Cedar Springs gets flashier

Crosswalk lights, signs represent 1st phase of pedestrian safety plan

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SIGN, SIGN, EVERYWHERE | New signs warn pedestrians to use crosswalks, above, and cars to watch for pedestrians. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

City crews have begun implementing a three-part plan to make Cedar Springs safer for pedestrians with the installation of new signs and crosswalks. The short-term plan should be completed over the next few weeks.

Then, engineering studies will be conducted in February to determine whether additional traffic signals are needed and whether a turn lane should be removed. If warranted, that work will be done in June.

A long-term study will include the possibility of adding a center island with trees and wider sidewalks, and reducing traffic to two lanes.

On Wednesday, Jan. 25, the Cedar Springs Merchant Association discussed the safety improvements during its first monthly meeting of the year, which was attended byIMG_6167-1-(dragged) Paula Blackmon, Mayor Mike Rawlings’ chief of staff.

In response to four traffic accidents involving pedestrians that included two fatalities within two months, the city has been working to find solutions to improve safety in the entertainment district, which the Merchant Association now refers to as The Strip on Cedar Springs.

“We want to see The Strip become the international destination that it should be,” said ilume developer Luke Crosland. He said ilume 2, to be built on property diagonally across from ilume, could break ground within the next few weeks. Crosland favors the two-lane approach to make the area more pedestrian friendly and more attractive.

He mentioned that The Strip does $30 million in alcohol sales annually and he’s about to invest $55 million in construction there — and he expressed frustration with the city for not paying closer attention to an important economic engine.

The short-term solution for traffic and pedestrian safety is almost complete. That plan began with the installation of additional street lighting early in January.

New crosswalks have been painted at Knight Street, with eye-level yellow warning flashers added at Knight and Reagan streets. For the first 30 days, the lights will flash constantly to warn drivers of pedestrians in the area. After that, they’ll be activated by buttons.

“No pedestrian crossing” signs were installed in the middle of the block in front of Kroger and ilume. Additional police enforcement has also begun. On Thursday morning, police cars were patrolling Cedar Springs Road after Buli owner Robert Clauson and others at the meeting asked for additional patrols.

Also this week, a push to educate pedestrians got under way. The effort includes fliers distributed by Cedar Springs merchants to explain the pedestrian crossing lights and encourage everyone to cross only in marked places.

The last item on the first phase of the plan is the lighted crosswalk near the Round-Up Saloon, which will be raised 6 inches to slow traffic. Yield bars will be painted in the street in advance of the crosswalk to distance vehicles from pedestrians.

In February, a study will be conducted to determine whether traffic signals are needed at Knight Street and Reagan Street. The study is expected to show that a signal is needed at Knight Street. The signal has already been paid for and would be installed in June.

The study is also expected to call for the removal of the island and turn lane on the southeast corner of Cedar Springs and Douglas.

Cedar Springs Merchant Association Executive Director Scott Whittall said the study may determine that from Reagan Street onto Cedar Springs would be safer as a right turn only from either direction.

The plan also calls for looking for “opportunities to install trees or other vegetation to calm traffic.”
CSMA formed two committees. One will be to create a long-term traffic plan for The Strip. The second is to create a plan for where taxis can stop to pick up fares along Cedar Springs Road.

Whittall announced upcoming events on Cedar Springs including the March Wine Walk and Easter in the Park. The Merchant Association took over that event last year with just a few weeks notice when its longtime sponsor, the Turtle Creek Association, pulled out.

Whittall said that word-of-mouth about last year’s reintroduction of Razzle Dazzle Dallas was strong. He expected twice as many people to attend this year’s main event on June 9. An announcement about entertainment will be made soon.

He also announced a new marketing campaign. He said that the entertainment district’s Facebook page was taken down and will be reintroduced in March after a new logo is chosen from a contest the merchants are holding.

The group is marketing the area as The Strip on Cedar Springs, which is how it is now most commonly known. Since Crossroads Market closed, few continue to refer to the area as The Crossroads.

Whittall compared The Strip’s Facebook fan page to that of Bishop Arts District. BAD has more than 17,000 fans, while Cedar Springs had just a few thousand. He said that was because the page was called the Cedar Springs Merchant Association, which sounded like it was a trade group rather than an entertainment district.

The logo contest-winner will be named at Easter in the Park and the new The Strip on Cedar Springs Facebook page will be launched then.

