Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Ok, Green Light That Shared Streets Idea

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Ok, Green Light That Shared Streets Idea

Article excerpt

In Downtown Pittsburgh, where some of the finest jaywalkers in the Western world amble each day, a grand experiment is about to begin.

It's called shared space. We've already seen it work well in Market Square, where buses have been expunged and pedestrians and motorists manage to stay out of each others' way without much signage and no stoplights at all.

We don't need Horace Greeley to tell us it is time to move west from there. Gateway Center beckons. That's where a big red hand appears intermittently outside the T station at the Liberty Avenue intersection with Stanwix Street. Tourists take that hand to mean "Don't Walk." Natives interpret it as "Welcome Across."

I watched from the sidewalk around 5 p.m. Tuesday, watched as jaywalkers old and young, rich and poor, followed the unwritten rules as we know them: If the red hand's up but the cars to your left still have a red light, head across to the traffic island. After some quick recon, either cross the next two lanes to the goal line/curb or stay put until the cars from your right pass.

I watched for 10 minutes as hundreds of pedestrians casually practiced their art without halting the traffic flow and never heard even a single beeping horn.

If any city is ready for shared space, it's Pittsburgh. The next morning, I met two of its proponents in Market Square and we walked down to Stanwix.

Jeremy Waldrop is president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. Sean Luther is executive director of Envision Downtown, a public-private partnership created by Mayor Bill Peduto and the PDP. They see a time when bus traffic is diverted to Fort Duquesne Boulevard, where it's often easier to access its namesake bridge anyway.

That's part of a bigger conversation, but some other changes may come as soon as late summer or early fall and should be "fast and cheap, if not free," Mr. Luther said.

Take the rounded curb where Forbes Avenue empties onto Stanwix. Please. It's designed to ease a right-hand turn but, with a similarly rounded curb at Stanwix and Liberty, the design invites motorists coming from the Square to whip around the McDonald's without paying heed to the pedestrians crossing Liberty. …

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