Building a Place for People: The Case for Lindell Mid-Block Crosswalks

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Lindell crosswalks

The Five on Your Side team at KSDK visited Carondelet Boulevard in South St. Louis City at the behest of a longtime resident who complained of fast traffic. She moved to her home in 1957 and has seen several “improvements” to her street. In 1957 there were approximately 800,000 residents in the city, roughly 150% more than today. How can traffic be worse? We have created dysfunctional infrastructure. The city has too often prioritized passing through the city rather than capturing value and serving residents.

Streets have been widened, in some places on-street parking has been eliminated. Streets have been closed, funneling traffic onto an ever decreasing number of “arterial streets”. This creates the illusion of increased overall traffic because it pushes more people into less space. When this happens, people complain and lanes are added and obstructions are removed.

What does that look like (image above Lindell east of Vandeventer)? Added center turn lanes – meant to keep more cars moving faster. “No left turn” signs insuring that at peak driving times, more cars are moving faster. Limited hours for on-street parking, longer green lights for through traffic, standard (very narrow) unprotected sidewalks next to six lanes of traffic… all of these “improvements” are the opposite for anyone not in a car. They are also bad for local businesses, and thus the local economy.

Our transportation planning in St. Louis is tragically limited to decreasing or eliminating traffic congestion. The premise of planning, and thus our hundreds of millions of dollars in spending is that “congestion relief” is the overriding goal of improved level-of-service, and “getting cars off the road” with transit.

We often misunderstand traffic congestion as an unmitigated drag on the economy. Departments of transportation tout studies showing how much time, gas, and money is wasted in traffic each year. The premise seeming to be that if we could just eliminate congestion that our economy would be humming along efficiently. What we must understand is that not all traffic is equal. As we’ve widened city streets into roads (and stroads) and closed residential streets throughout the city, we have left ourselves with city problems without a city economy.

The Stroad_Design Rochester

What does this mean? It means that our streets no longer function as they did and should. We innately understand this. We want people to travel more slowly along our city’s commercial corridors. On Lindell, the relatively narrow nine-foot traffic lanes, along with recently lowered speed limit, help, but we must do more than painting narrow lanes and lowering the number on a sign everyone ignores. The sign may read “SPEED LIMIT 25″, but the street tells drivers 35.

With parking lanes, the spaces rarely appear used for some reason, four lanes of traffic, and a center turn lane, Lindell Boulevard along Saint Louis University, Grand Center, and the Central West End, is a stroad – too wide for a street, too many lights for a road. It simply doesn’t function well. Lindell doesn’t serve pedestrians well (you know, everyone, even those who park and then walk), and doesn’t support dense economic use.

And this is to say nothing of basic pedestrian safety issues. As anyone who regularly travels along this stretch, one constant are pedestrians standing in the center turn lane, unsure of when and where to cross. It’s simply only a matter of time until a tragic accident here takes a line. Not only do pedestrians have to navigate seven lanes for cars, the blocks, which exceed 1,400 feet in length, offer zero mid-block crosswalks. The street tells pedestrians they’re not welcome, and drivers to not expect anything other than a clear road.

The urban blocks of Salt Lake City, UT are notoriously long. From a visit there, I can tell you that the restaurant just a couple blocks away is deceptive. It’s like a you’re a miniature pedestrian. Those blocks are 660 feet square, and have presented a challenge to developing a more urban environment there. The 1,400 feet here is astounding, and nearly four times the length of north-south blocks. Even the Kingshighway to Euclid block, which doesn’t feel overly long in its context is 900 feet.

Lindell crosswalks

More amazingly, it is 2,130 feet from Grand Avenue to the next signalized crosswalk at Compton to the east. From there, it’s 2,162 feet to the next crosswalk at Leffingwell. So who belongs here? People? Walkers? People on a stroll? Anything other than the most car-oriented businesses? And this a block from the burgeoning Locust Street corridor, some great bars and restaurants, and two well trafficked universities. It’s also where the historic Castle Ballroom appears to be coming down after failing to find a savior. It’s insanity.

