Letters to the Editor - August 15, 2019
READER QUESTIONS NEW ROUNDABOUT'S 'PEDESTRIAN-FRIENDLINESS'
Many of my friends would agree with Councilman Whitley’s assertion in the August 1 - August 7 issue that “we got it right” on the new roundabout at the intersection of Daniel Island Drive and Seven Farms.
Not coincidentally, many of my friends don’t get around on foot very much, so they don’t have my perspective. One reason I chose Daniel Island over other Charleston neighborhoods was the pedestrian-friendly infrastructure, and I’ve always made it a point to walk (or more recently, bicycle) where I’m going as much as possible. That’s why I can’t see the new roundabout as anything but a move away from pedestrian-friendliness.
I lived on Center Park St for the first seven years of my nine years here, during which I used the crosswalks at DI Drive and Seven Farms regularly. I appreciated having a controlled crossing where a reasonably alert and attentive pedestrian could cross in safety. (Yes, I am aware of collisions involving kids on bicycles similar to the one mentioned in last week’s article, but DI’s kids on bicycles aren’t known for being reasonably alert and attentive).
Today, I would have much less confidence in crossing safely at the new uncontrolled crosswalks - if I were to use them. Anyone who has used the uncontrolled crosswalks at Pier View and Seven Farms knows that, despite the blinking lights and signage, most drivers here will steadfastly ignore crossings that aren’t controlled by traffic lights (I’ve played chicken there a couple of times just to see how far into the center lane cars will swerve to avoid stopping for a pedestrian. Answer: all the way).
Roundabouts add to the risk that these bad driving habits already pose to pedestrians for two reasons: 1) the pedestrian has to play a guessing game about which vehicles will continue around the circle and which ones will exit, and 2) the driver stands less chance of spotting a pedestrian on the right when the road curves to the left. I’ve experienced the latter phenomenon myself when navigating the eight-point roundabout in Park Circle: pedestrians that would be easy to spot on a straightaway tend to sneak up on you when your eyes are following the curve. And even when I do have enough time to stop for a pedestrian waiting on the sidewalk, a reasonable fear of getting rear-ended often outweighs an honest desire to let them cross.
All of the above notwithstanding, I have no doubt that there will be fewer vehicle-on-pedestrian (or bicyclist) incidents at the new roundabout for one simple reason: people will stop crossing there. Indeed, my non-pedestrian friends, especially now that they’ve experienced the improved (vehicle) traffic flow, noted that my old route would’ve been shortened by cutting through the parking lot behind Orlando’s and crossing Seven Farms farther east.
Two points here: First, expecting pedestrians to alter their routes to accommodate traffic patterns is exactly the sort of vehicle-first mentality that has made many Charleston neighborhoods impossible to navigate on foot. (See Ed Buckley’s columns in the Post & Courier for more on this). Second, if jaywalking and cutting through parking lots is a safer option than using the new crosswalks, then it’s clear that Daniel Island has taken a step backward for pedestrians.
Nate Geisinger, Daniel Island