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Crosswalk to Nowhere.
November 11, 2011 11:14 AM   Subscribe

What do you mean the building codes require us to install handicapped-accessible crosswalk? Fine. Here's your fucking crosswalk.

Eyesore of the Month previously on Metafilter.

Greater Greater Washington weighs in, and speculates on how this could have happened, and how to fix it.
posted by schmod (118 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

 
The real problem there is that they seem to think a paved shoulder is the same as a sidewalk. Death trap much?
posted by Sys Rq at 11:20 AM on November 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Comment on one of the linked blogs: "All you need is a pole for vaulting. Whats the problem?"
posted by memebake at 11:20 AM on November 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Dude's website could well win Eyesore of the Month award itself. As for the crosswalk, only a group of sociopaths would approve, plan, and build something that mocks both pedestrians and the disabled to that degree.
posted by aught at 11:20 AM on November 11, 2011 [23 favorites]


You know, I agree with a lot of Eyesore Of The Month but DEAR GOD HE IS AT CRANK LEVEL 11. Even his text feels like being cornered at a party, unable to escape.
posted by The Whelk at 11:21 AM on November 11, 2011 [26 favorites]


Does this count as a Thomasson?
posted by zamboni at 11:22 AM on November 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Not clear why they had to build a crosswalk but not a sidewalk. Do the applicable regs really require ADA access to areas with no sidewalks?

It's fun to go all "haha, stoopid ADA requirements" but until I see that the engineers had no choice, and no opportunity to appeal the requirements, I'll hold off.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 11:22 AM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Okay, I have spent more time on this than it deserves, but a few minutes at Google maps suggests to be that S Temple and N 5th St Highway do not actually intersect. Hm.
posted by aught at 11:23 AM on November 11, 2011


Reminds me of the flag pole in center field at the Houston Astros stadium
posted by harrgt44 at 11:23 AM on November 11, 2011


Okay this looks like a giant dong not Darth Vader.

Also I just had to close eight new browser windows trying to browse that site.
posted by griphus at 11:24 AM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's not an eyesore, because its ugly. It's an eyesore, because a shopping mall developer is sticking his thumb in the eye of every passing pedestrian, disabled or otherwise.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:24 AM on November 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


a few minutes at Google maps suggests to be that S Temple and N 5th St Highway do not actually intersect.

Well, yes they do, since 5th St Highway = US Rt 222 Bus, but I don't see this particular crosswalk there.
posted by aught at 11:25 AM on November 11, 2011


I've got a number of handicap ramps that lead to nowhere in my neighborhood. I assumed it was a grant/sinecure thing. My favorite is the one that leads into a ditch.
posted by lysdexic at 11:25 AM on November 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


There's a link to that intersection on google streetview in the Greater Greater Washington link.
posted by entropone at 11:27 AM on November 11, 2011


It looks to me that there is a sidewalk on either side of the crosswalk, but the photos are just taken at an angle to make it seem like there is a dead end. If it is a long street, and a long way between safe crossable intersections, I'm not sure what the problem is.
posted by jabberjaw at 11:27 AM on November 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


I believe that this development was built after the Street View car drove through...
posted by schmod at 11:27 AM on November 11, 2011


You should see the brand spanking new crosswalks -- complete with the nubby, brick colored ramps -- that the City of Detroit installed in abandoned crack neighborhoods. Because no one should be prevented from getting their crack if they're in a wheelchair.
posted by Kokopuff at 11:28 AM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


This doesn't make any sense at all. This is clearly not directly across the street from this; the sidewalk we're viewing from is clearly complete.

Somebody's reaching really far to be a curmudgeon, as bad as that crosswalk may seem.
posted by koeselitz at 11:29 AM on November 11, 2011 [21 favorites]


Not clear why they had to build a crosswalk but not a sidewalk.

I think it's just a two part thing:

1) Crosswalks are useful even if there are no sidewalks. Because a person can walk along the road, but it is still hard to cross without a crosswalk.

2) Crosswalks must be ADA now, because otherwise no one would do it. Sidewalks are not mandated though.

Combine those two, and you get this.
posted by smackfu at 11:29 AM on November 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Misleading photo alert!
posted by 2bucksplus at 11:29 AM on November 11, 2011


Martin Kippenberger's Psychobuildings.
posted by R. Mutt at 11:29 AM on November 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


The offending crosswalk on Google street view. Yikes.
posted by aught at 11:30 AM on November 11, 2011 [14 favorites]


Greater greater Washington link has a google maps link for the intersection. The eyesore link is a bit misleading since the two pics he use aren't directly connected. They are however part of a a set of crosswalks for a 4 way intersection where none of the crosswalks actually connect to a sidewalk. surprised he didn't include pics of all 4 points since it looks even more absurd when you see the entire thing.
posted by cnelson at 11:30 AM on November 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


That Greater Greater Washington link discusses pedestrian safety in diverging diamond intersections. The fifth DDI in America is in a town near me; I drove through this intersection today at lunch. There is no way for a pedestrian to get through this intersection without walking in a traffic lane, and the lanes are not wide enough for a cyclist to comfortably navigate it either. The DDI, as implemented here, is a complete failure for anyone not in a car.
posted by workerant at 11:30 AM on November 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Holy shit. I almost just had a panic attack looking at the street view of this intersection. Filing it away as Exhibit A for next time I need to remember why I continue living in New York with all the little indignities it entails.

WHY WON'T YOU LET ANYONE WALK ANYWHERE, AMERICA?
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 11:30 AM on November 11, 2011 [14 favorites]


Because no one should be prevented from getting their crack if they're in a wheelchair.