So what to do? There are published guidelines on mid block crosswalks by the Federal Highway Administration, the DOTs of Virginia and Florida, hundreds of images and examples from around the country. We have the tools to do better. Salt Lake uses mid-block crosswalks, even adding flags in places. Cincinnati’s downtown has many mid-block crosswalks on it’s a ~460-foot grid. Lighted, signed, flagged mid-block crosswalks should be introduced on Lindell from Kingshighway to Grand, and further east on Olive. Medians, pedestrian refuges, and bulb-outs could also be explored.1,400

Lindell crosswalks
{Salt Lake City}

Lindell crosswalks
{Cincinnati}

The 25MPH signs are nice, and show we understand there’s a problem, but do nothing to help anyone not in a car navigate this part of the city. Lindell should stitch together the neighborhoods, arts and commercial districts, universities, and employment centers along its length, not serve as a barrier to avoid. The next time you’re sprinting across Lindell after exiting the Chase Theater (or the Moolah), standing in a turn lane nervously eyeing traffic, trying to catch a bus across from the grocery, or simply out for a walk and choose to avoid Lindell, take a moment and let those who can do something about it know it’s time for a change.

It’s often easiest to share comments (and get a response) via Twitter:

  • City of St. Louis Streets Department – @StlStreets
  • Park Central Development Corporation (17th Ward Alderman Joe Roddy) – @ParkCentralSTL
  • 28th Ward Alderwoman Lyda Krewson – @LydaKrewson
  • 18th Ward Alderman Terry Kennedy – office phone: (314) 622-3287
  • Saint Louis University – @SLU_Official

Tell them the Stroad sent you:

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  • Thomas R Shrout Jr

    Great analysis. Kingshighway is a disaster for pedestrians as well. Those of us who have to cross it on foot to go from our residences to work or shop along the Euclid corridor are penalized by the speeding cars, long green lights for cars on Kingshighway, drivers paying attention to traffic (right on red) and not pedestrians who may be crossing, not to mention the flagrant running of red lights.

    • Alex Ihnen

      There are many, many places in the city where we have designed our streets as roads. Sadly, there’s no talk about making roads like Kingshighway, Gravois, and others better for the city and residents. Lindell strikes me as a particularly obvious opportunity given the amount of development and wealth on either side, and the number of people passing back and forth every day. We have a great chance to stitch together parts of our city that are doing well.

      • guest

        Wish this issue would be thought about and acted upon on a broader level than one ward or neighborhood. Yeah, the CWE is rich on both side of Lindell. But maybe other neighborhoods would become richer if we put them on a road diet, too!

    • moe

      I have asked many times why there has been no ped. crossing directly outside the Chase south entrance. I’ve received no answer. Too many times, either due to movies letting out or events in the ballrooms, there have been near misses of pedestrians and vehicles.

      • http://donspoliticalblog.blogspot.com Don

        This is my neighborhood. I walk my dog daily along Lindell. The Chase movie (south) entrance is an obvious place for a cross walk. It’s a minor miracle no one has been killed crossing.

        My guess is that the reason there is not such a cross walk is the Lindell at K’way intersection which gets extremely backed up by those turning left (south) on K’way. Putting in a cross walk will make this traffic problem worse forcing people to use alternative routes moving traffic to W. Pine and Laclede and resulthing then in those residents complaining about the increased traffic.

        It’s the squeaky wheel problem I wrote about above.

        • moe

          Possible, but the installation of at least a flashing yellow warning light and a crosswalk would be helpful. Many drivers are from the county and are unfamiliar with what goes on at the Chase. It would at least alert them to watch out (in theory anyways).

          • http://donspoliticalblog.blogspot.com Don

            I agree completely! It’s a no brainer to me.

  • rgbose

    There used to be four blocks between Grand and Compton.

