making a special note for those streets without sidewalks instructing children where to walk if they have to walk in the streets.

Q: Can we get a copy of the “checklist” questions that were just reviewed (during the walkabouts). Those were great questions — I didn’t have time to write them all down.

A: See Attached Field Exercise: Observation of the School (from the 2009 National SRTS Instructor Guide) which lists several items of what to look for when doing Field Observations of the School Environment. Many agencies have developed their own Walkability Checklist of items or assessment audits, some are available through the National Center for Safe Routes to School website: www.saferoutesinfo.org

Q: How do you deal with the city’s involvement in crosswalk striping? Or does the school district re-stripe the crosswalks?

A: All traffic control devices (including signs and crosswalks) in the public right of way must be installed and maintained by the local agency. Signs and crosswalks marked on school property are the responsibility of the school or school district. School officials need to get to know and open a channel of communication with their local traffic engineering department who is responsible for the signing and marking crosswalks around their school. They also need to let the city/county agency know when crosswalks are worn out and when signs are missing, damaged, or defaced. Local traffic departments should do an annual check of school traffic control devices and open up a channel of communication with school officials and district administrators and work together for improved conditions around schools.

Q: Who purchases the new signs? School district or city? Who maintains the signs or places them in the ground? City or school dist.?

A: Typically all traffic control in the public right-of-way should be purchased and maintained by the local traffic agency. One exception is school portable signs for 15 mph school zones in Arizona which have been made the responsibility of the school/school district. Signs on school property such as inside school parking lots or in drop-off areas are the school’s responsibility.

Q: What is the exact Phoenix ordinance for shrubs/weeds in sidewalk pathway so I can read it?

A: This is an ‘abbreviated version’ of Phoenix City Code Sec. 23-32 (for improved readability):
ENCROACHMENT OF TREES, SHRUBS OR BUSHES PROHIBITED.
It is unlawful for any person to allow trees, shrubs or bushes growing on their property to interfere with traffic signs or signals, or with the passage of pedestrians, bicyclists, vehicles, or flow of drainage water on any public right-of-way or easement.
Where such interferences are with a traffic sign or signal, or the passage of pedestrians, bicyclists, or flow of draining water, the City is authorized after giving the owner seven (7) days notice, to take reasonable action to make sure that any encroachment is brought into full compliance. Where the interference involves the safe operation of motor vehicles, the City is authorized, after giving 24 hours notice, to go upon the property and take any action necessary to effect full compliance with the provisions of this ordinance.
A fee totaling twice the costs for the removal or trimming of trees, shrubs or bushes will be charged to the property owner, and if not paid, will become a lien against the property.
The full text of the Phoenix City Code Sec 23-32 is attached as Appendix 1

Q: Can you just chop down or prune the trees in the way of sidewalk even though it is personal property?

A: The local governmental agency can do so if the tree or bush is in the public Right-of Way. While a citizen group may technically have the legal right to do so in the public right-of-way (in most communities), it is strongly recommend against taking such action without making contact with the adjacent property owner or owner of the tree/bush. In fact, Phoenix staff never removes a bush or tree without making contact with the property owner for the following reasons: (1) There is no desire for the City to be the care-taker of the right-of-way and private landscaping inside neighborhoods (which is the responsibility of the adjacent property owner by ordinance); (2) The owner may become very angry and sometimes violent. There have been times a police escort is used for City crews when trimming offending trees or bushes in the public right-of-way where the property owner threatens violence. If there is any opposition by the owner of the tree or bush, please contact your local agency to remove the obstacle.

Q: What can you do if adjacent property owners are sheet-draining their property across a sidewalk along your route to reach on-street drains? (I am the person who asked about properties draining across sidewalks. I live in Indianapolis, IN. It is illegal but still happens. I wondered if they had ideas about working with the property owners to stop the problem rather than turning them in and/or giving them a fine.)

