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Why a pedestrian bridge over Main is a bad idea

On Thursday, the City of Peoria held a public meeting to discuss ways to redesign the intersection of Main and University. A hundred-year-old water main recently broke there, and while patching has been done, there need to be more extensive repairs made that requires the whole intersection be rebuilt. Since it’s being redone anyway, this seems like the right time to talk about ways it can be improved — to strike while the iron is hot, so to speak.

One of the suggestions made at the meeting was to construct a pedestrian bridge. The Journal Star reported it this way:

But to the pleasant surprise of [Public Works Director Mike] Rogers, some forum attendees advocated pedestrian overpasses, perhaps positioned away from the intersection, as a way to improve traffic flow.

“Nobody has to stop driving — just go over the bridge across the street,” said Jose Lozano, a Bradley professor and area resident. “It’s safer for drivers and pedestrians, and a lot cheaper.”

With all due respect, this is a terrible idea. Here’s why:

  1. Motorists still have to stop driving. The contention that “nobody has to stop driving” is a real puzzler. For traffic not to stop, it would take more than a pedestrian bridge — it would take a vehicular bridge that separates the grade of Main and University, allowing Main street traffic to travel over or under University, in order to allow traffic to flow unimpeded. Short of that, there’s still going to be an intersection, and it’s still going to be signalized. And providing for safe navigation of that intersection will still need to be done.
  2. It doesn’t make the street safer for pedestrians. First of all, we have to think of the street and not merely the intersection in isolation. Building a pedestrian bridge and giving traffic the idea that “nobody has to stop driving” will put pedestrians who don’t use the pedestrian bridge at risk, such as those who cross Main at Maplewood or cross University at Bradley Avenue. They’re not going to walk all the way to Main and University to take the pedestrian bridge. They will continue to cross at grade, and encouraging faster traffic will put their safety at risk. And, let’s face it, many college students (or professors) are not going to go out of their way to use a pedestrian bridge when the street is only sixty feet wide, and especially where there’s a walk signal.
  3. It doesn’t make the street safer for bicyclists. The intersection needs to be redesigned not only to make things safer for pedestrians, but to make things safer for all users. That includes bicyclists, which would not benefit at all from a pedestrian bridge no matter where it is placed. Encouraging faster traffic where there are already narrow lanes and even narrower sidewalks will put their safety at risk.
  4. It doesn’t make the street safer for the disabled. You can’t ride your wheelchair up the stairs to a pedestrian bridge and back down the other side. Unless they’re going to make the pedestrian bridge handicapped-accessible, which seems like it would be a challenge given the space constraints in that area (ramps? elevator?), the street will be made even more hostile to the disabled who try to traverse it.
  5. It doesn’t make the street safer for cars. There are no small number of vehicular accidents at this intersection. Even if all pedestrians used the proposed bridge, it would not make the intersection safer for vehicles which would arguably pass through the intersection even faster if there were no pedestrians to worry about. Also, if the pedestrian bridge were not enclosed, it would give delinquent children an easy place to drop objects onto cars that pass beneath.
  6. It perpetuates the myth that the public right of way is for cars only. The impetus for this forum was a presentation on “complete streets” that was given to the City Council a couple of meetings ago. The whole idea behind “complete streets” is that streets are a public right-of-way, and as such they are for everyone, not just motorists. According to the National Complete Streets Coalition website:

    Complete Streets are streets for everyone. They are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities. Complete Streets make it easy to cross the street, walk to shops, and bicycle to work….

    Creating Complete Streets means transportation agencies must change their approach to community roads. By adopting a Complete Streets policy, communities direct their transportation planners and engineers to routinely design and operate the entire right of way to enable safe access for all users, regardless of age, ability, or mode of transportation. This means that every transportation project will make the street network better and safer for drivers, transit users, pedestrians, and bicyclists – making your town a better place to live.

