I happened to bring my camera with me to the downtown mall this week to download a few photos at the library for my last blog entry and decided to walk on Sixth Street NE from East Market Street to the mall. A welding contractor (for the city I suppose) removed the bollards so that he could drive onto the mall and work near the Discovery Museum. The bollards were placed on the only sidewalk on that block creating the first major pedestrian obstacle I encountered as I was just entering the mall next to City Hall. If this is our pedestrian zone this is not an acceptable practice for contractors to use. What are these contractors thinking? Maybe they need a reminder that pedestrian spaces need to be clear of obstacles. Perhaps some notice needs to be included in permits to work on the mall so pedestrians don't have to contend with lazy and dangerous behavior on the part of contractors.
As I walked just two blocks further down the mall I encountered the Fourth Street East mall crossing being used as a loading/unloading zone. There are such zones available on the side streets and when I took this photo there were open loading zones. Again, this delivery person decided that there is no problem blocking the entire length of the crossing with the truck, trailer and ramp making pedestrian traffic have to avoid this fifty foot or so obstacle on the pedestrian mall.
So, in about three minutes I encountered two major pedestrian obstacles as I walked from Sixth Street East to Fourth Street East. Is this a rare occasion? I think not. As a frequent pedestrian on the downtown mall I find obstacles like these on a regular basis. This is not the only truck that uses the mall crossing as a loading zone. I routinely encounter Brinks trucks making money deliveries at local banks, building supply trucks unloading construction materials, and JAUNT buses, taxicabs, even private vehicles idling in the crossing for extended periods. I find it is more likely than not that there will be unnecessary obstacles to pedestrian traffic on the mall and the number of obstacles seems to be increasing. Perhaps there are occasional interactions between the police and flagrant violators, but I haven't seen any. If contractors and delivery vehicle drivers believe this is a reasonable and risk free behavior I believe pedestrians will find obstacles at an increasing rate.
Council has been alerted to these sorts of behaviors, but I believe some identifiable action may be necessary to encourage better behavior from pedestrian area violators. Perhaps more interaction with violators (warnings or tickets) are needed to get the message to those who ignore the pedestrian area regulations. Without any action by city officials, I believe the downtown area being a safe pedestrian area is in jeopardy.
Next time you walk on the mall, count how many unsafe and unnecessary obstacles you encounter. Perhaps with the rebricking of the mall, the city can actively work to make the mall a better and safer pedestrian zone.