John Mack - Newtown Supervisor
Public Safety Category

Crosswalk Visibility Study

The subject of crosswalk visibility came up in a conversation I recently had with a Bucks County Courier Times reporter. We were talking about the recent pedestrian death while using the crosswalk at N Sycamore St and Silo Drive (read “Sycamore Street Is Popular, But Is It Safe?”). It was suggested that the brick crosswalk (see photo below) is difficult for drivers to see at night.

A view of the crosswalk at the N Sycamore and Silo Dr intersection.
Is there a visibility problem with this type of crosswalk?

I’m no expert on the visibility of crosswalks, but the people at the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Texas Transportation Institute are. In 2010, these experts investigated the relative daytime and nighttime visibility of three crosswalk marking patterns: transverse lines (e.g., like the crosswalks on N Sycamore St), continental, and bar pairs (see figure below).

These markings are used in conjunction with signs and other measures to alert road users to a designated pedestrian crossing point. Although the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) contains basic information about crosswalk markings, many municipalities develop practices that are not discussed in the MUTCD.

The following is a synopsis of a “TechBrief” of the 2010 Crosswalk Marking Field Visibility Study.

The Study
The three crosswalk marking patterns studied.

In this study, participants drove an instrumented vehicle on a route through the Texas A&M University campus in College Station, TX. The route provided an open road environment that included portions in a typical college setting (e.g., sidewalks, buildings, basketball arena) and roads through the agricultural area of the campus, which were more rural in feel. Roadway lighting was present at each of the crosswalk locations. The study vehicle was equipped with instrumentation that allowed the researchers to measure and record various driving performance data. However, the vehicle operated and drove like a normal vehicle.

Conclusions

The detection distances to continental and bar pairs are statistically different from transverse markings. A general observation is that the continental marking was detected at about twice the distance upstream as the transverse marking during daytime conditions (see figure below). This increase in distance reflects 8 seconds of increased awareness of the crossing for a 30-mph operating speed.

This figure from the study shows the most relevant result: Traverse-type crosswalks like those on N Sycamore St are less visible than the continental and bar pairs designs.
Recommendation

Based on the findings from this research, the researchers recommended that municipalities consider making bar pairs or continental the “default” for all crosswalks across uncontrolled approaches (i.e., not controlled by signals or stop signs), with exceptions allowing transverse lines where engineering judgment determines that such markings would be adequate, such as a location with low-speed residential streets.

Painting continental markings (bars) over the brick crosswalks on N Sycamore St
could be an economical method of making them more visible to motorists.

 

Posted on 06 Jan 2022, 13:08 - Category: Public Safety

It's Time to Improve Pedestrian Safety on N Sycamore Street!

Newtown Township Police are investigating a Fatal Auto/Pedestrian crash, which occurred in the 200 block of N. Sycamore Street (at Silo Drive - which back in early November I labeled "A Dangerous Intersection").

The crash occurred on December 22, 2021 at approximately 11:04 pm. A male was struck while attempting to cross N. Sycamore Street using the crosswalk to catch an Uber with friends. 

Recent Significant Pedestrian Incidents reported by police (does not include car-only incidents):

  • 12-22-21 11:04pm 200 Block N. Sycamore Street Auto/Ped (In Crosswalk) - Fatal
  • 12-16-21 Durham & Sycamore Street Auto/Ped (In Crosswalk) - minor injuries
  • 10-22-21 Sycamore & Jefferson, Auto/Ped (Mid-block) – critical injuries
  • 09-21-20 Sycamore & Jefferson, Auto/Ped (In Crosswalk) – minor injuries
  • 05-04-19 Sycamore & Jefferson, Auto/Ped (Mid-block) - Fatal
Education of Drivers and Pedestrians

At the November 10, 2021, BOS public meeting, I asked Chief Hearn what could be done to improve the unsafe situation at N Sycamore St and Silo Dr. The Chief said “It comes down to educating the public. The public needs to know that they can’t cross outside of a crosswalk. Inside a crosswalk the cars are supposed to yield to them. Additional signage with lighting elements, that runs into an additional cost factor and involves ongoing maintenance and a liability factor if a bulb burns out and it’s not replaced in a timely manner. It’s a managed approach, but I believe education is the best way to go at this point.”