?? So folks in wheelchairs that live in an undesirable neighborhood can suck it, because everyone around there is only there to score crack.
posted by edgeways at 11:31 AM on November 11, 2011 [29 favorites]


Because no one should be prevented from getting their crack if they're in a wheelchair.

Wow.
posted by aught at 11:32 AM on November 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


This doesn't make any sense at all. This is clearly not directly across the street from this; the sidewalk we're viewing from is clearly complete.

Somebody's reaching really far to be a curmudgeon, as bad as that crosswalk may seem.


The photo is taken from a pedestrian island.

And the intersection exists.

here's a link to the google streetview for those who couldn't be bothered to RTFA.
posted by entropone at 11:32 AM on November 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


It needs button activated crosswalk traffic signals. Then a mobility-impaired person could travel there by wheelchair accessible bus and while away the afternoon stopping traffic from either side.
posted by ceribus peribus at 11:36 AM on November 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


There's something about the crankiness and the site design (both of which have already been mentioned) that almost makes that site give me a warm and fuzzy nostalgic feeling as if it's from the days of an Internet gone by.

I agree with his points, but I feel like it's a lot more complicated than any three paragraphs are going to give us. Maybe I'm a shmuck, but I'd rather live in a world where developers are forced to put in the ramps and crosswalks for sidewalks they won't build (usually for safety/traffic issues) and might build later than in one where nothing is attempted at all.

(Of course most of all, I'd rather live in the world where safe sidewalks are just as mandatory but until then...)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:37 AM on November 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Maybe I'm a shmuck, but I'd rather live in a world where developers are forced to put in the ramps and crosswalks for sidewalks they won't build (usually for safety/traffic issues) and might build later than in one where nothing is attempted at all.

Agreed, but I hate living in a world where those are our choices.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 11:38 AM on November 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


entropone: “The photo is taken from a pedestrian island... here's a link to the google streetview for those who couldn't be bothered to RTFA.”

What in god's name are you talking about? TFA says absolutely nothing about pedestrian islands. Did you RTFA?
posted by koeselitz at 11:39 AM on November 11, 2011


Yeah, the problem is not that the crosswalks are required, the problem is that an actively pedestrian-hostile development like that Target is perfectly legal.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 11:39 AM on November 11, 2011 [24 favorites]


I'd like to think of this as a suburban meditative space, like a physical Zen koan.
posted by swift at 11:40 AM on November 11, 2011 [22 favorites]


Strip malls and Targets always have sidewalks directly in front of the store (between the parking lot and the store.) Has anyone ever tried connecting those together, so that the sidewalk exists and is useful, but is just not next to the street?
posted by smackfu at 11:41 AM on November 11, 2011


Not clear why they had to build a crosswalk but not a sidewalk. Do the applicable regs really require ADA access to areas with no sidewalks?

It depends on the State ADA codes. But in the currently adopted 2010 ADAAG (federal ADA guidelines that all states have to follow), Section 35.151 (i) - Curb ramps reads:

(1) Newly constructed or altered streets, roads and highways must contain curb ramps or other sloped areas at any intersection having curbs or other barriers to entry from a street level pedestrian walkway.

(2) Newly constructed or altered street level pedestrian walkways must contain curb ramps or other sloped areas at intersections to streets, roads or highways.

So, the developer took to the letter of the code in (2) because it is less expensive to install the ramp than the potential legal costs from litigious groups who do nothing but sue developers...they exist and it's a real problem.

ADA is about the law. It has never had anything to do with common sense.
posted by Benway at 11:42 AM on November 11, 2011


You should see the brand spanking new crosswalks -- complete with the nubby, brick colored ramps -- that the City of Detroit installed in abandoned crack neighborhoods. Because no one should be prevented from getting their crack if they're in a wheelchair.

This is such a bizarrely short-sighted and uncharitable interpretation of the phenomenon that I can only surmise you live and/or work in the suburbs of Metro Detroit.

I would love to be proven wrong, though. Not holding my breath. Just classic suburban / exurban bullshit. In fact, if I did not know any better, I would surmise you live and/or shop in areas that look an awful lot like the eyesore linked here.

Sooooo, yeah.
posted by joe lisboa at 11:49 AM on November 11, 2011 [12 favorites]


Looking at the street view that shows the 4 dead-ending crosswalks, it does look like there could theoretically someday be sidewalks there. It would still be a pretty terrifying intersection to walk through though.
posted by ghharr at 11:50 AM on November 11, 2011


I'm finding this guy has to stretch quite a ways to be grumpy. Example eyesore of a fire station.
Presenting the new General Schuyler Emergency Squad headquarters in Northumberland, New York, about six miles east of Saratoga Springs. This monster truck garage with attached playrooms represents exactly the kind of political decision that we should not be making now – sinking a million bucks or more into automobile and truck infrastucture in the twilight of motoring. In ten years or less, this building will be obsolete.
Yes, I'm quite sure that in 10 years or less we will no longer need fire trucks or ambulances, or buildings to store them. Uh huh.
All that is apart from the awkward ugliness of the building itself and the atrocious color motif: corpse gray with veinous red.
It's a gray building with a maroon roof. Should the local government have painted it it pink and orange? Would that have met his standards? It's a freaking fire station! What a boring asswipe.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 11:50 AM on November 11, 2011 [16 favorites]


the potential legal costs from litigious groups who do nothing but sue developers...they exist and it's a real problem.

Yeah, how dare they expect to be treated like they're equal to us norms!
posted by Horace Rumpole at 11:52 AM on November 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


I used to be a city planner.


.... used to be.
posted by humboldt32 at 11:53 AM on November 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Example eyesore of a fire station.

