Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Moving in the right direction

Years ago in Tallahassee, I lived in an apartment located at a dangerous intersection. Every week - sometimes many times a week - there would be a collision on my corner. The problem seemed to be that people would not see the stop sign until it was too late and find themselves driving into a 3 lane - one way road.

Fortunately most of the accidents were not serious and I became used to the routine of going downstairs with my wireless phone (not to be confused with a cell phone which was not around at the time) to let the victim call the police and loved ones. It was a regular gathering for people in the neighborhood to stand around the wreck, console the participant and talk about how this happens all the time. The accidents were so frequent in fact that I met old friends who had crashed, made new friends and even got a couple dates (I can play the hero with the phone pretty well). Week after week, year after year the car crashes continued.

One afternoon it happened again. I was at work but there were plenty of people from my little apartment building around to view the wreckage. For some reason the local newspaper came by to cover the story. In the story one of my newer neighbors told them just how often there were wrecks at this intersection. Within a couple weeks they had painted, in huge lettering, "STOP" on the road leading up to the hard to see stop sign. The wrecks stopped instantly! All those years, all those wrecks, all those injuries (and all those phone numbers) could have been avoided if someone had done that earlier.

Ever since then I have took an interest in traffic design. When I lived in Las Vegas I told the mayor (Oscar Goodman - a great guy who I got to meet with frequently) about what happened back in Tallahassee and he had many of the streets there safety painted. During my brief move back to Tallahassee in 2004, my new apartment also had many accidents. One phone call was all it took to get that street painted and have the wrecks stopped. It still amazes me how such a simple idea can help so many people.

The reason all this comes to mind this early morning is a story in the New York Times that addresses an issue I was going to bring to city leaders here. That is - trying to find a way to determine what direction you are heading inside the city. Walking in New York City is a must and even when you know your way around it is almost impossible in some places to actually determine what direction you are heading. Many times I have done what all New Yorkers have done - walk in the direction you think you have to go only to determine, once you can finally read the next block's street sign, that you have been going the wrong way. While I certainly understood the problem, I could not come up with a solution. The best I could come up with is attaching some sort of compass symbols on street signs so people would not have to walk a block to see which way is up.

But this idea, which they have just started, is much better I think. The city is trying out sidewalk compass signs to help pedestrians find their way. If you have even walked the wrong way in New York City (or wish you had) read this story. I think it is a brilliant idea! Hey - if you have an idea yourself feel free to let me know in the comment section. But for this directionally challenged walker, these sidewalk signs are definantly a step in the right direct.

1 comment:

Brenda said...

Now if only they would do this inside the Casinos in Vegas so you can find your way out!!!!