Speed bumps for Washington Park?

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Alison emails with a question that's not exactly an Ask AOA question so much as an idea:

Should there be speed bumps in Washington Park? People often fly through there like it's the highway, which is really unsafe for everyone who uses the park. A couple years ago, I was there when a dog ran into the street and was hit by a car going way too fast. The dog should not have darted out in front of traffic of course, but in a park these things can happen, and wouldn't it be best if people were driving like they were in a crowded park full of kids, bikers, walkers, and pets?
The 'driver must stop' signs in the crosswalks aren't really working, and drivers often speed up to avoid having to stop when they see someone trying to cross. So, speed bumps in the park...friend or foe?

Alison's idea reminded us of something Albany Bagel floated earlier this year (in addition to speed bumps): car-free Saturdays in Washington Park.

For whatever reason, car/pedestrian interactions have been a frequent topic of discussion in Albany in recent years. (Whether that's a result of increased issues or increased awareness is a good question.) And city leaders have said the push for red light cameras grew out of hearing neighborhood groups consistently express concerns about traffic safety issues.

So, thoughts on whether this is a step in a good direction?

Comments

YES. Washington Park is a DESTINATION not a SHORTCUT. (Or, at least, it should be.)

I say Hellz Yeah but as long as the ambos use it to get from the highway to the hospital, it won't happen.

The park already has a lower speed limit. Not obeying the crosswalk signs is also a driving violation. We don't need speed bumps. We just need enforcement of the existing measures. Speed bumps will cost the city money. Enforcing the law will raise money for the city.

Um. Who was the winner who had the bright idea to put the exit of the highway over on one side of the park, and the schools/med center directly on the other?

As a student, I frequently have to make it to school, including on the weekends. I'd hate having to find a circuitous route every time I need to get to campus especially when driving in Albany is already obnoxious.

As I said to Albany Bagel on Twitter: a big Noooo to car-free Saturdays, but a resounding Yessss to speed bumps in the park. It's something so obvious and low-cost, it makes you wonder why they haven't already been added at some point in the Park's history.

I've heard from several people over the years who want Washington Park to be closed to traffic, if at no other time, at least on weekends. I also think more speed limit signs are needed in the park. I think most of the people who drive through there don't realize the speed limit is 20 mph.

I've long thought that Albany was missing out by further enhancing the walkability and pedestrian friendlessness of Washington Park, with some much potential to make it safer and more inviting to enter the park. Presently, those entering the park from most corners of the city must first bow down to cars often zipping through much quicker than the 20 mph speed limit or braving the limited, poorly defined cross-walks that often get ignored anyway.

To that end, I've always thought speed bumps would be a great solution to curbing the wayward behavior of vehicular traffic. The only big reason I can see for why this would be difficult to implement is the fact that the park, due to its close proximity to AMC, is utilized by ambulances, and speed bumps could be an issue as it concerns response times. I know in Ithaca, instead of speed bumps, they have raised cross-walks (almost like a flatter, but much longer speed bump), which cars have to slow down to ride over and make pedestrians far more visible, but which I could see being easier for emergency vehicles to maneuver over without loosing to much momentum. Conversely, more stop signs throughout the park, especially at cross-walks would do pedestrians many favors and may discourage vehicular traffic from viewing the park as a quick speedway cross this part of the city.

I enjoy the park occasionally, I'd walk my dog there all the time if it wasn't a generous walk to get there in the first place. Probably not enough to get a feel for how bad it is. That said, this is a terrible solution unless somehow you can drive over them unnoticed at 15-20mph. The obvious fix is to enforce the speed limit & crossings, but that's crazy talk.

As a driver, I use the park to get across the center of Albany in a reasonable manner. It's a pain (yeah, #firstworldproblems) to get from Central, Clinton, Washington back to Madison. Dove & Lark are the only streets between the Plaza and the far end of the park that let you go that way. One is already pretty busy and one is a quiet one-way street. Willett and Lark are the only ones that go the other way. Diverting a majority of park traffic to those would just make them worse.

Dropping the speed limit (or enforcing the speed limit & crossings) would be much more effective, creating a safer environment while still offering a reasonable way through. Driving 15mph instead of 30 for that distance won't set drivers back that much, but imagine having every single car all but stop for a speed bump, several times.

While we're at it, why not do something about that perplexing intersection by the statue at the Henry Johnson entrance to the park. You cross State and can turn left without even slowing down while people can go straight through that curve without slowing down? Always strikes me as a crash waiting to happen.