A: Community groups can send out neighborhood newsletters or notices from the school/school district or from homeowners (or neighborhood) associations stating that the property owner is violating local ordnances, and if they do not stop, they will be turned into the local authorities for enforcement purposes. Often times, a local government will cite the property owner and give them a certain time to get into compliance before fining the offender. If the property owner comes into compliance, no fine is assessed, but the property has been targeted for follow-up inspection.
Below is the Phoenix City Ordinance prohibiting this activity:
Sec. 23-33. Escape of water prohibited.
It shall be unlawful for any person to willfully or negligently permit or cause the escape or flow of water from any source in such quantity as to cause flooding, to impede vehicular or pedestrian traffic, to create a hazardous condition to such traffic, to create a condition which constitutes a threat to the public health and safety, or to cause damage to the public streets or alleys of the City of Phoenix. Each violation of this section, and each day on which a violation occurs, shall be considered a separate offense.
(Code 1962, § 27-80; Ord. No. G-1068, § 2)

Q: Have you ever seen or used different color sidewalks to designate “safe school routes” as compared to normal sidewalks? I was actually referring to actual sidewalks, like colored concrete

A: No, while this can be done, I know of no agency who has attempted to use colored concrete to mark a complete walking route due to the high expense of paving, especially with colored concrete. It is impractical to do so for an entire neighborhood and it would be impossible to change a walking route plan if done this way. It is more practical to paint a line on the sidewalk to show the walking travel route, but the only place I have observed this is in downtown Boston for their Heritage Walk. The practice is rather expensive and impractical to maintain, especially for an agency with multiple schools (especially Phoenix which has 526 schools).

Q: How do you get parents involved in walking students to schools with cold weather that some of us experience

A: A successful program would involve good Encouragement and Education programs, and it would help to find a way to make it a fun social event for parents as well as students (an entire session can be spent on this topic). For example, the school can offer hot chocolate or coffee to parents who escort their children to school on cold days or “operate” a walking school bus.

Q: What is a splash zone? Is that the cow paths?

A: The splash zone is that area along the roadway that gets splashed from cars and trucks driving in the curb lane when it is raining. The area between the cow(or goat) path and the curb is typically the splash zone or the ‘blast zone’ from the wind created by trucks driving in the curb lane.

Q: Will these slides be available later for our use?

A: Yes (Michelle G to give exact date the slides will be available. Will they be available in a pdf format? In the past, the National Center for SRTS has refused to release the slides if Powerpoint format. ).

Q: Are all the signs being shown approved by MUTCD?

A: Yes, I believe all signs are either approved in the MUTCD or are consistent with signs allowed by the MUTCD. Some signs may be compliant in certain states (since some states have unique laws or have adopted amended versions of the MUTCD), may not be allowable in other states. Please contact one if the course instructors if you have any specific questions.

Q: Is there a way to get a copy of this webinar to present to our elected and school officials, plus the citizens of the community?

A: (This is another Michelle Question to answer) Make sure your elected officials and school officials sign up to see Part II of the SRTS Engineering Presentation scheduled for April 21 at 2 p.m. EDT. Also see the information contained in the National Center for Safe Routes to School Website: www.saferoutesinfo.org

Q: Do you have a guideline on how high AADT is needed for sidewalk? Assume speeds 25-35 mph Ex. Vermont says roads that have a volume of 2000 vpd or higher should have a sidewalk.
A: No, a paved sidewalk is always a good idea when pedestrians are present, especially school children. Phoenix changed our ordinances over the last decade to force developers to build sidewalks in all new developments (except along some short cul-de-sacs and some very rural areas where the lots are very big and few pedestrians are expected). 2000 vpd is a rather high threshold for the construction of sidewalks. I would prefer to have this threshold down around 400 vpd.

Q: What is the minimum ADA clearance for a sidewalk? What is the distance between passing areas for mobility impaired?

A: Currently the absolute minimum clearance is 36 inches at a point along an accessible path, but a proposed minimum unobstructed width is 42”. Five feet is needed for two wheelchairs to pass comfortably on a sidewalk.

Q: What is your experience with “pedestrian zones”? This is where a section of the road is painted a different color, 20′-30′ long.

A: Mike Cynecki response: I have had no such experience of a successful pedestrian zone marked only with paint or signs. Physical restrictions are typically needed to get a desirable result to slow vehicles to an acceptable speed or to or prevent vehicle access.