  • Alan

    Crossing Arsenal to get to Tower Grove Park is also a harrowing experience for most of the day. Not enough places to cross, and the cars are really moving. I usually grab my dog and run.

    • moe

      That depends on which segment of Arsenal you are on. From Kings to Morgan there are no crossings but from Morganford to Grand there is a full stop crossing at every intersection but Bent.

  • jhoff1257

    Thank you! My best friend lives in one of the high-rises at Lindell and Taylor and constantly I see people, many times large groups of people, dashing across Lindell. The blocks are far too long. In fact, on Mardi Gras my friends and I were walking down Taylor towards the Metro station and we make it all the way to Forest Park Avenue and realize we forgot to hit the ATM at the BofA near Euclid. So they decide the quickest solution is to walk back to the Schnuck’s on Lindell. My first response? “The blocks are too fuc*ing long!” That’d be at least a 25 minute walk, despite it being maybe 6 “blocks.”

    Speaking of Forest Park Avenue, I was once standing on the “refuge” at Euclid and a car turning left from Euclid to East Forest Park ran up and crushed the wall behind the little planter. Came within inches of getting hit by a car…in a pedestrian refuge.

    St. Louis needs to reevaluate some of these decisions.

  • guest

    Alex, thank you for this post. This issue needs to be made a priority in St. Louis NOW. It’s so obviously a problem, yet so little happens to do anything about it. St. Louisans are so spoiled when it comes to driving their cars at the expense of neighbors and neighborhoods. It’s all part of our sprawl mentality. The irony is, if we shifted priorities just a bit, we’d make our existing neighborhoods better and discourage sprawl. The good thing is, here in STL city at least, we CAN do something.

    We don’t need MODOT (well at least not on the city’s state highway designated streets…). We don’t need the Federal Highway Administration (see interstate highway expansion in the city). And we don’t need the County Highway Department (see South County Connector debacle). All we need are progressive aldermen, city leadership, and the city Street Department. Maybe a City Streets Summit is in order?

  • http://donspoliticalblog.blogspot.com Don

    The problem with effecting change is the squeaky wheel. Alderman are elected officials and they listen to the squeaky wheels. We’ve cut our streets up so much that our north/south and east/west options are much more limited than they were 30 years ago. I’d bet you a dozen donuts our side is greatly drowned out by those who want to streamline traffic on Lindell, etc. and not to slow it down.

    So, if we want to eliminate Stroads, we need to make our views heard. The 28th Ward Regular Democratic Club meets monthly at Dressel’s on Euclid. Lyda Krewson appears at every meeting and answers questions from those gathered. Their next meeting is April 17 at 7:30PM. http://ward28.citywestend.org/

  • Dearer Senile Kine

    I agree with the contest of this article, but was thrown off by the first sentence. As a resident of the Carondelet neighborhood, I know there is no Carondelet Avenue in south St. Louis city. Carondelet Avenue is in Clayton. Carondelet Boulevard is one of the many names for the road that runs along the south side of the River des Peres — at the east end, it’s Rivercity Blvd., from I-55 to Gravois, it’s Carondelet Boulevard, and then it becomes River des Peres Boulevard.

  • guest

    I have a question about speed bumps. The policy of the city street department is to not use them on side streets, or really any city street (remember the whole controversy years ago when Alderman French wanted them in O’Fallon Park, couldn’t get them, noted that they had them in front of the Zoo, and so, the city, turned around and removed them from in front of the Zoo?). Well, guess what?

    Maplewood has them. They have them on side streets, especially long blocks. They’re some kind of heavy duty plastic, painted with bright yellow and black stripes, two sided, forming a wide-based, maybe 6 inch tall, five foot wide, equilateral triangle. I drove down one block there yesterday and it had two of them. And you know what? They work. Very well.

    Sure, you can’t put a snow plow over them, but the city doesn’t plow side streets anyway. So my question is this: If Maplewood, a city with rising values, can have speed bumps on neighborhood streets, why can’t St. Louis city?