Backstory. Funny thing is that they had been trying to build a new HQ for ten years. And "Meanwhile, the original firm creating plans for the building couldn’t keep costs in line with the emergency squad’s budget, so they were scrapped, too." So that building pretty much looks like what it is, the cheapest option to house a bunch of ambulances.
posted by smackfu at 11:59 AM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah some of the "eyesores" are stupid. That fire station is ugly because it was almost certainly built to achieve the most interior square footage for the smallest amount of money. So you get a pretty basic steel frame and cinder-block curtain wall structure. It's grey because that's probably the least offensive color that the blocks come in.

Presumably with a few extra hundred thou they could have built something that would be more to his liking ... although since he doesn't seem to think that we'll have fire trucks or ambulances in the near future, maybe that's still impossible.

I really want to know how, in his version of the future, the firefighters are going to get to his house when it goes up. Perhaps they'll take the bus?
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:00 PM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


"...the potential legal costs from litigious groups who do nothing but sue developers...they exist and it's a real problem."

Yeah, developers haven't yet gotten the message. I agree, its a real problem.
posted by Blasdelb at 12:04 PM on November 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


Reminds me of Cycle Facility of the Month
posted by pixie at 12:11 PM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Not clear why they had to build a crosswalk but not a sidewalk. Do the applicable regs really require ADA access to areas with no sidewalks? "

A lot of these kinds of monstrosities occur because of phased developments. Frequently a large builder will purchase a property, then develop parts of it and sell the other parts to other builders. The roads go in first, and pedestrian facilities go in because they are mandated. Then the subdevelopers come in, build a shopping center - but they have no requirement to connect to any of the pedestrian facilities. So they don't.

ADA mandates accessibility, and specifies how accessible facilities are to be built. There is little to no guidance on the "usability", feasibility, or what you might call "common sense". Though ADA is Federal law, it's all implemented by local municipal agencies. They have no discretion on whether or not the law applies; it always applies. The law is broad by design, and detailed by necessity, but there is no way it could account for all the possible scenarios. Local discretion is required.

The fundamental problem is that municipal staff are overwhelmed with regulatory requirements, and they don't have the time to hand hold a developer through a process that requires even minimal thought and effort. Add to that the staffer who has had his ass chewed up one side and down the other because he took the time to make a common sense allowance, and now his boss is getting into hot water because another developer on a different project is threatening to sue the city for not permitting them to implement something that is similar, but not entirely analogous, and you get staff who are boxed in.

There are myriad other reasons, but once something is codified - in any fashion - people will hew to it as "the standard". Never mind if the standard is poor, inadequate, or incomplete (though ADA is none of those), people do not want to be called into court and have to explain why in this case, where Auntie Smith fell and broke her hip, they did not adhere to "the standard".

As an example, a couple of decades ago, some folks came up with something called WUCOLS. Water Use Classification Of Landscape plants. In the preface to the document, the authors explained that the classification system wasn't rigorous and had not been proven, that plants will do things that are unexpected, the usual disclaimers, etc. What struck me is that they expressly prohibited the use of WUCOLS as a standard model or template.

Within a year, most cities in Southern California were requiring plants proposed by developers/architects be restricted to certain sections of WUCOLS. It's now a standard.

It's not that municipal staff are stupid. It's that they are basically working under a microscope. There is always some gadfly, guardian of the people, waiting to pounce on every perceived civil failure. Eventually staff figures out that they don't have to constantly be harassed for making common sense decisions, all they have to do is point at "the standard" and say they followed it. It's the equivalent of saying "Shut the fuck up, that's why."

Honestly, I think many of them secretly relish the stupid little things that baffle and annoy everyone else.
posted by Xoebe at 12:16 PM on November 11, 2011 [12 favorites]


Dude leads off a post with Portents of winter and the toothless chatter of flag-draped traitors vies with a fog of lies spread...

What kind of asshole writes like that?
posted by xmutex at 12:17 PM on November 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


I actually like the fire station in some ways. It's not pretty, but it's practical and has a consistent architectural language. The garage is arguably the most important part of the building, and the high roof gable clearly marks it as the main part. The smaller human-size bumpout on the front with the human-size door next to it is immediately obvious as the place for a human to walk in. Cinderblock walls and steel roofs aren't pretty, but it's not too hideous, and it'll last with little maintenance for a long time. Plant some trees & edge gardens around the building and it won't look half bad.
posted by echo target at 12:19 PM on November 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


"eyesore" is a word popular with cranky philistines. The word contains its own assumption that everything should soothe the eyes, a threadbare notion of Beauty if there ever was one.
posted by Rich Smorgasbord at 12:20 PM on November 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


Mister Fabulous: "I'm finding this guy has to stretch quite a ways to be grumpy. Example eyesore of a fire station."

I had a feeling this was going to be posted.

Here's my spin on why that building sucks: It's not the building itself, but rather the fire department and small-town mentality that got it built... I think I grew up in a similar town. It's a huge and brand-spanking new building in a town of 4500 people — a town that's barely is large enough to need its own emergency services, but is on the borderline of needing a department due to the fact that it's isolated and sparsely populated.

However, this (volunteer) department always gets the best of the best. After all, you can do that when you don't have to worry about personnel costs (ignoring the fact that there are very significant personnel costs associated with a volunteer department). Similarly, because firefighting is a Real American pastime, the department's budget is never, ever scrutinized, even whilst budgets for parks and schools are slashed and gutted at every turn.