Other two cents, why aren't there painted parking spots? Wouldn't go a long way to reducing the frustration over finding space to actually park?

The park is treated as a shortcut by hurried and frazzled motorists. They don't belong in our beautiful park. Is our city a place to live, work, and grow, or a place to hurry through on our way somewhere "better"?

A STORY:
This Memorial Day, my wife and I were walking with our son a few paces behind a mother who was also walking with her toddler. We had just crossed Willet from Hudson (near the birdhouse sculpture), and they were crossing at the Park Road crosswalk. A rider on a motor scooter (passing on the right of properly yielding cars) crashed into a bollard, sending his scooter flying towards the mother and child. The man stopped short against a bollard, and his scooter flew towards the crosswalk, nearly hitting the mother and child. The child was crying and afraid, but the two appeared unharmed, as the paramedics carted away the wounded rider.

That was our scariest moment so far. Mostly we stand and wait as drivers ignore us and our son.

SOME SUGGESTIONS:
There is a low-cost, low-maintenance option to increase safety in the park:
- Close all park roads to motor vehicle traffic.

Failing that, here are some other ideas. Any or all would help:
- Car free weekends.
- More crosswalks in and around the park. It is nearly impossible to enter the park without "jaywalking" across unmarked intersections. It shouldn't be a crime to walk to our city park.
- Pedestrian-operated crosswalk signals/lights to allow safe crossing.
- Speed humps.
- Narrowed streets or other traffic-calming measures (separated or protected bike lanes).
- Grooved pavement alerting cars of upcoming crosswalks.
- Sidewalks, or some other form of visual/physical buffer to indicate to park users that they are entering a live road (to distinguish them from the already closed-to-traffic sections). It's not always clear when you've stepped onto a live road or not, especially for children, to whom the park is a vast and wondrous place to explore.

I've always found it strange that there is no way I have discovered to walk in a loop through the park without having to cross an active roadway. Even the pedestrian path around the pond goes through the area behind the lake house that's perpetually swarming with park vehicles. I wish all the roadways were open to emergency vehicles only, but saving that, I wish that SOME of the active ones were closed to make it function more like a park than a shortcut and parking lot.

"The park is treated as a shortcut by hurried and frazzled motorists. They don't belong in our beautiful park. Is our city a place to live, work, and grow, or a place to hurry through on our way somewhere "better"?"

Get off your horse and use the other Albany parks. Google maps could help with that if you want. It'll take you less than five minutes to get to one where you would not have to brave these 'scary' moments. The park in question is one in the way of productive places that people need to get to in a timely manner. That includes your pharmacists, clinicians, doctors, lawyers and veterans in need of health care.

The easiest solution is to pave it over and tell everyone to head to Swinburne, Tivoli, Bleeker/Lincoln, Ridgefield, the capital parks along elk among others. All within what, a mile?

Car-free Saturdays in the Park sounds like an idea from a suburbanite who does not frequent or appreciate the Park as much as us Center Square dwellers who, like myself, us the it on a daily basis to read/walk/listen to music/nap/visit with friends/etc.

But speed bumps or more cross walks, perhaps crosswalks that light up when pedestrians are in them would be great!

I believe this is a very pertinent topic. You need to contact the City of Albany's Department of General Services and speak directly to the commissioner of DGS. His information is as follows:
Daniel Mirabile, Commissioner 518-434-2489

Car-free all the time! If it bothers people who don't live here maybe they should move closer to their jobs (like a city neighborhood) so they don't have to take that route!

It's a tough situation to balance the proper use of the park with maintaining connectivity. Here are a couple of thoughts:

More Immediate Remedies:
1.Close off the piece of road on the south side of the lake between New Scotland and South Lake (technically a continuation of New Scotland). There's no reason for that through road. If you are worried abut parking, make it a parking lot with access form only one direction.
2. Route traffic going to and from Henry Johnson via Washington Park road to only go to the intersection at Madison/Willet. There's space there to make a workable intersection, and it would cut out the need for vehicular traffic on the entire south side of the park.
3. Shut down the inner part of Washington Park Road that heads west from Henry Johnson to Englewood. Again, if it is found necessary for parking, make it a turn-around at one end. Maybe even make slanted spaces to increase the capacity.

Long-term
1. Find a better way to route major traffic to high traffic destinations. Consider driving ambulance traffic to 787 and Morton Ave to access hospitals.
2. Consider utilizing the width of Swan Street and make it a good two-way thoroughfare. The ESP and the U loop at Hudson/Jay is troublesome. We could utilize that area as well as under the Swan Street ESP Core buildings to create a rotary that would handle traffic in both directions. This would drive traffic to a less residential area and out of the park, easily connecting to Morton/Hackett.
3. An improvement to the Swan Street solution would be to make a pedestrian "fly over" from the plaza to the Hudson Jay Park or other access point on the west side of Swan Street so that people could safely walk to and from the plaza.

