Pedestrian safety improvements coming to Laurel Street

Dear Street Smarts, Q: You may remember that after the pedestrian death on Laurel at Felix streets, the city agreed to construct a pedestrian refuge in the crosswalks on Laurel at Felix and Blackburn streets. This project is the result of testimony by neighbors and Mission: Pedestrian. The city's original response to the danger was to eliminate the marked crosswalk at Felix and try to get everyone to cross at Blackburn. Because of our testimony, public works came back with a second proposal for the median refuges. Research has shown that pedestrians have good reasons for crossing where they do and it is the responsibility of traffic engineers to help make those crossings both convenient and safe. Installation of median islands with pass throughs for pedestrians – pedestrian refuges -- decrease collisions by as much as 56-percent. We have recently heard from the assistant director of public works that the project is being designed and will likely be installed within three months. The uphill bike lane will be narrowed – this was advocated by bicyclists -- to stop drivers from using the bike lane to pass vehicles waiting to turn left. A left turn lane will be striped to decrease rear end collisions and decrease waiting time for drivers. So everyone wins. Debbie Bulger, Mission: Pedestrian, Santa Cruz A: The above information is correct, said Chris Schneiter of the city's public works department. No specific date for the start of the project has been determined, he added. But he did offer some advice for pedestrians. “I would emphasize that it’s the pedestrian’s responsibility to cross when it’s safe,” he said. “No manner of pedestrian refuge, traffic signal, etc., will substitute for being aware of one’s surroundings, being cautious and using good judgment.”
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