“Um,” said no one this week. “I just wanted to let you know I didn’t like the bollards.” And rightly so. Last week, pedestrians lined the downtown sidewalks. Tuesday, the pedestrian activity remained markedly down and part of the blame for this lies with the bollards.
Forty four bollards have gone up in downtown Georgetown. The majority of the bollards are post-modern and whimsical in manner. But there is one post-modern fixture that has not been designed to accommodate pedestrians — the dividers of the bollards. The new bollards will prevent cars from going too fast on Seventh Street, between Maryland and Wisconsin Avenues. Although the speed limit in Georgetown is 25 mph, many street closures have been performed as part of the bike lanes and will prevent commuters from making quick turns for work.
The bollards have clearly been constructed poorly. Unlike most of the traffic calming and smart-street projects in New York City, the bollards were not made with any consideration for the pedestrian first. The bollards look silly. They take the place of sidewalks or sidewalks of their own. They appear to be extremely unstable because there is no mix of high and low levels. Additionally, the bollards protrude into the air. According to a resident of Lafayette Street, the designers “sat on their hands” when it came to making the bollards look appropriate for Georgetown.
They left the point unfinished. As of Tuesday, the counters are yet to be welded together, the barrels haven’t yet been planted and the cement has yet to settle in the pavement. A road design and streetway can only be completed as the public prepares for it.
In the United States, 38 percent of pedestrian fatalities occur at intersections and corner destinations.” — University of Utah Transportation Center
Designing a bollard should not be complicated. The designers of the Georgetown bollards should have tried to make the posts comfortable for people to balance on, for instance. Would the design team have considered making the posts removable? Or would they prefer that the posts be placed in place and maintain that reality?
There have been mixed feelings about the bollards in Georgetown, many of them muted and rational. I know, I live here and yet I went down to the shops Monday and saw people walking.
Halfway through the conversation Tuesday evening on ABC7 News, the street traffic reporter Joni Conroy said that “A new study released Wednesday by The Washington Examiner found that only four percent of pedestrians were injured or killed in the city because of pedestrian work in the last seven years.”
Virtually everyone around me seemed puzzled. Would it really take a comprehensive study to find out that half of all pedestrian fatalities happen at intersections and corner destinations?
The numbers from The Washington Examiner report are interesting. According to a 2016 study by The University of Utah Transportation Center, “48 percent of pedestrian injuries in DC occurred at or near intersections.” The study continued, “These figures make pedestrian deaths six times more likely to occur in intersections than the other part of the roadway.”
The numbers from this study are confusing and startling because they are still unknown in Washington, D.C. If the numbers from Washington Examiner are representative of pedestrian casualties on a citywide basis, the capital’s Capitol View update would seem to indicate that three deaths occurred in intersections in Washington, D.C. at their peak, (July 6, 2017, June 14, 2017, Sept. 16, 2017).
I don’t know how to interpret this. Is there a correlation or causation between the speed limit for pedestrians and the number of pedestrian fatalities? How does the speed limit affect pedestrian injuries, if at all? An urban townscape that really favors pedestrians and cyclists cannot only be modeled on our status as a technology hub.