Kathy Breza (left) crossed Johnson Street with her sister, Kris Breza, after picking up a book at the library.
Winona city staff are testing out whether temporary curb “bumpouts” made with planters, orange cones, and reflective tape will improve pedestrian safety.
by CHRIS ROGERS
Putting flower pots in the road might look a little odd, but Winona city officials believe it could help improve pedestrian safety. With funding from the Minnesota Department of Health’s Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP), the city installed a pair of temporary curb “bump outs” at Fifth and Johnson streets by the Winona Public Library.
Unlike the permanent bump outs at Second and Main streets — where the city extended the sidewalk further into the intersection — these bump outs are not made of concrete. They are just reflective tape, a few large planters, and some orange cones.
Winona Assistant City Planner Luke Sims said the goal is to give pedestrians a safe space to stand a little further out into the intersection, where they can see oncoming motorists and vice versa. Narrowing the roadway also causes drivers to slow down, Sims added, making any collisions less deadly. “We want to make sure that, as people are accessing these walkable locations, they are a little more visible and that vehicles are slowing down,” Sims stated. “Curb extensions allow pedestrians to move a little further beyond the parked cars that line the streets. So the idea is to make them a little bit more visible, and the curb extension puts them out beyond the parking lanes where they can see oncoming traffic and oncoming traffic can see them.”
City staff described the Fifth Street bump outs as a demonstration project that will be removed after a trial period, possibly at the end of the month. Staff members want to test out the effectiveness of using planters and pylons as bump outs versus actual sidewalk extensions, which are much more expensive.
Sims said that the Fifth and Johnson streets location was chosen because of the all the pedestrian traffic, including children, that visit the library, and because of the potential for future foot traffic at the Winona State University’s Laird Norton building and the planned Main Square Community project, which is expected to be completed in 2020. He stated that city staff are considering whether some kind of bump out should be installed at that intersection long-term. “We are evaluating that,” Sims stated. “We can’t say that we’re going to at this time. We’re just saying that we’re taking a look and evaluating.”
The city has been embracing bump outs lately, with the construction of sidewalk extensions at Main and Second streets and plans for bump outs to be installed at multiple intersections on Broadway as part of the Broadway “road diet” project. City staff are still waiting to hear whether the city will win a second federal grant to fund the proposed Broadway reconstruction. The Second Street bump outs got some negative reviews from council members who said they made it too difficult for large vehicles to make turns.
To fund the current trial run at Fifth Street, the city used part of a $4,000 grant from SHIP. The health department’s SHIP initiative has been promoting active living, including walking and biking as a means of transportation, across the state. SHIP has supported pedestrian-oriented wayfinding signage in downtown Winona and “Share the Road” events. State health officials hope SHIP’s active living projects will help improve public health and reduce obesity.