This would take a lot of work to coordinate the City and ESP, but it seems like a workable solution that could benefit both.

Something in the traffic pattern will have to change due to the massive AMC expansions and the apartment complexes in the area. You cant drive, walk or bike safely in that area most times of the day now, just wait to see people complain with the added volume from new commuters and residents.

Yes, I can see how emergency traffic may make speed humps difficult to install, but there are loads of other opportunities the city could seize that states the park is for pedestrians and park goers and not drivers trying to use it as a bypass or for parking. I'm too jaded to think that we'll ever remove cars completely, but more crosswalks, pedestrian signalling that can stop traffic (or stops signs as another poster mentioned), or rumble strips to slow traffic down would all be a plus. Ultimately, a cop should be dedicated to the park, enforcing the speed limit and ensuring that cars yield to pedestrians.

"this is a terrible solution unless somehow you can drive over them unnoticed at 15-20mph"

They're called 'speed humps' and they are designed to be driven over at specific speeds without much notice, but not at higher speeds.

For the emergency vehicles - how often are they going through the park much faster than 20mph? Ambulances still have to slow to a crawl at intersections to check that people are stopping for them, and often have to weave through traffic - even when drivers are trying to give them the right of way. Going over some speed bumps/humps designed to be drivable at 20mph shouldn't be that big of a deal.

@Tony, I hesitate to comment, since I feel like you're just trolling, but I always love such blatantly unconsidered comments, which can easily be turned around on the commenter. Yes, there are some other parks in the area, but a miles walk (or a quick bus ride) as you suggest, could conversely be, lets shut down the roads, and let drivers drive a mile around the park, because you know, as you succinctly put it, there are tons of "roads" within a mile that you could use instead :)

Sadly, Albany drivers and Albany pedestrians alike are among the height of douche-baggery. Drivers speed up to avoid yielding to ANYthing else. Pedestrians seem to have a lack of concern for their own safety, crossing well away from demarcated crossing lines, and doing so at an amble. Though speed bumps may initially make it more difficult for drivers endanger pedestrians as they wander casually across the road, ultimately drivers will look for a way to go around the traffic feature as to maintain a break-neck speed.

I would love to see Washington park be closed to all traffic. I especially love to stop sign on the park road before New Scotland where no one actually stops. Its great fun when you're trying to go for a run and not get hit by a doctor or nurse who can't stop for a few seconds.

It would be great if all traffic could be eliminated in the park. However, I suspect that the available parking is a lifeline for many businesses in the area, and helpful for residents as well. As I haved often posted, make lanes so narrow that drivers have to slow down, and make crosswalks so many, so wide and so visible that drivers cannot help but notice them. And, of course, enforce speed limits. Because some folks are stupid, traffic planning has to be intelligent.

I would love to see raised crosswalks in Washington Park and elsewhere in the city.

Also, why not make the stop light at Lancaster in the park into 4-way stop??? Stop signs CALM traffic. People don't gun it to get through a green light and when stopped, pedestrians can cross the street. You could also close the continuation of Lancaster on the other side of the park road, so that cars entering the park on Lancaster have to turn right or left, like at Hudson. This would allow pedestrians to travel the north/south path without having to cross a street.

I agree with the comment about the Henry Johnson entrance to the park and can't believe there aren't more accidents there. It is beyond me why there isn't a stop sign for cars before they turn right onto Henry Johnson.

It would be great to hear the perspective of the Washington Park Conservancy on these traffic issues.

Yes to speed bumps. Specifically at locations where there are cross-walks so drivers are forced to slow down. People driving through the park might be effected by what, an extra 10-15 seconds of driving? I can deal with that.

I think JoeA has it right. If you want to slow traffic, the best way is to narrow the road. Isn't Willet one way going North? Why not make the park road one way going from State toward Madison, and either add parking on both sides or pull the curbs in? I also like the suggestions of eliminating the entrance at the corner of State & Englewood. The Lancaster extension probably doesn't need to be there either.

Speed bumps would be kind of difficult to deal with for snow plows. Larger speed humps or elevated crosswalks might work though.

I always find it funny that the people who cheer about how awesome it is that the highway under the park never got built are the same ones that complain about traffic in the park. Most of that traffic could be underground.

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