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The Cedar Springs Merchant Association is running a contest to design a new logo. For more info or to enter, go to TinyUrl.com/8yb7uj8.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 27, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

City unveils planned Cedar Springs improvements

Hunt, Medrano present plan to Merchants Association; will include new crosswalk lights, red lights

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GETTING THE SIGNAL | A pedestrian runs to avoid traffic as he crosses Cedar Springs Road at Knight Street on Thursday, Jan. 12. The intersection will get a traffic signal under a pedestrian safety plan unveiled by the city this week. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE FULL CEDAR SPRINGS PEDESTRIAN SAFETY PLAN

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Senior Political Writer
wright@dallasvoice.com

In the wake of two pedestrian fatalities on the Cedar Springs strip in November, Dallas officials have unveiled a host of planned safety improvements ranging from crosswalk lights to a new traffic signal to, eventually, the possibility of narrowing the street to two lanes.

Dallas City Council members Angela Hunt and Pauline Medrano, along with city staff, unveiled the changes during a closed-door meeting at the Round-Up Saloon on Thursday afternoon, Jan. 12, with representatives from the Cedar Springs Merchants Association, the Dallas Tavern Guild and other community groups.

The city’s Cedar Springs pedestrian safety plan calls for new flashing lights at crosswalks on Cedar Springs by the end of this month. A new traffic signal at Knight Street — where one of the pedestrians was killed — is scheduled to be installed by June.

“They did come with concrete solutions and things that they’re starting immediately, which is pretty exciting,” Merchants Association Executive Director Scott Whittall said after the meeting. “This is a big deal, and we’re excited about it. It’s a situation where we’re taking something unfortunate and we’re going to get as much out of it as we can to improve the street.”

Hunt said prior to Thursday’s meeting that the improvements have already begun with the recent addition of three streetlights on Cedar Springs.

“I think it’s pretty aggressive,” Hunt said of the plan, “which it needs to be, given the fatalities and accidents we’ve had there.”

In addition to the two fatalities in November, two pedestrians were seriously injured when they were struck on Cedar Springs in December.

Michael Doughman, executive director of the Dallas Tavern Guild, said the pedestrian safety plan represents “some great work from the city and those in attendance were most impressed with the ideas.”

“We had a great turn-out,” Doughman said. “Some ideas may need some tweaking but generally speaking, it was very well received. We will be doing an education campaign soon that we will ask the Dallas Voice to participate in. This will include pedestrian safety rules as well as driver safety issues.”

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Scott Whittall

According to a copy of the plan provided by Doughman, yellow warning flashers will be installed in both directions at four crosswalks on Cedar Springs, near Knight Street and Reagan Street. The two Reagan street crosswalks will remain in their current locations. The existing crosswalk at Knight Street will be moved to the south in front of Bank of America, while a crosswalk will be added between ilume and the city library.

Whittall said the flashing crosswalk lights will be at motorists’ eye level — and will be similar to the ones in place where Knox Street crosses the Katy Trail a few miles away. For the first 30 days, the crosswalk lights will flash around the clock, but after that pedestrians will have to activate them.

The city will also install a traffic signal at Cedar Springs and Knight Street by June, and begin an engineering study Feb. 1 to determine whether a traffic signal is warranted at Reagan Street. Also by June, the city will remove the right turn lane and island on the southeast corner of Cedar Springs and Douglas Avenue.

Other possible additions to the plan include banning left turns onto Cedar Springs from Reagan Street eastbound.

According to the plan, police have already increased traffic enforcement in the area, and Whittall said the Merchants Association has signed off on issuing jaywalking citations once the crosswalk improvements are in place.

“If we’re going to provide you with multiple safe crosswalk areas, they need to be utilized,” Whittall said. “You put your life at risk in an entertainment district if you try to cross somewhere that is not marked.”

Long term, the pedestrian safety plan calls for a “complete street” assessment of Cedar Springs, which could include revising the width of the street and reconfiguring lanes over the next three to five years.

“We’ve been harping and harping and harping on going to two lanes for a long time,” Whittall said. “Anything that would increase foot traffic on Cedar Springs and decrease traffic speed on Cedar Springs, we’re all for.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 13, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Fatal hit-and-run raises safety concerns

Pedestrian struck, killed near unlighted crosswalk on Cedar Springs strip

Oak-Lawn-MapJOHN WRIGHT  |  Senior Political Writer
wright@dallasvoice.com

A fatal hit-and-run accident on the Cedar Springs strip last week has led to renewed debate about what can be done to make the street safer for pedestrians.