My town had 12,000 people, and 3 independently-operating fire departments, each of which had 2 ambulances and 3-4 trucks. Simply massive overkill. We rebuilt one of the firehouses a few years back, I think using some state stimulus money and the justification that the old firehouse was in a flood plain. Naturally, the new firehouse was built closer to the creek, at a lower elevation, and included some massive social facilities (and a full bar) for the members of the department that could be rented out at the FD's discretion. Halfway through the construction, major flaws were uncovered by the building inspector, and the contractor (who happened to be on the FD squad) was forced to tear down the unfinished building and rebuild it from scratch on the town's dime. When everything was said and done, the total cost of the building divided out to about $1,000 per person in the town (or $3k/household).

The real reason for this expensive building was that the department wanted a bigger truck.

To build the new facility, they purchased a plot of land adjacent to the old one, but ended up never using it. A few years later, somebody finally realized that they had purchased the plot simply so that a few of the members of the department could live rent-free in a house that was on the site. By this point, the FD more closely resembled an organized crime ring than a volunteer fire squad. Eventually, they were forced to restructure after one of the only females on the squad sued the department, and details about "the house" bubbled to the surface. I don't think that there were any lasting repercussions for anybody involved.

The biggest irony is that we could consolidate the 3 departments, hire professional firefighters, have better response times across the entire town, and save a boatload of money in the process. This option has never seriously been considered by the town, despite the fact that two separate state governors urged them to.

And, this isn't terribly uncommon. Small towns invariably have massively overfunded fire departments, while other civic facilities crumble around them. Don't get me wrong -- it's great that Rural America enjoys better civic services than any other 1st-world country, and I like nice buildings as much as the next guy. However, it might be time to start examining the costs vs the benefits. My bet is that this building was entirely unnecessary, and is going to be a huge burden to the taxpayers of that town for many years to come, whilst many other important civic facilities around the town are in an advanced state of disrepair.

This building doesn't suck because it's ugly (although they could have picked a better color scheme). It sucks because it has a huge parking lot, and is massive, massive overkill for a building that only needs to house 2 trucks and a small changing room.
posted by schmod at 12:22 PM on November 11, 2011 [14 favorites]


You think Kunstler is a crank about architecture, wait until you read him on Peak Oil. Or tattoos, for that matter.
posted by Trurl at 12:22 PM on November 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


Reminds me of the flag pole in center field at the Houston Astros stadium
posted by harrgt44

It's not a bug, it's a feature: "Three wall heights, various angles in the corners and power alleys, a 30-degree, uphill slope - "Tal's Hill" - for a center field warning track, and a flag pole in the field of play create unique actions for any ball that gets past an outfielder." Not to mention the train. Dang park has more "features" than a minature golf course.
posted by Standeck at 12:23 PM on November 11, 2011


Reading his blog, he seems like the kind of guy who just grinds you down with his constant complaining about every damn little SHUTUPSHUTUPSHUTUP! GAWD!
posted by dirigibleman at 12:25 PM on November 11, 2011


koeselitz: This doesn't make any sense at all. This is clearly not directly across the street from this; the sidewalk we're viewing from is clearly complete.

entropone: The photo is taken from a pedestrian island... here's a link to the google streetview for those who couldn't be bothered to RTFA.

koeselitz: What in god's name are you talking about? TFA says absolutely nothing about pedestrian islands. Did you RTFA?

TFA doesn't have to say anything about pedestrian islands, and I can't imagine how someone could make a logical leap far enough to think that it would. entropene was pointing out that you might have some idea what was going on if you actually read the links because one of them contains a link to a picture that shows the intersection very clearly, and then he linked said picture again so you wouldn't even have to click the article.

The two pictures are absolutely across the street from each other, and there are pedestrian islands between them. The pictures were taken from these pedestrian islands (which are NOT "clearly complete" sidewalks). Please read the links in the post before commenting.
posted by IAmUnaware at 12:27 PM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


You think Kunstler is a crank about architecture, wait until you read him on Peak Oil. Or tattoos, for that matter.

In the future where everyone is a gentleman farmer with many wives, people will have too much inherent good taste to even think about tattoos or this "rock music" you speak of.
posted by The Whelk at 12:27 PM on November 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Don't forget, a lot of "boondoggles" come from government money with spending restrictions.

"We'll give you 50% matching funds up to five million dollars. But you have to build a new fire station. You can't do something else with the money. It's for fire stations."

Then the city finds three million in another grant somewhere, that qualifies as "their own funds", so now they have at least six million total to spend, and if they cough up two million, they have a total budget of ten million. Not fucking bad. But they have to build a fire station.

Then the gadlfies flip out about it, saying the money could have been spent elsewhere.
posted by Xoebe at 12:31 PM on November 11, 2011


I sent the Street View links to my husband, who had a brief apoplexy and then said "Does Jim Kunstler know about this?! He probably could do a five hour rant on this intersection."

Kunstler is a coot and a crank, and often he's right. Sometimes he gets his social opprobrium outrage mixed up with his architectural outrage, though. The tattoo parlor eyesore just had me shaking my head and sighing.
posted by KathrynT at 12:32 PM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


schmod: "Eyesore of the Month previously on Metafilter."

A link in your FPP links to...YOUR FPP?
posted by mullingitover at 12:33 PM on November 11, 2011


ghharr wrote: Looking at the street view that shows the 4 dead-ending crosswalks, it does look like there could theoretically someday be sidewalks there. It would still be a pretty terrifying intersection to walk through though

Terrifying, really? You cross a turn bay to the island, wait for the light, cross to the other island, then the opposing turn bay. Annoying and very much car centered, but in no way terrifying.
posted by wierdo at 12:38 PM on November 11, 2011


It's easy, just like Frogger!
posted by swift at 12:41 PM on November 11, 2011




I'd join in piling-on this guy, and even if peak oil is real he seems to be pretty far off, but frankly it's kind of sad that not very many other people seem to recognize how damned ugly so much of the US is. I don't really get how people are OK with it. We're the richest country on earth.
posted by floam at 12:47 PM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oooh! Oooh! Someone explain to me the nubbly brick-colored ramps! We just got those when we got new sidewalks on my block, and I do not understand them and would like to understand them! Like my first thought was, traction for wheelchairs? But mostly they're just bumpy enough to tip over six-year-olds on bikes, not particularly traction-y.