The Chief specifically mentioned that the Police Department will be distributing flyers to local businesses to hand out to customers.

Pedestrian Safety Weeks

I found an interesting discussion in the minutes of the May 26 2010 BOS meeting. At that meeting, the supervisors adopted Resolution 2010-R-9, presented by the Joint Traffic Committee, designating the week of May 28 – June 4 as “Newtown Pedestrian Safety Week”:

“Whereas Newtown Township and Newtown Borough have formed a Joint Newtown Traffic Committee (hereinafter the “Committee”; see below) with a goal to improve pedestrian safety; and

“Whereas, the Committee has outlined a program to educate both drivers and the public on pedestrian safety, especially the meaning of pedestrian crossing signs, through the assistance of our law enforcement officials; and

“Whereas the Committee has determined that improving pedestrian safety and adherence to posted speed limits will ultimately lead to safer streets that will benefit both residents and visitors to Newtown Township.

“Now, therefore, be it: Resolved, the week from May 28, 2010 – June 4, 2010 is declared and recognized as “Newtown Spring 2010 Pedestrian Safety Week.”

“Further, Resolved, the Newtown Township Police Department and Committee will collaborate on a program designed as a combination of education and enforcement, with the goal of raising awareness for both drivers and pedestrians for safety at crosswalks with signed sentinels and for adherence to posted speed limits during the Newtown Spring 2010 Safety Week.”

At the December 8, 2021, BOS public meeting, I proposed that Newtown adopt a similar resolution going forward. I mentioned that a week of educational activities would be more likely to be covered by local media than a one-time distribution of flyers. A Joint Newtown Traffic & Pedestrian Safety Committee" -- if we had one (which we don't - see below) -- could recommend educational and promotional activities for the week. 

Joint Newtown Traffic & Pedestrian Safety Committee Proposed

I would add at least one other suggestion: resurrection of a new version of the Joint Newtown Traffic Committee, which the BOS rejected to do at the July 14, 2021, Board of Supervisors meeting. The new committee should be named "The Joint Newtown Traffic & Safety Committee" so that the focus is safety as well as promoting multi-modal transportation. In fact, back in 2010, this committee made some of the same recommendations as the Chief mentioned above. For more on that, see my Notes for the December 8, 2021, BOS Meeting.

*Tim Szwedo, P.E., P.P., a Senior Project Engineer, notified me in a November 11, 2021, email that  when a McDonalds was proposed for the shopping center, a "traffic count for Silo Drive at N. Sycamore Street revealed that 95% of the traffic was turning right at this intersection. The 5% trying to turn left or to cross over to the Sycamore Grill side would cause excessive delays for all traffic and make drivers accept small gaps in traffic which compromises safety. I suggested directing all of the left turns and thru traffic to use Ice Cream Alley to  a right turn onto Rt 532 Durham Rd then the left turn and thrus can be made under the safety of the traffic signal at Goodnoes Corner."

Sign The Petition!

I started the "Improve Pedestrian Safety on N Sycamore St" petition on Change.org. If you believe as I do that it's time for the township to step up its efforts to improve pedestrian safety along this stretch of road, then please sign the petition and add comments. The signatures will be presented to the Newtown Board of Supervisors.

Posted on 27 Dec 2021, 01:57 - Category: Public Safety

5G Technology Near You/Me/Schools

"We Have No Reason to Believe 5G Is Safe," says Joel M. Moskowitz, PhD, director of the Center for Family and Community Health in the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley. That is the title of his opinion piece published on the Scientific American blog.

