Council looks at improving safety along Lincoln Way

Mayor+John+Halia+and+At-Large+Representative+Bronwyn+Beatty-Hansen+listen+during+a+City+Council+meeting+on+Jan.+16%2C+2018.

Mayor John Halia and At-Large Representative Bronwyn Beatty-Hansen listen during a City Council meeting on Jan. 16, 2018.

Chris Anderson

Ames City Council looked at data relating to improving safety along Lincoln Way at their Tuesday meeting.

SRF Consulting has been conducting a pedestrian safety study for the city. The study specifically looks at Lincoln Way between Sheldon Avenue and University Boulevard.

Having completed their study, SRF presented to the council a complete summary of the study they conducted along with recommendations.

Bill Troe, principal transportation planner at SRF, shared that the purpose of the study was to make sure certain questions were answered. These questions related to whether there were any safety or operation concerns inconsistent of what is expected of an arterial corridor like Lincoln Way, and if there are any current physical features or conditions contributing to safety or operation issues.

After these questions were answered, SRF looked at what solutions could be implemented without affecting the speed of travel for any mode of travel along or through Lincoln Way.

SRF determined, because of the way travelers use Lincoln Way, speed of travel is an important issue. SRF felt the safest solutions would be those that do not add to what they called the “impatience of the traveler.”

Through the first phase of the study, SRF found there were no design or sight issues in the area studied. However, they did notice other issues needed to be addressed.

The first of these issues is pedestrian compliance with crosswalk signals. SRF found pedestrians in this area have a 35 percent rate of compliance with crosswalk laws, opposed to the 75 percent expected in areas like Lincoln Way.

They also noticed certain areas had higher than normal incidences of crashes. At the intersection of Welch and Lincoln, they found an elevated severity of vehicle on pedestrian crashes. Along the intersections of Stanton and Sheldon Avenue with Lincoln Way they also found an elevated number of vehicle on vehicle crashes.

They also noticed a large amount of pedestrians choose to cross at the intersection of Stanton and Lincoln, where there is no crosswalk.

SRF then gave to council a list of potential solutions to these issues, the first of which being related  to the timing of crosswalks and lights. SRF claimed they had found adjustments which could be made that would improve travel, time and safety for all modes of transportation.

One of these changes would be to implement leading pedestrian interval, or LPI, at the Welch/Lincoln intersection. This would give pedestrians a six-second head start before lights changed, improving their visibility to drivers.

Council directed staff to implement SRF’s cost-free timing recommendations. The city expects this to be implemented in about a month.

SRF also recommended adding a crosswalk across Lincoln Way parallel to Stanton Ave. SRF claimed this crosswalk could result in a 60 percent reduction of crashes by improving the visibility of pedestrians.

Other improvements recommended included the shortening of medians in between Welch and Stanton along Lincoln Way to improve pedestrian safety. Since many pedestrians currently cross two lanes at the time, waiting on the median in between, SRF feels this will discourage that unsafe behavior.

SRF also acknowledged the importance of educating citizens about pedestrian safety. The group also held a joint presentation with the Student Government traffic safety task force at Pearson Hall Tuesday afternoon.

Robert Bingham, ex-officio from Student Government on City Council, is a member of this task force and spoke of how improving safety is a two-way street, between the city making physical improvements and the university educating students and citizens on pedestrian safety.

The task force, created by Student Government President Cody West, has been assisting the consulting firm and city with recommendations to improve traffic safety, Bingham said. The task force has also been holding small outreach events on campus aimed at educating students about pedestrian safety.

The council ultimately decided to direct staff to work on creating a budget and time frame for the recommended improvements in a unanimous motion.

The council also finalized plans to bring back the “Mayor’s Bike Ride” tradition, renaming it “Mayor and Council’s Bike Ride.”

The proposed bike ride will take place the morning of Saturday, May 12 at 9 a.m. The path is 6.4 miles long starting at city hall and ending at Ada Hayden Heritage Park. The ride will also feature six rest stops where the city will provide refreshments as well as outreach with the community.