Coffee Break: Episode 9

With the fall weather creating perfect walking and biking conditions, we’re here to make sure everyone’s safety is considered with every project. Check out how Cody and David raise awareness for pedestrian safety in transportation planning projects in this month’s Coffee Break.

*Various loud car/plane noises*

CC: Just wait for the bus to pass?

DP: Okay.

*More loud car noises*

CC: You know you have to slow down to go through a roundabout, right?

Coffee Break Episode 9 – Pedestrian Safety

CC: We’re out in… New Ulm *laughs* This is new! This is New New Ulm! Sorry all the New Ulm people that hear that…

DP: We’re on 66th Street and Lyndale Avenue in Richfield, Minnesota.

Name and position at Bolton & Menk, and how do you take your coffee?

CC: Cody Christianson, transportation project manager, and I take my coffee black.

DP: David Peterson, I’m a senior transportation planner, and I like my coffee very strong with a little bit of cream.

What is your role in pedestrian safety projects?

CC: As a project manager and engineer, I help with assessing project corridors where there’s safety needs and then work on the actual design and implementation of those safety improvements.

DP: You know, when we put together a transportation plan or a transportation element of a comprehensive plan that we try to incorporate certain measures into those that are going to be really positive in terms of affecting a future transportation environment that’s good for pedestrians, that’s safer for pedestrians, so it’s not on the design end of things, although I’m kind of conversioned in a lot of that – I’m not going to draw those things out… that’s up to Cody and others in our design engineering teams.

What tools are taken into account to ensure the safety of all users?

CC: There’s a number of guidance out there, but one of the big ones is federal highways, FHWA’s STEP Guide, which is the “Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian.” And they have a number of countermeasures that can be used in specific locations, whether it’s mid-block or a longer corridor or at an intersection, curb extensions, RRFBs, high-visibility markings and signing, so we have all of these tools that we then can take, look at the corridor, see what the needs are, and figure out what’s going to work to make it safer for pedestrians to cross roadways as well as go along roadways.

DP: Things like road safety audits are very important at the outside of a lot of planning projects and engineering projects. You actually get out into the environment and you look at what’s happening – you talk to people who are on the street, you talk to a lot of the stakeholders who are going to be involved in the decision-making. Some of these people are law enforcement, people that might be elected officials, they might just be residents or neighborhood groups, business owners. You try to get a sense of what some of the different concerns are. You get competing constituencies for those things.

*Loud car noise*

CC: *Laughs* Where was I?

DP: Tools.

CC: Tools.

How important is equity in safety projects?

DP: You know, this is a lot of the reason that I got into planning – is to try to create places that are better and more equitable for people. It’s important to know and to acknowledge, cause sometimes people are kind of invisible when they’re walking and bicycling –  we don’t see that many people all the time in certain places. There are a lot of people who don’t have a choice about driving a car, so we take it for granted that we might have a car to do a lot of our trips for just about anything; to be able to find employment, for goods and services, to visit friends, to do shopping, all these different things we might do in a car, a lot of people don’t have that option. These are some of the ways that I think about equity. I think it’s important that we view a lot of our thinking and planning, that we try to make our environments more equitable for everybody with every measure we take.

CC: Yeah. I don’t even have anything to add to that! *laughs* I agree.

Why is pedestrian safety important to you?

CC: To me, it’s understanding that, at some point, everyone is a pedestrian. What we’re designing and building and planning is for everybody – from ages 8 to 80 and if we can do that, everybody in-between is covered as well. Highlights of my work is being able to come into a project and look at those facilities that are behind the curb that have been neglected in the past and really try to reverse-course making those… making our communities accessible for everyone.

DP: I think it allows us to experience our environment in a totally different way – in a much more intimate way. It also allows us to be able to stop…

*Bus pulls up*

DP: We’ll wait for the truck here – it allows us to be able to stop and linger to meet our neighbors in ways that we can’t do in cars. We just don’t do it. So building these things, I think, is really important, I think it’s a combination of building both facilities for pedestrians and making them accessible for all people and then, you know, in a lot of our growing communities, also thinking really strongly about land use.

DP: It sounds faster than he is… cause he’s got a crappy car.

Both: Thanks for watching!

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