Wednesday, March 29, 2006

City Controller Seeks to Corrall Pedestrians

City Controller Seeks to Corral Pedestrians

From the Northeast Times
On the Boulevard,it’s crosswalk crosshairs

By Tom Waring
Times Staff Writer

Soon after taking office, City Controller Alan Butkovitz directed his staff to videotape pedestrians crossing Roosevelt Boulevard at designated crosswalks.
Last week, he shared the findings with the news media.

The tape showed some pedestrians hustling across the 12-lane thoroughfare to beat traffic and others merely walking at a leisurely pace.

"That van just missed that man," Butkovitz pointed out, as a man strolled across the Boulevard near Benner Street.

State law allows pedestrians to cross streets that are marked with white striped lines. Motorists are obligated to stop.

"Nobody does that," Butkovitz said.

The city controller wants to find a solution. While pedestrians are allowed to walk across striped areas, he said, motorists rarely obey the law and are not ticketed for not stopping.

"We’re giving a confusing signal about what the law is," he said.

Butkovitz, a Democrat who took office in January, has written a letter to Allen D. Biehler, secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. The letter calls the Boulevard "one of the most dangerous stretches of highway in the nation" and says crosswalks pose a "threat to pedestrian safety."

It makes the following recommendations:

• The immediate removal of all white lines that designate these areas as crosswalks.
• The installation of metal barriers to block pedestrians from crossing the Boulevard at non-lighted spots.
• The removal of those fluorescent yellow-green signs indicating the areas as pedestrian crosswalks.
• Installation of new signage stating "Pedestrian Crossing Prohibited."
• A request that SEPTA buses stop only at traffic-lighted intersections.
• More police presence to stop pedestrians from crossing the Boulevard and to ticket speeding motorists.

Butkovitz said the crosswalks are dangerous because of the speed of motorists. The posted speed limits on the Boulevard are 40 mph south of Cottman Avenue and 45 mph north of that intersection. Few obey the speed limit, according to the controller.
"It’s more like fifty-five to sixty," he said.

A Castor Gardens resident, Butkovitz said the Boulevard is simply not pedestrian-friendly. As many as 106,000 vehicles travel the highway each day, and 16 people died in accidents in 2005.
Butkovitz is tackling the issue because he sees the job of the controller as the city’s fiscal watchdog and more.

"We’re not just bean counters," he said.

Gene Blaum, assistant press secretary for PennDOT’s District 6, said his department would be part of the discussion.

"We will work in partnership with the city," he said.

There are nine crosswalks on the 14-mile Boulevard. They are located at Garland Street/Smylie Road, Lardner/Benner Street, Disston Street/Longshore Avenue, Friendship/Brighton Street, St. Vincent Street, Faunce/Revere Street, Loney Street, Bowler Street and north of Red Lion Road.

Some of the crosswalks aren’t used much. Others are, including the one at Brighton Street that leads to a Kmart.

As part of the 2002 Roosevelt Boulevard Task Force, local and state officials recommended that the crosswalks be repainted and signs installed.

However, Butkovitz sides with the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration’s report, Safety Effects of Marked versus Unmarked Crosswalks at Uncontrolled Locations.

Issued in September 2005, it argued that crosswalks give pedestrians a "false sense of security." The report recommended that crosswalks be installed only at school zones, on lightly traveled streets and at locations with stop signs or traffic lights.

Butkovitz would favor additional traffic lights at crosswalks, but understands that might throw off the speed of motorists and the timing of lights, causing rear-end accidents.

The controller would also support crossing above street level, but realizes that construction of overhead pedestrian ramps would be costly.

Jaywalkers should receive $300 tickets, he said. ••

Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215-354-3034 or

I guess that eliminating pedestrians seems like the easy solution, the path of least resistance (a pun?). We can always make pedestrians walk a half mile out of their way because chances are if you walk on Roosevelt Boulevard chances you are not someone who is in political power. No one wants to deal with the real problem speeding!

"Only a nobody walks in LA" - Missing Persons