How to convince pedestrians to use crosswalks?

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

NAPLES — As a Naples Public Library employee on her lunch break, Christine Powers saw a near collision on the Causeway — and it wasn’t the first time.

“I witnessed an almost accident,” she told fellow members of the Naples Board of Selectmen recently. “Some people were going through the crosswalk from Gazebo Tees, but they didn’t wait for the traffic to stop.”

Chairman Powers added, “They just yelled at the cars, ‘Crosswalk! Crosswalk!’ The truck behind the first car almost had to run up on the sidewalk to avoid” ramming the suddenly stopped car or injuring the pedestrians standing on Route 302.

Naples selectmen once again approached the topic of crosswalks on the Causeway, where improved pavement has encouraged drivers to speed, and pedestrians have a tendency to cross Route 302 where it is most convenient.

Last Monday (Aug. 22), the board unanimously approved the addition of one more crosswalk and bollards along the sidewalks of the Causeway. This motion followed the 3-2 vote by Causeway Renovation Committee members on Aug. 17 to go ahead with an engineer-approved crosswalk and the installation of bollards.

Bollards are steel posts spaced six feet apart with decorative chains linking them together. Bollards are used in the walking area of Freeport, and are designed to discourage pedestrians from crossing the street until they get to a crosswalk.

In Naples, the bollards would be placed on the edge of the sidewalks on the Brandy Pond side of the Causeway.

According to Resident Engineer Craig Hurd, of the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT), crews will not start work on a new crosswalk until after the last weekend of the Fryeburg Fair in October.

The reasoning behind the wait — MDOT has an agreement with the Town of Naples to not close a lane to traffic from Memorial Day weekend until Labor Day, he said. Those lane closure prohibitions also extend to the time the Fryeburg Fair is occurring.

RJ Grondin & Sons would be the subcontractor doing the curb work necessary to put in the crosswalk, while Fine Line Paving & Grading, based in Madison, would be responsible for striping the future crosswalk, according to Hurd.

The installation of a new crosswalk, which would eliminate three parking spaces, will take about two weeks to complete.

According to Selectman Rick Paraschak, the proposed crosswalk is going to be closer to the Bay of Naples Bridge than the former crosswalk in front of Rick’s Café. The new one will not cross all three lanes of traffic.

Instead, the crosswalk will be located prior to the turning lane from Route 302 to Route 114, he said.

MDOT “will put a small raised island” in the middle, providing pedestrians with a safe haven when getting from one side to the other during heavy traffic periods.

Three parking spaces will be eliminated because vehicles must be able to pull away from each parking spot without backing into a crosswalk, he said.

MDOT found potential parallel parking spaces that could be located near the bridge, Paraschak said. However, there was some concern that bigger vehicles would block the scenic views there.

Another place that could be designated for parking would be in front of Gazebo Tees, but that would have to be re-striped for that purpose, Paraschak said.

MDOT officials said there are no state laws governing the number of crosswalks needed.

“It’s not mandatory, but (MDOT is) willing to put one in for the town,” Paraschak said, adding the state transportation department does recommend crosswalks every 500 feet in places where foot traffic is commonplace.

Naples Town Manager Derik Goodine, who has a vote on the bridge committee, said he voted in the minority. Goodine said he had an issue with the bollards, which cause cramped quarters on the sidewalk when groups of people are passing on the walkways. The bollard chains prevent people from being able to step aside and make room for on-coming foot traffic.

Selectmen brought up the fact that some people will cross wherever they can — despite designated crosswalks, and despite chains dangling at knee height between the sidewalks and gutters.

Another drawback mentioned by Paraschak is that people parking on the Long Lake side might cross Route 302, and have to step over the chains to get to the sidewalk.

But, most likely those people would find a crosswalk to get back to their parked vehicle, he said.

“Me personally, they (committee members) endorsed it, and we shouldn’t stand in their way,” Paraschak said.

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