Piccininno: Empirical research suggests bump-outs work

Submitted by Greg Piccininno

Dear Greenwich Residents,

I have no real skin in the game; however I continue to be surprised at the visceral response to Greenwich’s decision to install curb extensions or “bump outs”.

Before Greenwich installed the first one, I did not even know this was a “technology” for improving pedestrian safety. Then the letters began, and I started to get interested. From the debate, I learned that the costs of the bump outs did not come from our property taxes but in fact, we were clawing back some of the income tax we pay to the State. Anytime we do that is a positive in my book. Kudos to the town for doing that. I also learned there were some residents who still feel we should bring back the crossing guards but that seems to be an expensive option in a town that needs investment in infrastructure.

Let’s admit, pe-Covid the Ave needed a re-fresh and that is happening. Outside dining is very welcome addition and brings a bit of “je ne sais quoi” to town. Now the town has decided to use bump outs to increase pedestrian safety and a 24/7 substitute to crossing guards, not to mention create a nicer greener environment. It is all an honest effort to give the Avenue new energy, adapt it to our realities and ensure one of the towns treasures remains relevant to Greenwich residents.

However, it seems since the town removed the police who served as crossing guards, we have been in a constant debate about what to do. Now that a cost-effective solution has been found, many have expressed their dissatisfaction as they have the right to do. However, none of the letters has ever sited any evidence of what they proport.

I have always had a bent toward research and empirical study, so I decided to do a cursory investigation on the efficacy of bump outs. There is not a lot of empirical research but what exists does indicate that bump outs increase the percentage of cars that stop to allow pedestrians to pass safely by circa 45% to 65% over standard zebra strips. For a passive crossing solution that is “free to the town”, that is a significant increase in pedestrian safety that functions 24/7.

Bump outs, as per the FHWA and other related organizations, also enable trucks (in our case emergency vehicles) to make turns easier and safer since the bump out removes parked cars from the corner, increases visibility and thus, any Greenwich emergency vehicle that needs to turn on to the Ave, will be able to do so in a more efficient and safer manner.

As I said, I have no skin in the game, I am not in this debate, I don’t want to be in this debate, and I have friends to tell me they don’t work because pedestrians are on their iphones. However, the limited empirical research suggests they work, and I wanted to inject that into the discussion.

I have attached the only empirical study with a control I found from Oregon State University as well as a general document from the FHWA on bump outs. In the study titled, Safety Effectiveness of Pedestrian Crossing Enhancements you can find the effectiveness stats starting with Table 3. I hope I have added to the discussion in a constructive manner.

Greg Piccininno