    A pedestrian bridge completely misses the mark of this vision. It perpetuates the idea that the right-of-way is primarily, if not solely, the domain of automobiles, which are presumed to have a natural right to unimpeded travel, and all other users of the roadway are intruders. This kind of thinking needs to stop.

    The right-of-way is public land and pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, and the disabled have just as much right of access to it as motorists, and we need to learn how to share the right-of-way as equals. That’s the kind of vision this intersection reconstruction should be striving for.

A better alternative that was presented at the meeting is the idea of a raised table. In this scenario, the whole intersection is raised, which will require cars to slow down in order to enter and exit the intersection. This makes the intersection safer for everyone, and also makes the street safer. When the light turns yellow at an intersection, there are always those motorists (I’ve even done it myself, I admit) who speed up to make the light rather than slow down. A raised intersection would virtually eliminate that. Cars approaching the intersection would always have to slow down regardless of what color the light is.

Whatever solution is found for the intersection, it should balance the needs of all users and take the entire context of that intersection into consideration. A pedestrian bridge fails on all counts. It should be eliminated from consideration.

34 comments to Why a pedestrian bridge over Main is a bad idea

  • Eye in the Sky

    I like how ulrich threw the idea of a round about out there would love to see that one with the volume of traffic going thru the intersection.

  • Excellent article, C.J., well thought out, logically presented, very cogent with one blaring and dramatically evident flaw: signalized. Signalized? Really?

    Otherwise, I fully agree with all your points. A pedestrian bridge at that particular location would be a waste of time and would not accomplish an increase in safety or convenience for anyone.

  • Karrie E. Alms

    what’s wrong with signalized?

  • Martin Palmer

    “what’s wrong with signalized?”

    Good question. If the water break would not have happened would change taken place? Or if a sewer collapsed and the city or sanatary district had to fix it would change take place? If the city would have taken over the water system in the past would change take place? Or is the city holding IAW up for extra cash since there is another buyout window open? Or IAW throwing cash to quell the buyout? Seems to me if change is needed then more property is needed to do the job right and tear down some buildings and make proper long term changes not willy-nilly force fit. If this was and is a big problem for the city what plans were in place to make changes in the future?

  • Randall

    IAW is offering $98k towards the repair of Main. That is hardly buying anything. In fact it is a slap in the face of the taxpayers. It’s like me handing you 10 bucks after wrecking your new car. Here’s an idea. Why not repair the intersection, put in new sidewalks if needed and then enforce the laws on speed and turns. Raise the table? Seriously? Drivers don’t read speed limit signs and observe turn arrows now and you think they will understand physics? I remember when the S Curve was finally put in and that was the cure all to the old intersections problems. What is happening is you have people who hang right on the curb, while talking on their cell phone or to each other and not paying attention. You have drivers who think that because the arrow went red you can still go anyway because you pulled into the intersection with another car. That is illegal. I have sat behind cars turning right onto Main with a green arrow because they stop and don’t even see the damn signal is green. The best option for that intersection? Make it a no turn on RED in and direction and then enforce it. It won’t be 100% effective because I have an assclown almost every day turn left in front of me onto Moss from Western and the signs are posted twice. NO LEFT TURN! The other safety issue? If I have to stop at Maplewood for that light to let someone cross the street, fine. Then I shouldn’t have to doge 6 students crossing at will a block away.

    If IAW is the cause of the infrastructure failure at Main and University, then they should pay for all the repairs. The trouble is, drivers, many of them, are too damn preoccupied with something else and hate to stop for a red light. They run the lights and they sit at the green while finishing their text. The people crossing, many of them, don’t pay attention and jump the walk single many times. I watch this daily as I have a GREEN left turn arrow and someone will almost always step off the curb at One World and cross and almost get hit but not from me, but from some clown who turns RIGHT on the red from Main ignoring we have the green left turn arrow.

