Pop-up Crosswalk for Safety and Neighborhood Connection
Members of the Sacred Heart Neighborhood Association in Oshkosh were talking about how they wanted to meet and better connect with their neighbors, but also about how they wanted to do something about a particular intersection, at Fifth and Knapp Street, that with wide streets and fast cars, was uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous to cross.
This intersection just so happened to also be on the radar of East Central Wisconsin Regional Planning’s Safe Routes to School Program as a place where students could use some help crossing the street to get to and from school.
A collaboration that grew to include St. Jude the Apostle Church, Art City Wraps, Uptown-Oshkosh Restaurant, Oshkosh Storm Companies, Growing Oshkosh, UW Oshkosh Sociology and Geography Departments, and the City of Oshkosh was started.
The goal was to construct a temporary installation that would call drivers’ attention to the pedestrian crossing and cause them to slow down. The posted speed limit on Knapp Street, the street needing to be crossed, is 25mph, 15mph during school hours when children are present. Cars, as captured by radar, can often go 35+mph along that stretch.
Emily Dieringer, re:TH!NK Winnebago’s Coalition Coordinator at the time, led the project.
The biggest challenge, Emily says, was figuring out the approval process. This was something that had never been done before in Oshkosh, and what exactly was it, anyway? It wasn’t really an event, like a renting a pavilion or even closing the street for a farmer’s market, but it wasn’t like it was actual road construction, either.
Getting the right permit (and insurance) took some figuring out and Emily recommends asking questions and starting this process with the municipality as early as possible. Specifics related to what forms to fill out and even what department to work with will vary, as will things like what materials can be used and where.
The toolkits for pop-up crosswalks project partners referenced feature things like straw bales or painted tires to simulate corner bump-outs, but her group found they had to use Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD)-compliant materials. Fortunately, Oshkosh Storm Companies, one of their collaborators and no fan of the dangerous intersection, was happy to lend them the freestanding delineator posts for the job. And planters, constructed by a UWO sociology student and Growing Oshkosh, and painted by neighborhood elementary school students, were placed on the terrace rather than the street.
Other material for the installation included high-vis traffic tape, which with help from Josh, owner of Art City Wraps, a team of UWO student volunteers prepared and installed in wide white bars across the crosswalk.
Through the two-week duration of the pop-up, in April–May of 2019, feedback from people using the crosswalk was solicited via an online survey advertised on a yard sign (designed by a UWO geography student and printed by Art City Wraps) at the site, as well as via a fast-
feedback board hosted by Uptown, the nearby restaurant. Sociology students also interviewed residents.
Data was also collected by the geography students, who radared the speed of drivers before, during, and after the install. Armed with extensive spreadsheets, they also counted cars and noted where people were crossing the street during key times of the day.
Results of the data collection showed two important things:
1. The number of cars going faster than 35 mph, a speed which is often deadly to a pedestrian, dropped to zero during the install.
2. Whereas people were crossing at multiple intersections before the install, when the pop-up was there, almost everybody crossed at that enhanced intersection.
Since the installation, the City has made the high-visibility, ladder-style crosswalk piece of the installation permanent, with MUTCD-approved paint, and posted additional high-vis signage. A success for improved safety!
Also a success in collaboration across the community. Together this was built! Residents of the neighborhood are continuing to work together on other neighborhood improvement projects. And while there haven’t been any additional pop-up crosswalks in Oshkosh, “creative crosswalks” have been identified as a priority for future improvements.
Photos by Emily Dieringer