I'm something of a connoisseur of curb-cuts and cross-walks, what with my frequent stroller use. We now have these cross-walks that are honeycomb-patterned too! (But yellow.) I do not understand why, but they're hella cool looking!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:47 PM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Eyebrows McGee, people who can't see can identify where the sidewalk and street crossings are with the bumps.
posted by floam at 12:50 PM on November 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


It provides a tactile indication for blind people that they're approaching an intersection.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:50 PM on November 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


The texture is for blind people, same as the chirpy noises.
posted by wierdo at 12:51 PM on November 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


WHY WON'T YOU LET ANYONE WALK ANYWHERE, AMERICA?

After visiting PARC in Palo Alto years agoi I decided that since it was such a nice day I'd walk back to my hotel in nearby Menlo Park. I was dressed for business. The sidewalks were nicely maintained. But I was the only one walking. Drivers passing by were staring at me as if I were from another planet. It was the strangest experience of my life.
posted by tommasz at 12:51 PM on November 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Why are they a different color than the rest of the sidewalk, if the nubbles are for the blind? Is it so the sighted don't trip on the nubbles? Are the nubbles now required by law everywhere or considered best practice or only done in certain areas?

Is nubbles a word?
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:56 PM on November 11, 2011


Also, my favorite part of the blocked in ramp is that you have to step into traffic in order to get around the retaining wall. Not a lot, maybe one step. And in exactly the place you would have to put your foot? There is a storm drain. ON EITHER SIDE!

I just picture a civic engineer giggling and stroking a cat.
posted by KathrynT at 12:56 PM on November 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


It provides a tactile indication for blind people that they're approaching an intersection.


Anyone know what happened with Urban Braille in Hamilton?
Hamilton’s UB system is founded on the well known Braille system, devised in 1821 by Louis Braille: a tactile alphabet used by blind individuals to read and write. Similarly, Hamilton’s UB System is a tactile series of markings in the pavement that communicate distinct clues such as pavement edge, change in direction, major building entrances, and warning of potential obstructions or danger.

The UB system includes nine (9) standard icons … of information serving the needs of the visually impaired and the physically challenged. By utilizing both colour and texture contrast, UB provides advisory and warning signals and guides related to orientation. It is a system that includes unobstructed, accessible major and minor pathways that guide physically challenged users through urban areas safely and comfortably.

UB serves the needs of the blind, the visually impaired, the elderly, the infirm, users of mobility devices such as wheelchairs and motorized scooters, in addition to the general public.
posted by zamboni at 12:57 PM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Kadin2048: "I really want to know how, in his version of the future, the firefighters are going to get to his house when it goes up. Perhaps they'll take the bus?"

I guess he assumes they'll all have one of these vehicles.
posted by vanar sena at 12:57 PM on November 11, 2011


Even in a society where driving is expensive and has curtailed quite a bit, you'd still expect emergency vehicles. Does he explain what he's thinking there anyplace? Perhaps one can imagine that in an urban area a full-blown firetruck isn't all that necessary, since there's hydrants most everywhere. Maybe firemen could get by with an SUV packed with the gear they need and hoses. Also, gigantic, fuel-guzzeling fire-trucks mostly respond to things that aren't fires anyhow.
posted by floam at 1:02 PM on November 11, 2011


Why are they a different color than the rest of the sidewalk, if the nubbles are for the blind? Is it so the sighted don't trip on the nubbles? Are the nubbles now required by law everywhere or considered best practice or only done in certain areas?

An awful lot of people with visual impairment - even those who are legally blind - have at least some sigh capability. Bright yellow may make sense.

Also, they're a different material than the sidewalk - rubberized stuff rather than concrete. It's not like they chose a different color paint for no reason.
posted by Tomorrowful at 1:02 PM on November 11, 2011


man we need more people at Crank:11

we need people at Crank:12
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 1:04 PM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is the same man who writes annual 6500-word forecast rants about how the year ahead will go, and in his rants, things will usually go apocalyptically. By contrast this rant about crosswalks seems relatively small change.
posted by blucevalo at 1:13 PM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


ANYONE can bitch about stuff to no useful purpose. What exactly has this guy ever done to improve the world around himself? I suggest he become the spokesperson (opps! I meant to say BIG STUDLY PR MAN) for the Tea Party.
posted by Sparkticus at 1:19 PM on November 11, 2011


"An awful lot of people with visual impairment - even those who are legally blind - have at least some sigh capability. Bright yellow may make sense. Also, they're a different material than the sidewalk - rubberized stuff rather than concrete. It's not like they chose a different color paint for no reason."

Well, around here they're brick red. I have no objection to them (and my toddler ADORES them), and I know they're a different material but you CAN get that material in a variety of colors -- I've looked at the samples for school renovation projects, I've just never had the nubbles explained to me and I'm terribly curious about them, and about the honey-comb-painted cross-walks :)

I'm also curious because our sidewalk renovation, in a quiet residential neighborhood, has the nubbly curb cuts at crosswalks, but some other renovations in core urban commercial areas haven't gotten the nubbles but just plain old curb cuts (like I have for my driveway). It could even just be different grants from different government bodies, I have no idea.

Again, I have no objection to any of it, I just wonder about it frequently when out on my walks, and it makes me curious! And I remembered I wondered about it when someone mentioned it upthread.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:22 PM on November 11, 2011



I really want to know how, in his version of the future, the firefighters are going to get to his house when it goes up. Perhaps they'll take the bus?


