Perils of Crossing Washington Street in Hoboken

April 16th, 2015

NJ UrbanThinker

By Gabe Bailer

There is something I always wondered every time I crossed Washington Street in Hoboken. Why are there no crosswalk lights for pedestrians? For a city this dense – 30,239 persons per square mile making it the 4th densest city in the nation, higher than Manhattan – and one that promotes being pedestrian friendly, wouldn’t you think that the city’s main thoroughfare would have crosswalk lights? With a mix of retail and mixed uses, and runs for 14 long blocks, wouldn’t pedestrian safety come into play?

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According to an NJ.com article written by Kathryn Brenzel dated January 24, 2014, 22 pedestrians have been struck by automobiles in Hoboken over the past two years. And that’s just the incidents that were reported. There are likely many incidents were never reported as no injury took place and people wanted to continue on their way.

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I took to the streets this week to capture some video. As an individual who frequents Hoboken for tasty brews from time to time and a member of Texas Arizona’s Beer Club (directly across the path finishing over 250 beers in one year’s time, I will say for the record that there were no drinks in me at 5pm on Wednesday April 15th as I strolled across Washington Street.

I stood on the corner of 1st and Washington with Hoboken City Hall looming over me. As the cars flew by, I noticed the pedestrian flow of the street. Young professionals walking home from the PATH after a long day of work in the city, baby strollers, college students and several joggers in neon sneakers. I smile at this bustling “pedestrian friendly” activity. But does this activity translate into crosswalk friendly? In my opinion no siree it does not.

As I wait on the corner for some type of signal to cross, several people stroll pass me looking haphazardly as they trek to the other side of Washington. I see father and sons cross against traffic and even a couple baby strollers cross without the light. I continue to wait as cars speed by. With the sun rays hitting me after this never ending winter, I look up at the traffic light and see green turn to red. Is this my time to cross the 50′ crosswalk? The cars stop. I see the people waiting to cross across the street begin to venture onto the pavement. Yes I can cross. But how long do I have to cross? What if I’m an elderly person and had to cross the street to CVS for my meds? Will I get stuck mid stride? I successfully navigate and find myself standing on the other side of Washington. I see people still crossing. So what do I do? I cross once again to the other side of Washington. All in all, successfully without a scratch on me.

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Washington Street was named as one of the country’s great streets in 2010 by the American Planning Association (APA). According to the APA, Washington Street was singled out for its affordable housing options and the city’s diligent efforts to preserve the street’s historic character through design guidelines and adaptive reuse. Additionally, the street stands out for its unique sense of place, including views of the Hudson River and the Manhattan skyline.

To continue as a great American street, wouldn’t one think the minor investment of crosswalk lights would be a worthy investment? I would definitely think so.