Monday, February 15, 2016

Dangers on trail system in NW Arkansas

Driveways present dangers on Greenway

Posted: February 15, 2016 at 1 a.m.
Jean Henderson (left) and Amelia Dziwanowski, both of Bentonville, jog south Wednesday along the Razorback Greenway Trail next to Village on the Creeks in Rogers.
Commercial access drives are a big challenge when it comes to safety for pedestrians along the Razorback Greenway, officials from the area's largest cities said.
The region's four largest cities have been intentional about providing adequate signage and signals where the Greenway crosses roads and doing upgrades when needed. Commercial driveways typically aren't marked with the same cautions.
Razorback Regional Greenway
The Razorback Regional Greenway stretches 36 miles from north Bentonville to south Fayetteville. It is a primarily off-road, shared-use trail that winds through a variety of land uses and traffic patterns. It opened in May 2015.
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Source: Staff report
It was the driveway out of the Village on the Creeks shopping center on 52nd Street in Rogers where Jennifer Bikel, 40, was killed when she was hit by a 2014 GMC Sierra turning right out of the center Feb. 3.
"It really could have happened at a lot of places," said Matt Mihalevich, Fayetteville trails coordinator.
Much of the Greenway in Fayetteville follows along a creek that keeps trail users and road users apart. There have been issues with safety where the trail crosses North Street, Mihalevich said. At least two pedestrians have been hit in the past at that crossing that Mihalevich knows about. Other incidents may have happened and not been reported, he said.
A yellow light was installed there in 2009 to warn motorists of pedestrian presence. It was upgraded to a full signal about three years ago.
"It's been, knock on wood, really safe since then," Mihalevich said, explaining there hasn't been an incident since the upgrade.
Grade crossings are where a road and trail intersect at the same level. Grade-separated crossings are where a road and trail cross at different heights, most commonly by tunnel or bridge, so motorists and trail users don't interact.
Most grade crossings in Fayetteville are equipped with either yellow lights or traffic signals. Another traffic signal will soon be installed where Razorback Road meets Town Branch Trail, which isn't officially part of the Greenway but connects to it, Mihalevich said.
Every Greenway crossing north of Poplar Street in Fayetteville is grade-separated, according to Mihalevich.
Grade-separated crossings are the safest and also the more expensive option, officials said. Mihalevich estimated pedestrian tunnels to cost around $400,000, depending on specifications. The North Street crossing would be a good candidate for a tunnel, he said.
"At-grade crossings on three-, four- and five-lane roads aren't necessarily the best case scenario, but sometimes that's just what conditions will allow you to do," said Troy Galloway, community and economic development director in Bentonville.
Greenway grade crossings in Bentonville are marked and/or signalized according to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Devices, he said.
The only remaining five-lane grade crossing is on Southeast 14th Street at Southeast P Street in front of the Walton Life Fitness Center. There is a three-lane grade crossing on 28th Street and another on Southeast J Street near Eighth Street.
Galloway said driveways are more challenging to provide safety measures than streets because there isn't signage or signals, but a painted crosswalk at best.
Bentonville has a couple of grade-separated crossings. The newest is a pedestrian tunnel underneath Southeast Walton Boulevard near Zaxby's. It was a privately funded project.
"We're constantly looking at ways to create safer pedestrian and bicycle environments in Bentonville and in the region, particularly along the Greenway, because obviously there's a high number of people who use that Greenway on any given day," Galloway said.
Leon Kelley of Pea Ridge runs on the Greenway a couple times a week in the Bella Vista-Bentonville area. He has never had any close calls with cars on the Greenway, but he has had some issues while running in neighborhoods in Pea Ridge. There aren't many sidewalks. Motorists often run stop signs and don't see runners, he said.
Trail users need to obey the signs and signals like motor vehicles are expected to do, said Springdale Mayor Doug Sprouse.
Sprouse has heard concerns about the Greenway crossing at Wagon Wheel Road and at Pump Station Road by Lake Springdale. Sprouse has seen cyclists cross at Wagon Wheel Road with "no caution at all."
Many grade crossings have stop signs for trail users, but they often are ignored, he said.
"The signage is there. Lights are there," Sprouse said. "It's just a matter of obeying them."
Sprouse said he believes motorists and trail users will learn to better coexist over time.
Rogers is about to bid out a $1.3 million project to add an alternate route around 52nd Street where Bikel was hit earlier this month.
The project, in the works for about a year, will not move the current trail. Instead, it will provide alternative option that's not a sidewalk, said Nathan Becknell, project engineer with Rogers.
Sidewalks create potential conflict between pedestrians and motorists using driveways and side roads, he said.
A half-mile section of new trail will cut behind 52nd Street and go through the shopping center instead of using the sidewalk. A trail signal will be installed at Stoney Brook Road.
The project will eliminate some conflict points and also will create a better trail user experience. That's something Rogers always looks to do, Becknell said.
The trail crossing at Olive Street was enhanced with a signal about a year ago, and the existing traffic signal was upgraded after the city extended the trail across Walnut Street near 28th Street, Becknell said.
Rogers is about to build a pedestrian tunnel under Walnut Street near Lake Atlanta. It's part of the city's active transportation network, but it is not part of the Greenway, Becknell said.
"In an ideal world, we could completely separate cars and pedestrians everywhere we could," Becknell said while talking about grade-separated crossings. "Unfortunately, there's not unlimited resources for those."
NW News on 02/15/2016