In the world of his cheesy dystopian book, they use horse-drawn wagons.

Why are they a different color than the rest of the sidewalk, if the nubbles are for the blind?

I have seen plenty of curb cuts where the nubs are formed directly in the concrete surface. On new sidewalk construction, though, I only see the rubber nubs; the stamped concrete may have been an interim option that isn't used often anymore.
posted by Forktine at 1:41 PM on November 11, 2011


What exactly has this guy ever done to improve the world around himself?

Well, to be fair, he's not just a coot with a blog. He's a fairly prolific author and public speaker.

I mean, he's ALSO a coot with a blog. But I don't think it's fair to say that he's just bitching with no useful purpose.
posted by KathrynT at 1:42 PM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


ANYONE can bitch about stuff to no useful purpose. What exactly has this guy ever done to improve the world around himself?

Oh, the delicious irony.
posted by adamdschneider at 1:43 PM on November 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


A lot of the "eyesore of the month" copy reminds me of all of those "big companies' web design sucks" sites. They seem to not take into account the amount of disparate needs that go into a project. When you can navigate all the red tape and still make something that doesn't look like a turd, then you're a great designer.
posted by roll truck roll at 1:43 PM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


You know, I agree with a lot of Eyesore Of The Month but DEAR GOD HE IS AT CRANK LEVEL 11. Even his text feels like being cornered at a party, unable to escape.

Hey dude, could you mefi it down a little?
posted by telstar at 1:45 PM on November 11, 2011


They seem to not take into account the amount of disparate needs that go into a project. When you can navigate all the red tape and still make something that doesn't look like a turd, then you're a great designer.

Well, I agree with you, but I think it is a valid and useful thing for someone to be pointing out that maybe our systems/red tape/organizational structures leave some room for improvement if they result in scenarios like these where competent people working hard are still unable to come up with something that doesn't suck.
posted by enn at 1:48 PM on November 11, 2011


ANYONE can bitch about stuff to no useful purpose. What exactly has this guy ever done to improve the world around himself?

As some folks have already said, Kunstler is well–known for writing about the built environment. To some he's third only to Jane Jacobs and Christopher Alexander.

I personally think Kunstler's good at diagnosing the problems, but his suggested remedies aren't particularly useful.
posted by Jehan at 1:49 PM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


i have to confess a kind of perverse affection for ugly brutalism

just sharp angles and glass and concrete
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 1:50 PM on November 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


James Howard Kunstler is a national treasure. I find it very hard to argue with him about architecture, slightly easier to argue with him about politics, but I like the way he thinks. He's critical of the status quo, and makes an Geography of Nowhere is a classic. See also posts tagged with Kunstler

I think Crank set to 11 is low. Kunstler operates at 10 times normal human Crank capacity.

Hidden in the crank is a lot of admiration for beauty, about well-made things, about environments that uplift people. I think it would be great to read him write about only the things that are right out there, even if they are going extinct.
posted by artlung at 1:52 PM on November 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


I think the nubbly curb cuts are not so that you can *see* them. I think the nubbly curb cuts are so that you can feel the nubbins in the bottoms of your feet, which is possible through even fairly thick-soled work boots. Even if you were stone blind, you could tell they were there. Just my $.02.
posted by which_chick at 1:53 PM on November 11, 2011


This, of course, alludes to you: "i have to confess a kind of perverse affection for ugly brutalism just sharp angles and glass and concrete"

I spend a lot of time in Le Corbusier's pet project city and let me tell you, it doesn't deal well with extreme temperatures and weathers really really badly.
posted by vanar sena at 1:54 PM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


vanar sena, that is because reality is inadequate and has failed

this enormous glass and steel box the city is to be enclosed in will eliminate this problem of "weather"
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 1:57 PM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


On the "nubbly" surfaces: they actually comes in a number of different textures. Spots or nubs for crossings; thin rounded lines for steps; and thick flat strips that are set perpendicular on different sides of the path, which I think indicates direction on a bidirectional path. I'm also under the impression that the colors are for partially–sighted people, but am unsure.
posted by Jehan at 1:58 PM on November 11, 2011


the potential legal costs from litigious groups who do nothing but sue developers...they exist and it's a real problem.

Your forgeting the legal costs when they try to prosecute some joker who shows up with pitons, carabiners and ropes to assault that retaining wall and actually attempt to walk to the bank.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 2:03 PM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


i have to confess a kind of perverse affection for ugly brutalism
just sharp angles and glass and concrete


I was all set to write a bit of industrial park porn here involving the constructing of a giant, animate, concrete phallus roaming the countryside, but the focus groups deemed it "damn creepy."

I think Crank set to 11 is low. Kunstler operates at 10 times normal human Crank capacity.

The scale is logarithmic.
posted by JHarris at 2:07 PM on November 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Why are they a different color than the rest of the sidewalk, if the nubbles are for the blind?

Well, in general, colored molded concrete is popular now because it is considered classier looking than just grey concrete but is a lot cheaper than real brick. So... maybe they just bought the wrong color of rubber nubble thingie.

I mean, I don't really think there are that many partially blind people that can tell pink from grey but can't tell road from sidewalk.
posted by smackfu at 2:14 PM on November 11, 2011


JHarris it is inappropriate to plagiarize jg ballard even if he never wrote it in this timeline
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 2:16 PM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I mean, I don't really think there are that many partially blind people that can tell pink from grey but can't tell road from sidewalk.

Sure, but the different color indicates where a person can cross. Identifying a dropped kerb and crosswalk button may be difficult when there are many driveways and lampposts nearby.
posted by Jehan at 2:24 PM on November 11, 2011


"ANYONE can bitch about stuff to no useful purpose. What exactly has this guy ever done to improve the world around himself? I suggest he become the spokesperson (opps! I meant to say BIG STUDLY PR MAN) for the Tea Party...."

...bitched Sparkticus, bitchedly.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:29 PM on November 11, 2011


Further the bumps should also let you know what angle you can leave the sidewalk at to get to the other side.
posted by floam at 2:31 PM on November 11, 2011


IAmUnaware: “Please read the links in the post before commenting.”

This is probably why we have awful walkways – an inability for people to communicate without being pretentious.
posted by koeselitz at 2:35 PM on November 11, 2011


I've met Kunstler and he is exactly this cranky in person. That said, I loved Geography of Nowhere and Home from Nowhere - those are a big reason I was inspired to get a degree in planning.
posted by desjardins at 2:38 PM on November 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think it's best if you read it in Al Pacino's voice.
posted by rhizome at 2:41 PM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just noting how tasteless I find it when loaded words like "holocaust," "lynching," "rape" or (as in the link) "abortion" are used to refer to things that are not literally holocausts, lynchings, rapes or abortions. The site's author's credibility fell significantly for me with that.
posted by Morrigan at 3:17 PM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


(Of course I understand that the term "Holocaust" is itself a metaphor, but it is so strongly associated with the horrors of the historical event that I included it as well.)
posted by Morrigan at 3:19 PM on November 11, 2011


AngryOPComment: I know this is a bit late, but the FPP was about urban design, crosswalks, and bad planning; not a referendum on Kunstler, whom is evidently very unpopular around here. How about we pretend I only linked to the GGW article, mkay?
posted by schmod at 3:36 PM on November 11, 2011


Morrigan: "Just noting how tasteless I find it when loaded words like "holocaust," "lynching," "rape" or (as in the link) "abortion" are used to refer to things that are not literally holocausts, lynchings, rapes or abortions."

I know he was probably going for shock value, but it's a totally valid use of the word.
posted by schmod at 3:44 PM on November 11, 2011


Kunstler's eyesore of the month page should be nominated for eyesore of the month. New windows for each page? for real dude? And WTFIU with that yellow table?

(I've been reading Kunstler for YEARS. I have email corresponded with him on our very similar views on petro-collapse, so I can say this without being asked if I know who he is.)
posted by roboton666 at 4:17 PM on November 11, 2011


Up near the monstrosity of a strip mall/regular mall wasteland that exists around here there are a few intersections that are clearly marked not for pedestrian crossings.. and yet there are curb cuts to nowhere, that boggle the mind.

(disclaimer: I am a huge proportionate for Universal Design, I think UD makes a lot of sense for a aging population when incorporated into public building and love the ease and sense it makes)
posted by edgeways at 4:36 PM on November 11, 2011



the potential legal costs from litigious groups who do nothing but sue developers...they exist and it's a real problem.

Yeah, how dare they expect to be treated like they're equal to us norms!


I hear you. You obviously have never encountered these groups. This meaningless crosswalk is installed because of their litigious nature. I hate developers. I hate the litigious groups. Common sense should prevail, but never will as AGAAG mandates at a federal level.
posted by Benway at 5:02 PM on November 11, 2011


There is always some gadfly, guardian of the people, waiting to pounce on every perceived civil failure. Eventually staff figures out that they don't have to constantly be harassed for making common sense decisions, all they have to do is point at "the standard" and say they followed it. It's the equivalent of saying "Shut the fuck up, that's why."

This is presumably why our town of Garner (pop.20,000) pisses away so much money on consultants. Every few months we hear of some plans being drawn up or some development being researched for $50,000 or $125,000. The latest one is to answer the question "What do we do with the ConAgra factory given to the city for a community center?" The answer, you might be surprised, is not to turn it into a community center. You see after the Slim Jim factory blew up and killed 4 workers, ConAgra left town but not before giving us their lovely (unsaleable, filled with toxic waste, blown-up) factory which is located on a two lane road that can't take too much traffic. Oh, and they also gave the town $500,000 to build the community center. We have now spent $75,000 on a report that will advise us on what to do with the factory. I don't know how much money the town has spent so far on maintaining the grass. In a few years the $500,000 will be gone and we won't have to worry about it any more.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:26 PM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm so glad I work for the Feds, and not the State or City. We can muscle the contractors around, and force these non-sensical designs into actual useful changes.

It's too bad 'urban planner' is a non-existent title in the US.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:38 PM on November 11, 2011


This meaningless crosswalk is installed because of their litigious nature. I hate developers. I hate the litigious groups. Common sense should prevail, but never will as AGAAG mandates at a federal level.

No. They thought to themselves, against common sense, "They might force us to have a crosswalk, but by god they're not going to have a sidewalk!"
posted by JHarris at 7:10 PM on November 11, 2011


I didn't give this post much thought until I realized the site belonged to James Howard Kunstler. I want to second artlung's comment about The Geography of Nowhere. Fantastic book about how we got to, well, those crosswalks, sprawl, and giant flood plain-sized big box developments.
posted by gc at 7:46 PM on November 11, 2011


JHarris No. They thought to themselves, against common sense, "They might force us to have a crosswalk, but by god they're not going to have a sidewalk!"

True, but ADAAG prevails. Sad as it is.
posted by Benway at 7:48 PM on November 11, 2011


schmod writes "However, this (volunteer) department always gets the best of the best. After all, you can do that when you don't have to worry about personnel costs (ignoring the fact that there are very significant personnel costs associated with a volunteer department). Similarly, because firefighting is a Real American pastime, the department's budget is never, ever scrutinized, even whilst budgets for parks and schools are slashed and gutted at every turn."

