Crosswalks and faux brick and paving...oh my
It's one of our favorite times of year in Camden, when people can park and walk, comfortably. There are no bulky winter coats or heavy boots intended to keep feet dry, for finally we are in the lovely months of summer during which a short walk to the office is more than welcome — but for increased traffic and crosswalk installations.
We've noticed that while traffic has been typically sluggish during this summer season, repaving in June and crosswalk work that started this week has led to traffic stoppages during the busiest tourist months of the year. Complaints have been rolling into not only The Camden Herald office but the town office and police department as well.
Most often, we at the Herald have heard complaints about traffic being impacted by installation of the crosswalks — but town officials have cited a need for increased pedestrian safety in downtown Camden, where the new faux brick crosswalks are being installed.
This reported need to increase safety made us curious — just how unsafe are pedestrians walking the streets of Camden? According to “State of Maine Pedestrian Crash History 2006 – 2010,” pedestrians in Knox County as a whole are quite safe. During the five years reported in the study, one person was killed and 30 people were injured in all of Knox County; and according to our archives, the lone fatality did not occur in Camden. Injuries were split into three categories: incapacitating, non-incapacitating and possible injury. According to our calculations, Knox County saw an average of six injuries — or potential injuries — per year.
During the same five-year time frame, the entire state saw 56 fatal accidents out of 1,292 total pedestrian/vehicle crashes. Across the state, most injuries were reported in the more heavily-populated counties of Cumberland and York and the majority — about 40 percent — were "possible injury" accidents.
So why change to a different style of crosswalks if pedestrian safety seems to be a non-issue? It seems to us the different color of the faux brick may just end up being one more distraction on the list of many distractions when driving through downtown.
Some people also have brought up concerns about the longevity of the faux brick and how it might look after a winter of sanding and plowing. We won't know the answer to those questions for a while yet but based on other faux brick installed on major throughways in the state we don't have high hopes.
A quick Google search of faux brick crosswalks brings up many results and similar concerns to those noted in this editorial as well as an additional reason noted by Camden officials: historic character. Some claim the faux brick lends an air of historic relevance to downtowns while others find the color off-putting and outside historic preservation guidelines.
Route 1 is a state road, therefore the paving and other construction work scheduled is set by the state despite objections of local officials. And Maine weather makes it difficult to complete road work such as paving and crosswalk installations in colder months. But we ask, in a business-oriented downtown like Camden, shouldn't it be possible to perform work during less busy times of the day or months of they year? It seems to us it also would be safer for workers when there are fewer vehicles and pedestrians to keep an eye out for.
We don't know how the state settled on July to install crosswalks, the faux brick style over traditional painted lines, or if historic preservation guidelines were considered but we do know we will be happy when the flow of traffic is back to normal — as normal as downtown Camden traffic ever is in the summer, anyway.