Pedestrian fences hurt downtown State College

Fences obstructing pedestrians tell people walking, rolling, biking, and taking transit that downtown State College is not for them. They lengthen walking trips, barricade key bike routes, often force the closure of bus stops, and give people driving cars license to speed. Instead of installing fences, State College should make streets safer to cross.

In downtown State College, there are two very different streets with obstructive fences:

Fences obstructing pedestrians on Atherton St

Crossing Atherton St at Calder Way today is dangerous. Instead of installing fences, we should create a safe, signalized crossing of Atherton at Calder.

  • Before the fences were installed, dozens of people crossed Atherton hourly, even with no crossing signs and dangerously fast-moving traffic
  • Calder Way is the only possible safe east-west bike route through downtown
  • The only southbound Atherton St CATA bus stop on campus or in downtown will need to be removed to install fencing along the entire block
  • Atherton St is a gateway to downtown, and fences obstructing pedestrians make it seem like State College is for cars instead of people

It’s possible to design the crossing without creating more congestion. Right now, there are ~26 seconds every light cycle when traffic on Atherton is stopped and a signal could allow crossings at Calder.

Optimally, synchronized signals at College, Beaver, and Calder would have 2 phases:

The Calder crossing is over 100 ft from the nearest intersection, hosts well over 20 pedestrian crossings an hour even though crossing is banned, and would not restrict the progressive movement of traffic. This meets signal warrant PA-2 for a midblock crossing signal in the PennDOT Traffic Engineering Manual, page 4-21.

Fences obstructing pedestrians on College Ave

State College has one of the single best downtown-campus interfaces of college towns in the US, and probably the world, along College Ave. Instead of enbracing it, we’ve fenced off almost the entire length.

Unlike Atherton St, it is not especially dangerous to jaywalk across College Ave. Since 2010, there have been two mid-block car crashes with pedestrians on College Ave between Burrowes St and Sowers St (where fences obstruct pedestrians everywhere except at intersections and bus stops). There have been two similar crashes on the same stretch of Beaver Ave, without any fences.

Fences obstructing pedestrians increase jaywalking by people accessing the parallel parking on the campus side of College Ave, because they cannot access the near-side sidewalk

Throughout the Borough, downtown and elsewhere, people walking are asked to cross streets far more dangerous than crossing any portion of College Ave midblock would be. Instead of restricting access between campus and downtown to less than a dozen locations over almost a mile of walkable College Ave, we should encourage efficient, joyful, and safe connections with as many crosswalks as possible.

Instead of restricting where people can walk, we should make all of downtown safe to the point that restrictions are no longer necessary. Learn more about improving walkability on College Ave.