Letter to the editor: Bellefield changes caused more problems

The city, with pressure from the University, has finally done something about the extremely unsafe intersection of Fifth and Bellefield Avenues (“Safety crawl highlights hazards to walkers, bicyclists and vehicles,” October 10, 2019).  Pedestrians have been hit by turning cars (and there have been fatalities) at this intersection going back many years.

Unfortunately, what has been done has made it more difficult for vehicular traffic to negotiate the intersection without making it any safer for pedestrians.

The fundamental problem is that cars turn left and right onto Fifth Avenue, from both North and South Bellefield avenues, at the same time that pedestrians are trying to cross Fifth Avenue — in other words, pedestrians have to cross into turning traffic.  

The best way to assure the safety of pedestrians is to stop traffic in all directions at the same time and allow pedestrians to cross.  This is the solution that has been employed for many years, with seemingly positive results, at five similarly dangerous intersections within a few blocks of this one.  (And it would have been far less expensive to implement than the road construction that was done at Fifth and Bellefield as part of this redesign of the intersection. Take note, those who are spending $23.7 million to “improve” the situation on Bigelow Boulevard in front of the Cathedral of Learning.)

To make matters worse, the city has reduced the number of lanes of traffic on South Bellefield from three to two.  This comes at the same time as the closing of Bigelow Boulevard and the designation of South Bellefield as a detour, which has significantly increased traffic on South Bellefield.  As a result, traffic flow — already at a crawl during many parts of the day — has been slowed even more. Drivers who are currently frustrated by their inability to get through this intersection, sometimes resort to running red lights, which may well increase, thereby further endangering pedestrians.

Alan Meisel
Professor of Law