    This is a busy intersection and that is just too damn bad. Some streets are simply busy streets and Main is one of them. The speed limit has been lowered on Main to Western but it hasn’t helped on bit as they will pass you like you are standing still and going east on Main, well, it’s like the drags from Farmington to Main to see who can get out of the right lane before it goes to two lanes at University. Enforce this! But Bradley police is under orders not too. Don’t want to piss of the students right?

    You can’t pacify all intersections in Peoria and you simply can’t ride your bike on every damn street. You have to use judgement if you do. Nobody wants to hit a person or a bicyclist but you can’t count on the stupidity of others. Maybe a nice bike route through the Uplands will divert bike traffic.

    I am tired every time a whiny neighborhood association wants something and all the taxpayers have to pay. This town, whether you like it or not, is designed for the automobile and has been since they hit the roads. Everything from food to drugs has a drive thru and nobody wants to get off their butt and walk when they can drive up to whatever. This intersection is a no brainer. Make IAW pay for it, improve the traffic and people flow with No Turn On Red, and start concentrating on police and fire so if someone decides to park in the back of One World, they don’t get shot or hit on the head and a cop can enforce the speed limits and signage that is there NOW.

  • Mike

    When running I prefer to not cross traffic at four way intersections of any kind. Rather I cross at a sidestreet 2-3 blocks from the intersection during a gap of traffic. It seems safer to deal with only two directions of traffic than the complexities of any kind of four way stop. (am I weird?) By my way of thinking a pedestrian bridge is a novel idea if you put it a few blocks away to connect the areas. It should be a very wide bridge, handicap accessible and accessible enough for people on bikes to ride right over and across. Occassionally I cross Main at a crossing sidestreet, but doing that for University tends to be more trouble than it is worth. (though I would if I could more easily)

  • Chase Ingersoll

    CJ:

    I am a big fan of the half dozen roundabouts that have been added in the Ann Arbor area this last year. The studies show that they are safer for drivers as they eliminate T collisions.

    The newest one also incorporate a pedestrian island that allows the pedestrian or cyclist to cross one direction of traffic, then wait in the safety of a protected island between the traffic lanes, and then to cross the next lane. I’ve yet to see a case of a pedestrian or cyclist being hit where they have the islands, because they only have to look one way at a time.

  • Randall

    Drivers here can’t grasp the flashing yellow arrow. Go over to East Peoria and watch that round a bout for about an hour. What you see people doing will put a glaze on your face. In fact, contact the EP Police and ask how many accidents they have had.

  • point of order

    You are right Randall,I didn’t have any idea where I was going when I went through it. Luckily my son guided me through it or I might still be trying to get to Bob Evans.

  • Randall

    POO: I’m sure you figured it out. It’s bent to the right after all.

  • MW

    The pedestrian bridge is not a bad idea despite the concerns raised by the author. Leaving it as it is would also not be a bad idea. The roundabout is a terrible idea for this location. A roundabout would only further decrease safety for pedestrians as there is no defined time to cross the street. This would apply to bicyclists as well but I have never seen a bicyclist here. I see pedestrians every single time I pass through the intersection. The raised table as mentioned by the author is a good idea in some places but not desirable at this location as these are not recommended for busy streets and intersections, and this is a very busy one. It’s something to keep in mind for side streets, but not at one of the busier intersections in town. Hopefully there will be a good solution agreed upon that will be safe for everyone at the intersection.

  • Eye in the Sky

    I don’t think the raised intersection is going to help. Today was at Frye and Wisconsin in front of Glen Oak School and watched a little old lady BLOW through the intersection like it wasn’t even there. This one has the lane narrowing to CALM traffic and the raised area plus new and shiny stop signs. Glowing the dark style cross walk BIG yellow cross walk signs as well. Just proves you can’t fix STUPID no matter how much money you throw at it.

  • Ed Sanders

    I was in East Peoria last week Wednesday about 3:10 or so behind an 80+ male and waited for seven minutes to get into the not so merry-go-round. Cat had a shift change and was dominating the roundabout and the old gent had no idea what to do. He almost got hit twice when he finally ventured into traffic. A Main and University roundabout would be madness; please don’t do it.

