A student-organized petition to install traffic-calming measures at the Jefferson Avenue crosswalk has reached nearly 400 signatures as of Thursday afternoon.
The petition, launched on Change.org, calls on the City of Buffalo Common Council to install speed humps in the aftermath of a Nov. 4 incident where a student was hit by a car while crossing Jefferson Ave. in the crosswalk.
“My friend actually ending up in the hospital though was the last straw,” said the petition’s organizer, Savannah Karcz. “I’ve only been able to talk to him on a few occasions, but I know he is in a ton of pain and I wanted to be able to do something that would make some good come out of this horrible event.”
Karcz spoke with Dr. Kevin Hardwick in Canisius’ political science department, who suggested she send a petition to Masten District Councilmember Ulysees O. Wingo, Sr., of the Buffalo Common Council.
“[Wingo] seemed very receptive and said that he would greatly welcome any petition, as he is also a proponent of the School Zone Safety Program, which does not currently extend to college campuses,” Karcz said.
She did research on speed humps and Buffalo’s winter evacuation route and launched the petition. She also has plans to speak with Wingo directly.
Meanwhile, Justin Booth of GoBike Buffalo said Thursday that the active mobility safety organization has reached out to President John Hurley to offer assistance and support in making the crosswalk safer.
GoBike has worked on traffic-calming projects across the city, such as painted crosswalks at Southside Elementary School in South Buffalo and a protected bike lane on Ridge Road in Lackawanna.
“We have a lot of experience as an organization doing projects to test different infrastructure treatments and design treatments in a street to make an immediate safety improvement,” said Booth, a Canisius alumnus. “What type of traffic-calming elements can be done?”
The safety treatments can include sidewalk “bump-outs,” a center median in the road, narrower traffic lanes or designated protected bike lanes. Any of these methods can work to reduce traffic speed on city streets.
“This is actually a major issue,” Booth said. “We have a 30 mph speed limit in the city. There are very few streets where I think people actually travel the speed limit, and a lot of that has to do with design.”
Adding traffic-calming measures would also reduce the need for traffic enforcement, which Booth said is biased against people of color and other vulnerable populations.
Karcz said her ideal solution is for speed humps to be installed on both sides of the crosswalk, forcing people to slow down. She would also like to see college campuses added to Buffalo’s school zones, which would automatically lower the area speed limit.
Since the City of Buffalo owns the right-of-way in the streets, the Department of Public Works (DPW) is responsible for installing traffic-calming measures in the road, such as the two flashing beacons that were installed several years ago. One was destroyed in a car accident two years ago and has yet to be replaced.
If measures were to be taken by a private entity, a permit would have to be filed with the DPW, Booth explained. “There’s requirements for that permit process. Part of it is having insurance in place, but there are also very strict guidelines from the Federal Highway Administration about how far from an intersection does a crosswalk have to be, how thick do the lines have to be, how long do the lines have to be and how are they aligned with the curbs?”
Booth pointed to a City of Buffalo program called Slow Streets, which accepts applications for traffic-calming measures such as street humps. “Their goal was to work with local groups to develop a traffic calming strategy.”
The trouble with just installing speed humps, Booth said, was that there is a potential that traffic can be pushed to other neighborhood streets. “While you may have improved it in one location, you may have made the other streets worse,” he said.
An analysis would have to be done to assess possible effects of speed humps or other traffic-calming measures on the everyday traffic flow of a certain route. This analysis does not usually take long, Booth said, but it does consider potential sources of traffic in the neighborhood, such as Sister’s Hospital or the Buffalo Fire Department’s station down Jefferson Avenue.
“Speed humps could be a meaningful way of [traffic calming], but if you have a lot of ambulances there, that’s not going to do it. It might have to be something like extending the sidewalk out to reduce the crossing distances, which also eliminates cars from parking in crosswalks,” he said.
Karcz is optimistic that a solution can be reached to make the crosswalk safer. “No matter what, something has to be done and I am really hoping that the city and/or school does not wait for somebody to be killed, to take action,” she said.