Connecting state and local government leaders
The guidance comes as a development boom continues in North Carolina’s capital.
As with other parts of Raleigh, North Carolina, there is construction taking place near the Alliance of Disability Advocates’ office, located in a neighborhood near N.C. State University, just outside of downtown.
“There are lots of new buildings popping up,” Nellie Galindo, youth program coordinator for the nonprofit group said Wednesday.
For Galindo and her colleagues, who are typically people with disabilities, the projects have made it a bit trickier to travel around in the neighborhood. “Getting to the grocery store has definitely become more difficult for any of us, but especially for the folks in our office who use mobility equipment,” she said. “Even to be able to go down to the post office, that’s less than a block away, you have to meander through a lot of this construction.”
With this sort of construction activity in mind, Raleigh’s Public Works Department last month completed a new guide, which is meant to offer easy to understand information about how builders in the city can provide safe and convenient pedestrian pathways through work zones.
Using bullet point recommendations and photos of best practices, the 36-page document seeks to deliver a boiled down version of city review and approval processes, and dense federal guidelines—specifically those found in the Americans With Disabilities Act and the voluminous Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices.
Rene Haagen is a civil engineer with the city, who helped spearhead the creation of the guidebook. “People that have looked at it, they kind of were skeptical at first, but then they looked through and they were like, ‘oh my god, this is really good,’” he said Wednesday.
Haagen explained that the Public Works Department first began crafting the pedestrian guidelines about two years ago. The effort was prompted in part, he said, by requests from people in the construction industry who were asking for clearer explanations from the city about standards for pedestrian pathways in work areas.
Apartment construction especially has been surging recently in Raleigh.
Titled “Making Great Strides: A guide to accommodating pedestrians in active work zones,” the guide touches on a wide range of topics.
It includes broader considerations, such as taking into account places like transit centers and shopping areas where significant numbers of people on foot flow to and from. And it features visual examples of pedestrian routing plans, which are required for projects in the city that affect sidewalks for longer than 48 hours. There are also photos and written descriptions of pedestrian detour options, like boardwalks extending off of sidewalks into empty on-street parking spaces.
Some recommendations focus on issues that are especially important for people who are disabled, like installing “tap rails” at the bottom of “Type 3” construction barricades—these are barricades that commonly have slats with orange and white stripes. Tap rails can be 4- to 8-inch high pieces of wood or other material, which are put in place at a barrier’s base so that visually impaired people, navigating by cane, are able to detect the barricade by tapping it.
Haagen stressed that the guide is a “living and breathing document” and that it would likely be updated going forward.
Galindo hadn’t seen the guide when she spoke with Route Fifty. But, in her view, sidewalk ramps and making routes through construction zones easy to follow are both important.
She noted that for people with certain disabilities “the simple idea of, ‘oh, I’ll just walk on the dirt, or I’ll step up onto the curb,’” is not always an option. And she also pointed out the obvious dangers that arise when a person in a wheelchair is forced to abandon a sidewalk and travel in the street, where they are at greater risk of getting hit by vehicle.
“I don't think they’re doing a horrible job,” Galindo said as she discussed the pedestrian routes through construction areas in the city. But, she added: “There’s so much development that's happening so quickly, I feel like it kind of just comes as an afterthought.”
Others typically gave the city passing marks when it comes to pedestrian safety in work zones.
“In Raleigh they tend to have a little bit better practice than I see in a lot of other places,” said Don Kostelec, who serves on the board of BikeWalk NC, a statewide group in North Carolina that promotes non-motorized transportation options.
Amy Simes, who chairs the city’s volunteer Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission, offered a similar take. “I haven’t noticed it being a real problem,” she said, adding that she frequently walks downtown. Asked whether construction zone pedestrian issues had been discussed by the commission, Simes replied: “It hasn’t even been brought up.”
Kostelec lives in Asheville, and works as a transportation consultant. He pointed out that the federal government modified the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices in 1993 to more-or-less say that temporary accommodations for pedestrians should be used in work zones, much in the same way that detours are assigned for vehicle traffic.
“It’s been 23 years and the practice as a whole hasn’t come along that much,” he said. “It just puts pedestrians in a perilous situation. So, I think the guidance is good no matter what.”
Bill Lucia is a Reporter for Government Executive's Route Fifty.