Q: Should we be promoting a Safe Routes to school walking program if we do not have sidewalks in our neighborhood?

A: Yes

Q: How to you address curb radius to jurisdictions that insist on large curb radius to accommodate emergency vehicles?

A: It is not easy, but it may help if you have to find a local jurisdiction that uses smaller curb radii designs and have your emergency responders speak to emergency responders in those agencies. Fire Departments and ambulance services are always trying to reduce their response times and make all routes accessible, but there has to be a balance between good emergency response times and safe walking and bicycling conditions for children.

Q: Is there some kind of written “standard” for what designates a route as a “safe route”? (i.e. particular width of sidewalks, traffic flow, etc)

A: No, but there are many good guidelines as contained in this SRTS Slide presentations. For example, a minimum sidewalk width should be 5 feet if the sidewalk is adjacent to a curb, but a four ft sidewalk along a local street inside a neighborhood is still workable. The word “Safe” may be somewhat a misnomer, and our agency (Phoenix) decided to use the term “Safest Route to School” for liability reasons.

Q: We need to look at safe routes not only in town from home to school but also from home to bus stops in more rural areas or where home to school walking is not feasible. How do we expand this program to address these issues?

A: This is a good point and in our agency we have also looked at safe routes for senior citizens around nursing homes and medical centers to nearby shops and bus stops as well. This is technically outside the SRTS program, but many of the same principals still apply. There is no reason why you cannot use the program to identify and map routes from homes to school bus stops to discover and correct problem areas for students. However, the SRTS funding cannot be used for areas that are more than two miles from the elementary or middle school.

Q: Remind people that you need a street buffer in cold climates to pile snow between the street and sidewalk

A: This is a good point as well. Buffers between the sidewalk and street play many roles, including snow storage. Furthermore, the wheelchair ramps and other sidewalk connections between the sidewalk and street have to be cleaned off and kept accessible for pedestrians and bicyclists. Snow plows often inadvertently block these areas when cleaning the streets. In most cases, adjacent property owners are responsible for cleaning the sidewalk by local ordinance.

Q: We have several poor intersections, which need engineering. How do we get attention from the town engineer or make it a priority?

A: The schools need to contact and work with the local traffic engineers in a very friendly and cooperative manner. If school officials are not successful in getting the attention of the traffic engineers, they have to contact their local politicians. School officials need to work cooperatively with local officials to improve safety and walkability for children and not in an adversarial relationship. If parents have concerns about the safety of an intersection, they need to work through their principal or school district administrator.

Q: What type of crosswalk striping patterns have you found to be more effective? Pros / Cons

A: Two white lines on a local street can be effective enough, but some agencies have made a decision to mark all high use crosswalks, or all school crosswalks, or (in the case of Seattle, WA) all crosswalks with a high visibility ladder design for greater visibility to drivers. The most important consideration is uniformity within the agency (for liability purposes) and maintaining the crosswalk markings to an acceptable level. Ladder (or continental) marking patterns are more visible to drivers, and some agencies have developed a marking pattern that places the markings in between the tire paths to make them last longer. This is highly effective in increasing the life of your crosswalk markings. Using longer life thermoplastic or other long-life materials is also an important consideration.

Q: What is the radius from the school for a bicycling route to school?

A: Older students can be expected to ride up to two miles by bicycle for their destination, but younger bicyclists should not be expected to ride more than a mile to attend school. Furthermore, some school will not allow very young children ride their bike to school and establish a minimum age (4th grade), and/or require passing a bike safety course, and wearing a safety helmet. Bike safety courses and encouraging (or mandating) helmet use is always a good idea.

