Flashing lights won’t fix Cedar Springs’ No. 1 problem: Shabbiness

Community must work together to spiff up our strip, which wasn’t even included in Dallas’ ‘Complete Streets’ program until recently

Phyllis Guest
Taking Notes

Afriend and I went to a Jan. 12 meeting at the Round-Up Saloon, hosted by Dallas City Councilwomen Angela Hunt and Pauline Medrano. The meeting was called to address the epidemic of pedestrian traffic accidents on Cedar Springs Road.

We listened to a city engineer, other city staff, a police officer and local businesspeople. The engineer showed us slides of Cedar Springs as it is and as the city proposed to change it in three stages.

If you read David Taffet’s article on Page 6 of the Jan. 27 issue of Dallas Voice, you know what’s proposed. And if you’ve been on Cedar Springs, you can’t have missed the most obvious change: yellow warning flashers, first at Knight Street, then at Reagan.

They are supposed to flash 24/7 for a month, then only when a pedestrian pushes the button to cross the street. However, when I left the Oak Lawn Library on Tuesday, Jan. 31, the flasher at Knight — just in front of the library and the corner of Ilume — was not flashing. Hmmm.

I also went to the Cedar Springs Merchant Association meeting Jan. 25. There, Paula Blackmon, chief of staff for Mayor Mike Rawlings, took questions and listened to comments during the first half of the meeting. I thought the most important point was made by Luke Crosland, ilume’s developer: The area generates $30 million a year in alcohol sales.

That’s a huge amount of revenue. With the next phase of ilume scheduled for development, and with more and more apartments replacing the area’s older homes, no doubt that revenue stream will grow.

In the second part of the meeting, CSMA Executive Director Scott Whittall spoke of the traffic study the city will conduct throughout February to help officials make more decisions about traffic problems and solutions. Whittall also announced a new campaign, online and presumably in print, to market “The Strip on Cedar Springs.” (Go to TinyUrl.com/8yb7uj8 to enter the logo design contest.)

Finally, after asking CSMA attendees to sign up for one of two committees, “traffic problems” or “taxi solutions,” Whittall announced a whole calendar of events for the remainder of 2012. All are geared to attract locals and visitors to The Strip.

Sounds good.

And if more crosswalk lights, pedestrian signs and police patrols will keep people from being run down, that certainly is good.

But changing the behavior of pedestrians and drivers is not the main problem.

The main problem is shabbiness.

Drive slowly up and down Cedar Springs as I did on Tuesday at midday.

Look at the very different storefronts, the very disparate signage.

Look at the street, cracked and torn and unevenly marked.

Look at the sidewalks, also cracked and torn. In some places, curbs are high, in other places low, in still others slanted to accommodate the disabled. Holes as big as a boot are everywhere. Round metal whatevers are inserted along portions of the sidewalk holding what look like tall twigs. Even if the twigs spring to life next month, they will still look weird.

This is a major “entertainment district” in a major American city? This is our answer to Manhattan’s Great White Way or Santa Monica’s 3rd Street Promenade?

Our area was not even included in Dallas’ Complete Streets planning. In fact, I had never heard of “Complete Streets” until it appeared on the city’s handout of short-term, medium-term, and long-term Cedar Springs Pedestrian Safety Improvements. On the handout, as you might guess, it was No. 12, a long-term option to “Review area for Complete Street design.”

Check out www.dallascompletestreets.com. You’ll see that nine areas have already been selected for attention and investment, apparently by city staff or consultants. You’ll also see a list of workshops held this past November and December, none in our area and none advertised in the Dallas Voice.

How do we get from shabby to spiffy? We talk to the Dallas City Council, we talk to the Cedar Springs Merchant Association, we talk to the Dallas Complete Streets planners, and we talk to one another. Perhaps we organize the equivalent of the Old Oak Cliff Conservation League, which works on conserving what’s best and reworking what’s not.

Today. We can start today. Each of us can make one phone call or write one email, and make one post on Facebook or Twitter.

Phyllis Guest is a longtime activist on political and LGBT issues and is a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. Send comments to editor@dallasvoice.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 3, 2012.

—  Michael Stephens

Cedar Springs gets flashier

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

IMG_6176

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.

……………………

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