  • mazr

    Agreed, Ed.

    Drivers around here can’t figure out the right turn on red, flashing yellow turn arrow, using a turn signal, etc. No way they will be able to maneuver a roundabout.

  • Karrie E. Alms

    And the landscaping for the East Peoria roundabout is dangerous.

    My son and I were waiting to merge (he was driving our Buick Century) and my son had started to slowly merge into the roundabout and there were no visible cars. VOILA … out of nowhere … a driver (and passenger) in a tiny convertible sports car who were both screaming (passenger had his arms up like a person on a rollercoaster) and the driver was driving with excessive speed and almost hit us on the driver’s side. Happened in an instant and because of the high grass and irresponsible driver … it almost turned into a deadly event. My son hit the brakes and the other car went by … laughing at their sport.

  • Randall

    but but round a bouts are the latest fad. Peoria must have them

  • Gary Grady

    Buy the corner properties or imminent domain them and widen things out a little.

  • soothsayer

    Tear down One World and Avanti’s? Yeah, right. I think there are still too many drivers taking this way when other routes would be better. Use 74 if you want to drive faster than 25 mph.

  • Randall

    Hey sooth, what other way? If you are coming up Western from the south end or in from Bellevue via MLK Dr, what way would you suggest? Same with coming up MacArthur hill from downtown. Can’t get 74 from there. Enlighten please? I come in from Madison Park Shopping center area. Am I supposed to drive 474 to 74? I mean, all cars have license plates and we all pay road taxes. So why is this intersection so sacred?

  • Randy–I think the operative phrase was “if you want to drive faster than 25 mph.”

  • Randall

    Never said that CJ. Traffic has to go somewhere and “25” seems to be the majic number to discourage drivers from A to B? (It’s still 30 on Western) The point is, traffic from that part of town doesn’t have many choices when heading out to the bluffs and beyond. I never speed on Main because A)it’s against the law and B) I don’t want the ticket. However, notice on Main going East, you can travel any speed you want and drivers do. I have seen many drivers speed in the right lane just to get ahead of traffic before the bottleneck at University. Going West on Main is a different story. A couple of motorcycle cops radar that almost daily. Why is that? Why never East but almost always West bound? The operative word here is “BRADLEY”

  • Randall

    My point is: The law should apply equally to everyone and it shouldn’t be ignored for the “special people” Like the No Left Turn signs seem to be.

  • soothsayer

    I agree that all jaywalkers should be ticketed, speed limits enforced, etc. The law needs to be applied equally and it is not. I also know there is necessary traffic going through that intersection. There is also a lot that could take another way – and ought to.

  • I stand corrected. Signalized is a word. Damn, what are we doing to the language? My bad, CJ.

  • Paul Wilkinson

    When the intersection was shut down before, a significant increase in traffic was noted on Sheridan. Sheridan is not designed for the amount it received. Although striped 4 lanes in areas from Main to McClure, try driving when 4 cars pass by each other. or worse, get a bus that takes a lane and a quarter. Remember when it was sold that reducing the lanes, adding on street parking etc would slow down traffic and reduce it. in this case it has done neither.

  • Mahkno

    The traffic study done a few years ago found that most traffic going in and out of the West Bluff was of an east-west sort. Traffic originating from the south side was modest, manageable and expected. What wasn’t expected was the traffic coming from the west. There are surprisingly a lot folks commuting from Bartonville, Belleville, Hanna City, County… etc coming through the West Bluff.

    Many of these commuters are preferring the West Bluff to the Lincoln-Howett or Adams-Jefferson corridors. Sterling-Nebraska is faster too for those coming from Farmington road but both roads are greatly underutilized.

    I still think Sterling should be connected from hillside to West Peoria proper but I would guess West Peoria residents would reject the idea. The right of way already exists for this to happen. Once connected, MLK traffic can hit Sterling to go north and/or get to Nebraska.