"The latest cellular technology, 5G, will employ millimeter waves for the first time in addition to microwaves that have been in use for older cellular technologies, 2G through 4G," says Dr. Moskowitz. "Given limited reach [1,000 feet], 5G will require cell antennas every 100 to 200 meters, exposing many people to millimeter wave radiation."

Should We Be Concerned About Health Effects?

"Millimeter waves are mostly absorbed within a few millimeters of human skin and in the surface layers of the cornea," says Dr. Moscowitz. BUT..."Short-term exposure can have adverse physiological effects in the peripheral nervous system, the immune system and the cardiovascular system. The research suggests that long-term exposure may pose health risks to the skin (e.g., melanoma), the eyes (e.g., ocular melanoma) and the testes (e.g., sterility)."

Yesterday, a neighbor pointed out that the antennas located on top of the Newtown Artesian Water Tower, which is about 300 feet from my home and 400 feet from Goodnoe Elementary School, are now transmitting 5G radiation (see photo below).

Until recently, I wasn't aware that these antennas on top of the Artesian Water Tower now are now transmitting 5G radiation.

I did not think much about this, until coincidentally that same day, a Newtown resident emailed me and asked: "Is 5G a topic that has been or will be discussed by Newtown Zoning or other? Are 5G emitters/masts  allowed to be close to schools? Any research reviewed on possible health effects on children?"

At the August 2, 2018, Newtown, Upper Makefield, and Wrightstown Zoning Council (JZC) meeting, solicitor Vicki Kushto reviewed the current court rulings regarding small wireless cells [aka Distributed Antenna Systems or DAS]. Small cell antennas also will lead to super-fast 5G services.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court delivered its long awaited opinion in the case of Crown Castle NG East LLC v. Public Utility Commission, 2 MAP 2019 on July 21, 2020 which involves the status of Distributed Antenna Systems. The bottom line, DAS providers meet the definition of a “public utility” and are entitled to seek Certificates of Public Convenience. Once issued a Certificate of Public Convenience, DAS providers have access to public utility poles, public rights of way, exemptions from local zoning codes and the right to exercise the power of eminent domain. Source: https://www.clemonslaw.com/municipal-law/distributed-antenna-systems-are-public-utilities-under-pa-law/ 

There was legislation (HB2564) introduced by Rep. Frank Farry that would severely limit local municipalities ability to regulate this use or to seek reimbursement for the use of its public ROWs. The JZC opposes this legislation, which is being driven by DAS providers to install 5G services (see article embedded below).

I haven't heard anything new about this at recent JZC meetings, but will ask to put it on the next meeting's agenda.


UPDATE: The JZC met on Thursday, December 2, 2021. Continued discussion regarding details of the “Small Wireless Facilities” – aka Distributed Antennae Systems or DAS – ordinance.  Much of the discussion had to due with the appearance/design and location of small poles within neighborhoods, especially in underground districts in which all utility installations are required to by installed underground.

The opinion was that these provisions in the ordinance would not be enforceable if challenged in court but regardless of what the final ordinance may specify, companies that wish to put up DAS poles would, for public relations reasons, not challenge the ordinance but would prefer to come before the township to approve the design and placement of poles. It was noted that in 2012 Northampton opposed a plan to put cell phone poles in neighborhoods that otherwise have no above-ground utility poles. The company agreed to relocate the poles to more heavily traveled roads closer to existing utility poles.


This topic was discussed at the March 22, 2021, Meet Mack Monday Zoom meeting. The discussion focused on the 5G antennas on top of the Newtown Artesian Water tower located less than 500 feet from Goodnoe Elementary School and many nearby homes.

In this 15-minute excerpt from the discussion below, a resident living nearby the tower claims the 5G radiation from this source has caused medical problems for her and her children. The discussion also covers what the township can do to mitigate this problem and a new FCC rule that would make it even worse!

Mack's Newtown Voice · 5G Technology Safety Discussion

Posted on 22 Mar 2021, 01:26 - Category: Public Safety

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