The pedestrian crossing at Cherry and Mason is difficult and scary. The coincidence of distracted motorists who don’t notice the crosswalk signs, families with kids heading to the museum, tourists who are unfamiliar with the area, a train line, and a connection to a popular bike trail creates a perfect storm that puts pedestrians and bicyclists at risk.
The City has tried making incremental changes to improve the intersection including removing some on-street parking to make it easier for motorists to see pedestrians at the sidewalk. This helped with westbound traffic that had no other distractions and therefore were more likely to notice the signs and pedestrians. But eastbound motorists continued to have difficulty, perhaps because they were distracted by the train tracks and the stop light that they were approaching. Even when pedestrians were halfway across the street and heading into their lane, many motorists seemed surprised when they noticed them and often stopped much closer than street markings would indicate they should.
So another set of changes has recently come to the intersection. These will hopefully not only improve safety for pedestrians, but will also make it easier for bicyclists to cross as well.
Signage alone has not been enough to catch motorists’ attention before the crosswalk at Mason street so push-button activated flashing lights have been added. This will be a huge improvement for pedestrians and bicyclists traveling at night, but the flashing lights appear to make the crosswalk more visible during the day as well.
In the past, southbound bicyclists coming off of the Poudre Trail have found themselves wrong-way riding on the sidewalk as they come upon Mason street. Some riders were confused about when they should switch over to the other side of the street and many chose to remain on the sidewalk.
Wrong-way riding on the sidewalk is legal in Fort Collins, but it’s not particularly safe as motorists often don’t think to look to their right before pulling out into the street.
New signage on the sidewalk indicates that southbound cyclists should cross Mason on the south side of Cherry before continuing on.
Northbound bicyclists were directed towards a bike lane to the left of the right hand turn lane if they were continuing straight, towards the trail. Now cyclists will have two options. They can still use the bike lane and wait until cross traffic clears up before they cross (which can mean a fairly long wait). Or they can use a new curb cut that’s been installed in order to hop up onto the sidewalk and use the new crossing lights. This also sets bicyclists right onto the bike trail as it starts by the museum.
A flashing light is certainly no guarantee that motorists will stop. But it’s definitely a step in the right direction. And enabling bicyclists to easily access the pedestrian crossing will go a long way towards improving the comfort level of riders in this area.