  • Mahkno

    As far as tearing down buildings go…. Avanti’s might go for it if they can get their hands on the Chi Alpha house next door. Zeller already owns three residential properties along there and has been jonesing to expand for years. Chi Alpha is the holdup.

    The small bank building that Bradley owns could probably come down and no one would miss it. The only reason it is still there is the ATM machine.

    One could take the needed chunk off Campus Town and likely not impact parking. Joseph is against the idea… probably cause he would lose his not so code compliant billboard. Eminent domain it if needed.

    One World is the real obstruction to a larger roundabout. The place is a gem. How could you tear it down? What would you replace it with? The owners don’t have the deep pockets that Zeller has. Whatever you did here would have to be handled with care and would impact all the businesses in the vicinity. $$$$

  • Mahkno

    Law enforcement? Yeah sure… our police department is struggling to get a grip on the crime problem in Peoria. The Chief says it is getting better yet Peoria remains in the gutter when compared statewide. Only Chicago and maybe Rockford are worse. Peoria and Rockford have been battling for the bottom for years now. So unless Peoria residents are willing to cough up significant increases in property taxes to pay for a significantly larger police force… I don’t see traffic violations getting a whole lot of attention.

    Mind you, I think Peoria should make that investment. Peoria should make a commitment to a 10-15 year surge to root out the criminal element in this city. Stop the wac-a-mole policing that is done now. No corner of Peoria should be friendly to crime.

    But… but… people will leave Peoria cause of the taxes. Yeah they might but if the surge is sufficiently effective all those rats are going to jump ship and scurry to the next ship. Then you will see neighboring communities taxes jump too (psst they already are).

    The low tax free ride is over folks. The price will be paid one way or another….

  • Karrie E. Alms

    Mahkno:

    The importation of Chicago residents to take up public housing at the Taft and more section 8 vouchers helps to increase Peoria’s population of new ‘businessmen.’ It is much easier to get those services in Peoria than elsewhere. Additionally, sometimes person(s) are given a one way ride or bus ticket to the land of opportunity (Peoria) which eliminates that person(s) from outlying communities.

    Since Peoria, with the help of state and federal legislators positioned itself to become the hub for social services and public housing in Central Illinois … we are now reaping the fruits of their efforts. I have been told that there are two buildings of Chicago transplants now living at Taft because it is easier to obtain aid in Peoria than Chicago and these new ‘businessmen’ argue amongst themselves as well as the other established local ‘businessmen.’ Market share is only so large. Look at some of the crime statistics for the last several months or year … been living in Peoria with person x and their identification still shows a Chicago address. Just another facet of the challenge which is never addressed. What neighbors really want is to live next to neighbors who exhibit socially responsible behavior … manners, keep their yard picked up, no profanity, no loud music, well-behaved children, no screaming at their toddler when the toddler is just being a toddler etc.

  • Paul Wilkinson

    Mahkno
    we would have money for police if police were the priority of the council. They instead rob every pot for the warehouse district. Debt service payments are another issue with the civic center, hotel, etc.

  • Randall

    Mr Wilkinson: 6 people arrested in the last 6 months were from Chicago. That makes everyone from Chicago?

    The Council is made up of people who subscribe to your political party and beliefs. They spend exactly like Republicans do and you should expect that. I don’t understand why you are shocked at the council’s spending on “their” projects like the warehouse district. After all, that district isn’t being built for your “businessmen” to live in and I’ll bet before it is all done, there is a gate and fence around it to keep the “wrong class” of people out. If Republicans had a local poster boy, it would be a picture of Ardis.

  • Paul Wilkinson

    Randall
    Yes everyone is from Chicago, that is the point….NOTE sarcasm.
    Ardis is not the poster republican boy..

  • Derrick

    No baby – I said “presence” – your vote is your “presence” – u so fine! Then I said “presents” – u know what I like. You gotta come up with your own excuse for this….