Appendix 1 – Phoenix City Code 23-32 (full text)
Sec. 23-32. Encroachment of trees, shrubs or bushes prohibited; penalty.
(a) It shall be unlawful for any person to permit trees, shrubs or bushes growing upon their property to encroach and interfere with a traffic control device, the passage of persons or vehicles, or the flow of drainage water over or on any public right-of-way or easement.
(b) In the event of any violation of this section, in addition to the penalty set forth in section 1-5, Code of the City of Phoenix, the City, at the direction of the Director of Streets and Traffic, is authorized to take the following actions:
(1) Where the interference is with a traffic control device, the passage of people or the flow of drainage water, the City is authorized, after giving the owner of the real property seven days’ notice, to go upon said property to take any action reasonably necessary to effect full compliance with the provisions of this section, and a fee totaling twice the cost thereof shall be charged against the owner of said real property and shall be a lien against the property from which such obstruction is removed.
(2) Where the interference affects the safe operation or passage of motor vehicles, the City is authorized, after giving the owner of the real property twenty-four hours’ notice, to go upon said real property and to take any action reasonably necessary to effect full compliance with the revisions [provisions] of this section, and a fee totaling twice the cost thereof shall be charged against the owner of said real property and shall be a lien against the property from which such obstruction is removed.
(c) The lien created by this section shall run with the land and the City, in its sole option, may record the lien with the County Recorder.
(d) Service of notice. Notice shall be served on the owner, lessee or person occupying such property by the City’s authorized representative by personal service in a manner provided in Rule 4(d) of the Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure, or mailed to the owner, lessee or person occupying such property at his last known address or, if unknown, the address to which the tax bill for the property was last mailed. Such mailed notice shall be certified or registered mail. If the owner does not reside on such property, a duplicate notice shall also be sent to him at his last known address or, if unknown, the address to which the tax bill for the property was last mailed. For service of notice under this section the lessee and the occupant of the property shall each be deemed to be the agent of the owner.
(e) An owner, lessee or occupant (hereinafter referred to as appellant) who objects to the notice or to the amount of the charge may obtain a review by filing his objections in writing with the City Auditor Department within the time specified in the notice or no later than thirty days following the day upon which the first billing was mailed to him. The written objection shall include the following:
(1) Statement of the amount under protest;
(2) Statement of the reason why the notice or billing was incorrect and should be adjusted; and
(3) Request for a hearing if one is desired.
If a hearing is not requested, a decision will be made on the protest based on the written evidence submitted.
(f) The protest shall be assigned to and considered by a hearing officer permanently assigned to such position within the office of the City Auditor, or a person (“hearing officer”) designated by the City Auditor. Such hearing officer or designee shall in no event be an employee of the Streets and Traffic Department.
(g) The hearing officer shall provide to the Streets and Traffic Department a copy of the appellant’s protest and shall request from the Streets and Traffic Department a response to the issues raised. The Streets and Traffic Department shall submit to the hearing officer, and to the appellant, a written response to the hearing officer’s request within thirty days of receipt of such request.
(h) Upon receiving a written request for an extension of time at any time prior to a deadline in this section, the hearing officer shall be empowered to grant extensions of time.
(i) A hearing, if requested, shall be scheduled as soon as practicable after the response in subsection (g) is submitted. The conduct of the hearing will be in accordance with rules and procedures established by the City Auditor. Hearings shall be conducted informally and the rules of evidence shall not apply, except that the decision of the hearing officer shall be made solely upon substantial and reliable evidence. The appellant shall have the opportunity to appear with witnesses and counsel to present information on behalf of the appellant. All expenses incurred in the hearing, including counsel fees, witness fees, mileage, reproduction of documents, and other similar costs, shall be borne by the party who incurred them.
(j) After the hearing on the matter, the hearing officer shall, within thirty calendar days, make a written determination on the evidence presented. The determination shall consist of findings of fact and the disposition of the dispute.
(k) The hearing officer shall be empowered to make a final decision as to the validity of the appellant’s objection. If the hearing officer determines the appellant’s objection to be valid, the officer shall be empowered to make an appropriate adjustment to the appellant’s bill or notice. The determination of the hearing officer shall be final and conclusive between the City and the appellant as to the objection submitted for determination. If the hearing officer determines that an amount is due from the appellant to the City, the amount shall be immediately due and payable upon issuance of the written determination provided in subparagraph (j).
(Ord. No. G-756, § 1; Ord. No. G-1868, § 4; Ord. No. G-3076, § 1)

Q: With approximately 50% of America’s children riding school buses to school – why no emphasis in Safe Routes on identifying and reducing hazards on the route from home to the school bus stop?