Wayne Priest, 55, passed away Friday, Nov. 4, at Parkland hospital from injuries he sustained the night before when he was struck near an unlighted crosswalk at 3850 Cedar Springs Road, at the intersection of Reagan Street eastbound.

Priest, who lived in the 2800 block of Reagan Street, reportedly was on his way to pick up a prescription at Walgreens shortly after 9 p.m. He was crossing Cedar Springs a few feet outside the painted crosswalk, according to witnesses, when he was struck by a maroon four-door vehicle traveling southbound toward Oak Lawn Avenue. The driver of the vehicle didn’t stop and hasn’t been located by police.

“I think any time we have a tragedy like this, we have to investigate whether there are things the city can do to make the area safer for pedestrians,” Dallas City Councilwoman Angela Hunt said this week. “What I’ve asked the city to do is look into exactly what happened and to make recommendations about how we can move forward in making the area safer. I think the challenge we’ve had in the past is the city has been focused on moving cars, not people, and we’re trying to refocus that.”

Scott Whittall, president of the Cedar Springs Merchants Association, said in the wake of the incident, pedestrian safety was the main topic of discussion at the group’s monthly board meeting this week. The Merchants Association plans to invite both Hunt and Councilwoman Pauline Medrano to its next meeting to a take a firsthand look at crosswalks on the strip.

Whittall said the Merchants Association feels the city needs to either remove the crosswalk near which Priest was hit or add more signage. The crosswalk is marked with a sign on the side of the street in one direction but not the other. Whittall said the Merchants Association would like to see free-standing crosswalk signs in the middle of the street, like the ones where Knox Street crosses the Katy Trail a few miles away.

“It’s an entertainment district, and there are going to be a lot of people on the street,” Whittall said. “There needs to be proper signage on this crosswalk. Unfortunately, something like this has to happen before people pay attention again.”

Another crosswalk half a block away on Cedar Springs has flashing lights in the roadway and on both sides of the street which can be activated by pedestrians. However, it has been a maintenance headache for the city, which only recently repaired it after the flashing lights failed for at least the third time in the last few years.

“It’s very unfortunate that this is happening right when we finally got the other crosswalk fixed,” Whittall said, adding that the Merchants Association would also like to see the city follow through with plans to add surveillance cameras on Cedar Springs. “We probably would have been able to catch the driver if we’d had those cameras.”

If caught, the driver would now face third-degree felony charges for leaving the scene of an accident causing injury or death, according to Detective D.T. Marchetti of the Dallas Police Department’s Vehicle Crimes Unit.

“The investigation is open and we are actively seeking the individual that struck him,” Marchetti said Tuesday. “I’m surprised there weren’t more witnesses to it. I’m surprised we didn’t get a tag number or a partial tag or a better description of the vehicle.”

According to a police report, the impact of the collision was so severe that it caused one of Priest’s shoes to fly off. Marchetti said a second vehicle struck Priest after he was lying in the roadway. The driver of the that vehicle remained at the scene.

Assuming the driver of the first vehicle that struck Priest wasn’t intoxicated, they wouldn’t have faced charges if they’d stopped, Marchetti said. That’s because there’s no indication the driver was speeding and Priest was outside the crosswalk, albeit by only a few feet. But Marchetti added that the No. 1 reason people leave accident scenes at night is because they’re intoxicated.

One of Priest’s roommates, Carrie Moon, said this week she’s hoping the driver will be found.

“It is one thing to make a horrible mistake and try to do what you can to help,” Moon said. “It is another thing to make a horrible mistake and just leave a person to die in the street. How this person can live with themselves is beyond me.”

Moon said she’d known Priest for about a year after they met at the Oak Lawn library. She and her boyfriend were looking for a room to rent, and Priest needed help with expenses.

Priest was from Louisiana but was estranged from family there and had moved to Dallas a few years ago. Moon said he’d been married twice and had a daughter.

Moon said Priest had struggled with his sexual orientation for most of his life but recently came out as gay after moving to Oak Lawn. He was a member of the Cathedral of Hope.

“He was in his mid-50s and it took moving to this area to for once in his life feel like he could be himself and not be judged, not even by the church, which was very important to him,” Moon said. “It was like he was starting over, and he had a lot of hope of finding a partner and a new life, and then this happened, which is just so sad.”

Moon said she was trying to coordinate funeral arrangements with Priest’s family in Louisiana. She said his wishes were to be cremated and buried near his son who committed suicide. The service likely will be held in New Orleans.

Anyone with information about the hit-and-run is asked to call the Vehicle Crimes Unit at 214-670-5817.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 11, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas