Concord plan offers a ‘menu’ of improvements for pedestrians

  • Cars pass through the intersection at 344 Loudon Road outside Walmart in Concord on Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. Seven pedestrians were struck near the store between 2005 and 2015, with two each in 2013 and 2014. Six of the accidents resulted in injury.  Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Pedestrians cross the street at the traffic light near 203 Loudon Road in Concord on Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. Two bicyclists and three pedestrians were struck by vehicles near the Salisbury Green apartment complex between 2005 and 2015. All of the accidents resulted in injuries. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Cars pass through the intersection of Loudon and Fort Eddy Roads in Concord on Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. The intersection saw at least seven accidents betwen pedestrians and bicyclists betwen 2005 and 2015, with a spike of three in 2010. Five of the accidents involved bicycles, two involved pedestrians. All of the accidents resulted in injuries, according to NHDOT data. Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • A car exits the McDonald's at 117 Loudon Road as traffic drives by in Concord on Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. Three bicyclists and one pedestrian were struck along the road between 2005 and 2015. All four accidents resulted in injury. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Cars move through the intersection of Court Street and 196 N. Main St., at the Cumberland Farms gas station in Concord on Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. Four pedestrians and one bicyclist were struck by cars in the area between 2005 and 2015. Two people were struck along the road, two were in an intersection, and one was in the parking lot. Four of the incidents resulted in injuries. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Vehicles pass through the intersection of Pleasant Street and Langley Parkway outside Concord Hospital in Concord on Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. Five pedestrians and one bicyclist were struck by vehicles in the area between 2005 and 2015. All six resulted in injuries. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 12/10/2016 11:28:02 PM

In surveys over the past year and a half, Concord pedestrians said they had unpleasant or dangerous experiences crossing Loudon Road, Main Street and some of its parallels downtown.

And in data collected by the state’s Department of Transportation, these streets were frequently the location of incapacitating car-versus-pedestrian crashes that send an average of six people to the hospital each year in the city.

Three pedestrians and a cyclist were killed by vehicles in Concord between 2002 and 2015, according to DOT data. Since then, a pedestrian and a man in a wheelchair were also fatally struck.

To minimize these incidents in the future, a Concord transportation subcommittee recently finished a draft of its Pedestrian Master Plan, which offers “a menu of options” to make the city more safe, accessible and pleasant for walkers, said Craig Tufts, a transportation planner for the Central New Hampshire Planning Commission and lead writer of the plan.

The 27-page document, with its accompanying maps and surveys, was created by the pedestrian subcommittee of the Transportation Policy Advisory Committee after a trio of public meetings and a survey. Slated to go before the full transportation committee this week, it’s at the beginning of a process that could end in its adoption into the city’s master plan.

“Because we’re just a little subcommittee, we’re trying not to do anything too controversial or groundbreaking. We’re just trying to make it a resource detailing what we found in talking to the community,” said Tufts, who is also a TPAC member.

Police data may add some urgency to the discussion. From 2009 to 2015, a pedestrian or cyclist was struck by a vehicle every 10 days on average in the city, with roughly one-third of those incidents qualifying as “incapacitating.”

As recently as Oct. 31, an 83-year-old woman was killed crossing Loudon Road on her way to church. And a homeless man died after his wheelchair was struck in January while traveling next to an unplowed, state-owned sidewalk.

As snow fell earlier this week, neither the city nor the state budged to clear that sidewalk, which falls along the most direct route between the soup kitchen and downtown resources for homeless residents.

Main Street as an example

The newly designed Main Street stands as an example of many of the recommendations the plan outlines to make other downtown thoroughfares safer.

For instance, the plan proposes that “bump-outs,” which are extensions of the curb designed to shorten crossing distances, improve visibility for pedestrians and calm traffic, could be used on Centre Street, Green Street, S. State Street, Storrs Street and Broadway.

This feature, along with more visible crosswalks, is used throughout Main Street; the plan points to 22 locations downtown that might also benefit.

So-called “lead pedestrian interval crossings,” which give pedestrians better visibility to cars by activating the walk signal before the traffic light turns green are also recommended in five downtown intersections. These push-button devices already exist at the intersection of Pleasant Street and Main Street.

Loudon Road challenges

On Loudon Road, where more cars crash into pedestrians and cyclists than any other city street, the master plan stands by a now-rejected proposal to eliminate one lane of traffic.

The so-called “Loudon Road diet,” which proved controversial for fears that it would amplify traffic congestion, called for four lanes of traffic to be reduced to three, including a center, two-way turning lane. This would calm traffic and allow room for refuge islands in the center of the road to help pedestrians, the plan says.

Tufts said the discussion about this configuration was happening while the plan was being written, and although he still recommends the three-lane option, he recognizes that it’s “not going to be in the foreseeable future.”

The city council voted down the changes to Loudon Road in September, but planners are still considering ways to tackle undesirable sidewalk elements along the street. The master plan describes these as frequent driveways that break up sidewalk continuity, the lack of a buffer from heavy traffic, buildings set far away from the sidewalk with parking in front and a lack of street trees or vegetation.

“Loudon Road suffers from many of these issues,” it says.

Roundabouts and shared streets

The plan incorporates some eye-catching elements that are already scheduled within the city’s capital improvement plan. These include three new roundabouts.

One, located at the intersection of Mountain Road and East Side Drive, is planned for construction.

Two others are suggested to boost safety at popular pedestrian crossings, where people have been injured in recent years, according to a study of vehicle-pedestrian crashes.

The first is at the intersection of Pleasant, Warren and Fruit streets, adjacent to the high school. Within a block of this intersection, according to the study, two people were left “incapacitated” after being struck between 2005 and 2015. A roundabout, which would replace the existing signals, would offer potential for safer crossings, better access to Pleasant Street and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the plan says.

The other is in the area of McKee Square, where South, West and Clinton streets meet with Broadway. Safety issues exist at these locations for all road users, the plan says, which could be addressed through a roundabout, potential refuge island and bump-outs.

Another interesting suggestion is the expansion “shared streets,” which often use bricks or cobblestone to convey to vehicles that they’re “guests” in a pedestrian focused-space. This is used on Odd Fellows Avenue, which runs through Bicentennial Square, and could be adopted along the adjacent Warren Street between Main Street and N. State Street, or on Low Avenue.

Sidewalk plowing

Without any construction at all, one way the city could improve pedestrians’ lives would be to focus more energy on plowing sidewalks, the plan says.

The city’s policy is to plow roadways first and then begin on sidewalks, with the exception of Main Street sidewalks, which are cleared during storms. All other sidewalks are cleared on a “priority level basis,” it says, with routes to schools and the Friendly Kitchen getting early treatment, followed by major arterial roads.

“The current policies and practices for snow and ice removal favor roadway maintenance for motor vehicle travel over all other road users,” the plan says.

While the plan recommends the city reconsider the “streets first” policy, and potentially using overtime to address sidewalks, Tufts said he understands that the city council has previously rejected a plan to spend more money to ensure safe routes to school are plowed for Monday mornings.

“It’s a conversation we have to have,” he said. “What can be done is really dependent on the resources we put into it as a community.”

The plan progression

Still in its early stages, the draft plan will be presented to the full TPAC on Thursday. Tufts said that committee may decide to send it on to the planning board for possible adoption into the city’s master plan.

The plan and other associated documents can be accessed at

(Nick Reid can be reached at 369-3325, or on Twitter at @NickBReid.)

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