A: I believe the number is closer to 60% of children riding buses, but the goal is to get more children walking to school, and having schools designed and operating as a Neighborhood-based school that serves the immediate surrounding neighborhood instead of big centralized mega-schools. The goal is to get children out of buses as well as private cars if there are more, but smaller and more walkable schools. That said, many communities are in fact developing “Safe Routes to Transit” plans, emphasizing improvements along the walking and bicycling routes to transit stops. Many Safe Routes to School programs assess hazards on the routes to and from school bus stops.

Q: When is the new MUTCD expected to be released (in Texas)?

A: The National Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices was supposed to be released in 2009, but now that sees doubtful. No one from the FHWA at this time can give a date when it will be released, but indications are going to be that it will be in at least 2010. If a State adopts their Manual with State revisions, that process can take several months more.

Q: For Mr. Cynecki – Who within the School District is your contact? I am being directed to the Facilities Manager (who doesn’t seem at all interested in a Safe Routes program), but I’m thinking that the Transportation Manager would be a better choice.

A: There are 28 different school districts in Phoenix, plus a number of Charter Schools, parochial schools, and private schools. Each school and school district is organized differently. Normally our traffic staff deals with the Transportation Director, but in some districts the Transportation Director only deals with bussing. In one school district we deal with a “Risk Manager” who is concerned about pedestrian/bicycle safety and developing school walking routes, and in other districts we may deal with the Superintendent or Assistant Superintendent. Often a Facilities Manager is more interested in building a school at the lowest cost and is not as interested in the operation of the school (school arrival and departure). In each district you will have to find a champion for the SRTS program and it will be different from district to district. However, if you get the School Board or Superintendent interested, they can get their staff excited about SRTS.

Q: I’ve been told by local communities that they get a financial benefit from having wider travel lanes. Is this true? If yes, could you tell me more about this policy?

A: I do not believe this is true. At one time, the FHWA would not allow any lane narrower than 12 feet, but now they will allow 10 foot wide lanes and strongly encourage 11 foot lanes. Narrower lanes are less accommodating to large trucks or busses, but they also encourage lower driver speeds and shorten the crossing distance for pedestrians. There are more multi-modal advantages to narrow traffic lanes than disadvantages.

Q: What do you think of the “Shared Space” concept used in Europe – minimal signage, few markings, more physical controls such as bollards, medians, chicanes, bump-outs, etc. – will the US ever be ready for that?

A: I like the concept of vehicle/pedestrian shared space with designs to encourage speeds of not greater than 15 mph, but this design will generally not allow for easy Fire Department or other emergency responder vehicle access, and except for some local streets and private streets, I do not see much of that occurring. I also believe that we use too many signs in the US, and those that are used and not maintained adequately. We need to put more funding into sign and pavement marking maintenance and consistent sign application rather than more signs.

Q: with the in street school zone crossings, how can you modify to show the double fines in school zone?

A: There is only so much you can put on the in-street signs that can be readable and be small enough to minimize being struck. In fact, what is shown on signs is dictated by the MUTCD. One option, however, is to put a separate sign on the side of the road stating that the fines are double in school zones. For example, the Arizona portable 15 mph school zones signs that are placed in the street were modified within the last to years to have the FINES DOUBLE message added onto the sign . . . . in some ways it made the signs less readable by making all of the text smaller and more crowded on the sign. Keep in mind that double fine zones must be approved for use, usually by the State.

Q: Where do you get these signs for school zone crossings?

A: Any signs in the Right of Way are to be installed and maintained by the local traffic agency. Some of the innovative signs discussed during the webinar can be found on the internet, but agencies are cautioned to get several references from any company they decide to buy from and make sure the devices can be easily maintained by their staff and there will quick and easy access to replacement parts. If small jurisdictions are looking where to purchase traffic signs, and sign barricade company typically has a sign shop that can manufacture traffic signs. Make sure they manufacture the sign to specifications provided by their State agencies.

Q: Is there any data indicating the relative safety of roundabout crossings v. std. intersection crossings?

