Traffic-calming measures at three crosswalks along West Shore Drive, Smith Street and Pleasant Street have received a mixed reception from residents, according to social media, emails to the Marblehead Current and to town officials.
Many take issue with the installation of bump outs, which Town Administrator Thatcher Kezer said essentially extends sidewalks/paths into the street.
“The current best practice out there in the traffic management world is to have bump outs,” said Kezer. “They shorten the distance that pedestrians have to cross. The fact that the road is narrower causes drivers to slow down.”
Bump outs also act as a visual cue to drivers to be alert, look out for pedestrians and reduce their speeds, Kezer said.
The sidewalk extensions have been strategically placed where the Marblehead Rail Trail cuts across West Shore Drive near the Tower School, at Smith Street near the post office and along Pleasant Street near Mohawk Road.
Marblehead Town Planner Rebecca Cutting said “severe crashes” have occurred at the Pleasant Street trail crossing in the past, including a pedestrian fatality. She said several cyclists have been struck and injured there as well.
“In all three locations, decreasing the overall width of the roadway, bump outs are designed to serve as a visual cue to drivers and bicyclists using the road that there is a crossing there,” said Cutting. “The idea is they increase the visibility of pedestrians who are waiting to cross a street and the visibility to drivers on the road.”
She went on to say that extending the sidewalk into the street prevents drivers from illegally passing cars on the right. Rapid flashing beacons and signs will soon be or have already been installed to complement the bump outs.
Marblehead resident Lisa Gery said she sees the traffic-calming measures as “some feeling the need to micromanage local roads.” She said many have felt the impact of the narrowing of the road near the Tower School during drop off and pick up – with longer lines and wait times down West Shore Drive.
“When I was growing up, we learned how to cross the street: You look to the left; you look to the right, and you cross the street,” said Gery in a Sunday interview. “The work recently done [to the crosswalks] lull people into a false sense of security that cars aren’t dangerous – but they are and you can get hurt.”
Gery added, “A police officer posted near any of the crosswalks with a radar gun once a week would slow people down way more than those flashing beacons.”
Meanwhile, since the bump outs were installed, some drivers flattened their tires after they hit the bump outs. Others expressed concern that snow-plow operators will ram into the sidewalk extensions during snowstorms.
“Change is always difficult for some people. New traffic patterns take time for drivers to learn to adjust their driving habits,” said Marblehead Department of Public Works Director Amy McHugh. “The DPW has received positive feedback from pedestrians who utilize these improved crossings.”