GLOVERSVILLE -- New pedestrian "bumpouts" are coming to downtown Gloversville, only this time they won't be made of hay bales.
The city was recently awarded a $660,000 state grant as part of a $62 million Pedestrian Safety Action Plan for upstate New York and Long Island.
Mayor Dayton King said the money in Gloversville will largely go to fund permanent concrete pedestrian bumpouts.
"Essentially, they're going to slow people down," King said. "Since I've been mayor, people have always complained that people are flying down Main Street, [saying] 'when are you going to slow people down? Why don't you put a sign out there?'
"Well, we did put a sign up that said 'Watch for crosswalk', but those signs got stolen, and I don't think those signs really slowed anybody down," the mayor said.
The purpose of the concrete bumpouts, also known as curb extensions, is essentially to extend the sidewalk, narrow the street and allow pedestrians and vehicles to see each other more easily, without vehicles in the parking lanes blocking the line of sight.
In April, just prior to the "Placemaking 101" conference in downtown Gloversville, temporary bumpouts, made of hay bales, were placed downtown, creating some confusion and controversy as images of the hay bales went viral online.
Jennifer Jennings, the Fulton County Center for Regional Growth's downtown development specialist, said the concrete bumpouts will achieve the purpose of "traffic calming."
"The bumpouts pull pedestrians out from beyond the parked cars, in a safe manner," she said. "Bumpouts do not go out into the normal driving lanes, so they don't go beyond the parking spaces."
"It helps to calm the traffic, because it looks as though the street has been narrowed, so the cars should slow down," Jennings said. "Walkability is one of the most important things that people are looking for in urban environments, especially younger people who are looking to move into urban cores."
The concrete bumpouts are one part of a pedestrian safety plan developed for downtown Gloversville by Greenman-Pederson Inc. and is targeted at improvements from Gloversville's Four Corners intersection of North and South Main Street and East and West Fulton Street to Prospect Avenue.
Some of the other safety improvements that are expected to be paid for through the grant include: High Intensity Activated crosswalk beacons, the retiming of traffic signals, a raised pedestrian median refuge, reflective signs and higher visibility crosswalks.
Some debate exists over how to approach the higher visibility crosswalks. Jennings said some cities she's studied have successfully used painted murals at the crosswalks.
"Across the country, and across the world, many urban centers have something called creative crosswalks, and they are another way of calming traffic. They break the line of sight, so you slow down when you are driving. Anything that breaks the line of sight, so it's not just one lone corridor from light to light, helps with traffic calming," she said. "We've looked at different possibilities. We haven't decided on any specific strategy yet."
King said he's somewhat skeptical of the painted mural idea, concerned that some people might linger in the crosswalk.
"We're trying to do things in a way that won't look terrible," he said. "If we paint flowers, or something kind of cool in the middle of a crosswalk, I think that's bad because somebody might be admiring how cool the crosswalk is and then get crushed by somebody driving who's texting on their phone."
Jennings said the data from other cities show that creative crosswalks don't lead to people being hit by cars -- she said one design used in Baltimore even included a hopscotch configuration -- but she said there are more conservative "high visibility" creative crosswalk designs the city could use that might include a "pressed brick" design that uses bright colors.
"We've been looking at different avenues for this, if it's painted the paint usually lasts one season, with the roads and the salt and plows and that, so it would have to be redone every year. That's why we're looking at the pressed brick, because that lasts longer," she said.
The city has not yet determined the timetable for when the safety improvements will be put in place.