Not the states but around here a VFD will often have more of a budget than other municipal services like parks (not so much schools because funding for those is at the provincial level) because without a FD your insurance rates skyrocket. So people are willing to spend several hundred dollars a year to save several thousand on fire insurance (or qualify for it at all).

And really free of some sort of corruption context I don't see much wrong with that building. It's the sort of low maintenance, long lasting building you want to house volunteer services. The only thing I'd change would be the addition of a concrete apron in front of the doors long enough to hold a fire truck; I bet that asphalt will be rutted well before it would otherwise need replacement.
posted by Mitheral at 8:07 PM on November 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Perhaps one can imagine that in an urban area a full-blown firetruck isn't all that necessary, since there's hydrants most everywhere. Maybe firemen could get by with an SUV packed with the gear they need and hoses. Also, gigantic, fuel-guzzeling fire-trucks mostly respond to things that aren't fires anyhow.

Dispatching a smaller vehicle first — something that is done in some jurisdictions, incidentally — is certainly doable, but does come at a bit of a cost. If you do that every time you'll definitely save fuel most of the time, but the one time in 100 or 1000 when the guy in the SUV drives up and finds flames creeping up the walls, the extra few minutes to get a real engine there might make the difference between saving the building (and possibly occupants) and not. Whether that risk is worth the fuel savings is a legitimate question in terms of the level of services that a community wants.

And actually the type of vehicle you are describing exists in the form of the mini-pumper. They are basically big SUVs with relatively small (350-500 GPM) pumps and sometimes foam systems. They're not unpopular and are basically an urban version of "brush trucks" used for putting out brushfires.

But it all needs to happen in the context of other tradeoffs in emergency services, because there are other, similar decisions to be made. E.g., is it worth having a Paramedic dispatched on every medical call, even the basic ones, in order to catch the rare, unanticipated case where their training might make a difference in outcome? There are places in the U.S. which are, or are moving towards, doing exactly that, but others moving in the opposite direction. I'm not sure there's any clear answer.

Given that we're struggling with rather fundamental questions like those, the buildings that house the equipment seem to be the least of the problem, just one that happens to be externally visible.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:21 PM on November 11, 2011


Thanks to alla y'all pointing out that those nubbly curbcuts are useful to visually impaired folks. As a user of a manual wheelchair, I really loathe those goddam nubbles. I have to pop a wheelie to get over some of them. Also I tend to make a running start up the incline to have enough momentum to make it all the way up without rolling back, and when I hit those nubbles it just about throws me out of my chair. So I'm glad they're good for someone cuz they sure as shit suck for wheelchair users.

Another things that "cracks" me up is all these newly installed glossy curbcuts that lead to totally buckled and cracked sidewalks... In my neighborhood I usually roll the street since the sidewalks are so inadequate...bypassing all those shiny nice curbcuts.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 11:45 PM on November 11, 2011


I find this whole post really strange. Yes, the crossing is ugly, but from the google maps it looks like the sidewalk and ramps were designed to connect the pedestrian islands to a strip of land which had yet to be developed. Then, the developers on the receiving end of the sidewalk both said "yeah, we don't need that pedestrian access" and just blocked off the crosswalk. The way the pictures are framed is very misleading, suggesting that the crosswalk directly connects the two images - which it does not. Each side connects to a node, which is far less ridiculous.

So the asshole, really, is not the people who made the crosswalk, but the people who developed the plot of land on the other side.

For good measure, I would like to state that the person running that aesthetic- and content-poor blog is a dink who fails to understand the meaning of the word "eyesore".
posted by molecicco at 3:47 AM on November 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Lots of hating on Kunstler, who's been blogging for a decade now, and even has his own tag around these here parts.

I don't know that it's relevant that the photos are two ends of a chain rather than a single crosswalk across a short distance -- if anything that demonstrates more profoundly that this is a major intersection where pedestrian traffic might realistically appear. Nor do we need to split hairs about whether the developer or the city engineers or the "rules" are to blame. It's a terrible outcome and all involved should be ashamed. I know in my city we have a pretty forward-thinking planning and engineering staff and this probably would not happen -- but we still have outcomes that are a little goofy, such as the gas station on one development that didn't want a competing gas station on the plot just adjacent in another development, leading to them trying to prevent the city from extending the frontage road. Even when everyone is forward-thinking, these things happen, but ideally a cooperative approach would at least allow for some provision of pedestrian access.

Anyway, I wondered if this was a sort of boundary problem, where jurisdiction of the city only goes so far or something, and it appears that really this isn't the City of Reading -- it's the borough of Laureldale, pop. 3911, and presumably not able to afford its own planning department as well as being short of any kind of municipal planning authority. It might be up to the county. Generally looks like suburban hell levels of growth on freshly plowed-under farmland. Most likely the merchants building there like it for the low property (maybe evne sales) taxes and other economic calculations. It's a shame, but maybe they'll learn eventually.
posted by dhartung at 5:53 AM on November 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Doesn't this make sense as a bus stop in an environment where you only have a sidewalk on one side of the street? Get on/off on the far side of the street there, and cross at the crosswalk as needed to/from the accessible side?
posted by jpziller at 5:04 PM on November 12, 2011


I was all angry about someone blogging about poor engineering and usability design, when his website is about as monstrous as it could possibly be without being rigged to spontaneously play MIDI files. But then I saw that he was hating on The Shard and I warmed to the guy. That thing is right next to my workplace, and it's straight out of a dystopian SciFi novel, no editing. I have no words for how vile it is.
posted by Acheman at 9:14 AM on November 15, 2011


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