A: – Roundabouts are a good device for slowing traffic in a neighborhood and control speeds or can be a replacement for a traffic signal at some locations. It is not preferable to have a crossing right at a roundabout versus a standard intersection in most cases. Traffic is consistently rotating through a roundabout at low traffic speeds. Studies have shown that properly designed one-lane roundabouts provide safe pedestrian crossing opportunities. Multi-lane roundabouts are much more difficult for pedestrian crossings.
Q: In doing an SRTS map, I’d be concerned with the liability of giving parents a blanket statement that “this is a safe route to travel to school”. Such a statement should be focused on the engineering aspects of the route – the sidewalks are present, in good condition and there are accessible curb ramps. There is no total control over other aspects of safety, such as driver/vehicle factors and abduction potential.

A: Liability can be a concern, but there can also be a concern with not developing school walking maps. Phoenix has made to the practice of labeling the maps “Safest Route to School”, and other agencies have called them “School Walking and Bicycling Maps”, “Suggested Routes to School”, and “School Area Maps”. It is even more important that if you identify problems or issues along the walking route that measures are taken to address those issues and not leave them as a problem area on a walking route.

Q: There were 2 or 3 early slides on audit lists that were not on the 2009 CD that I have. How can we get these slides?

A: I believe the slides will be available on the AmericaWalks website, or you can contact Mike Cynecki or David Parisi directly. These are suggested items and there are far more detailed audit checklists on the www.saferoutesinfor.org web site.

Q: How can I get a copy of this presentation and the previous presentation?

A: You can access all of the webinars at www.saferoutesinfo.org (under resources)

Q: Can devices not yet in the MUTCD, such as the HAWK, be approved in a SRTS funding application?

A: Yes, but their request requires approval from the FHWA as outlined in the MUTCD, which includes an agreement to remove the device if the FHWA decides to not adopt the treatment. There is one agency requesting using their State SRTS funding for a HAWK pedestrian signal and it is taking up most of their annual SRTS funding for the entire state to do so.

Q: How do you address opposition to road diets based on emergency vehicle access?

A: Have them read information on other road diets and visit communities or talk with officials in communities that have done some road diets. It does take some seeing to believe. There is an excellent resource to review by Jennifer Rosales called “Road Diet Handbook: Setting the Trends for Livable Streets”. Jennifer has also given Webinars on this topic.

Q: Have there been any studies on placing a stop bar at an uncontrolled crossings when there is not a stop sign, confusion for drivers, increased rear end accidents?

A: Installing devices to encourage more drivers to stop at crosswalks may lead to increased rear-end collisions, but you also have to remember that installation of traffic signals can also result in an increase of rear-end crashes. I am not aware of any studies that show a link between advance stop lines at uncontrolled crosswalks that increases crashes or driver confusion. I have learned that advance stop lines are not all that effective getting motorists to stop without accompanying signs that state STOP (YIELD) HERE FOR PEDESTRIANS.

Q: Is the RRFB solar powered?

A: The Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacon (Stutter Flash) unit Phoenix is purchasing will have a solar panel for each sign/flasher unit, but these devise can be hard-wired to a power supply or used with solar power. All solar power units require a back-up battery which also requires periodic maintenance and replacement.

Q: Doesn’t a continuous two-way turn lane increase the number of conflict points for cars and pedestrians?

A: No, a two-way-left-turn lane provides a “sheltered space” between the two directions of moving traffic for a pedestrian and offers an opportunity to provide a raised pedestrian crossing island. This will allow pedestrians to cross one direction of traffic at a time. It also take turning traffic out of the traffic stream and greatly reduces rear-end crashes and the amount of weaving on a roadway.

Q: For the pedestrian bridge over the creek, what NEPA reporting was required and at what cost? I’ve often been advised by my local agency liaisons to stay away from wetlands and water ways due to threatened and endangered species and environmental impacts to waterway. How was this handled for this SRTS project?

A: For the example discussed during the webinar, a study was performed that determined no environmental impacts would result by installing the bridge. The city that installed the bridge coordinated with the appropriate agencies and secured the necessary permits. No NEPA reporting was necessary since the bridge was funded with State SRTS funds.