Advocate Calls for Safer Streets After Tragedy Strikes at Lexington Intersection

Lexington, Kentucky – On Tuesday, an SUV struck a school crossing guard at a crosswalk on Polo Club Boulevard. The victim, James Holland, 73, was taken to the hospital but later died of his injuries. A local advocate says better road design may have prevented the accident.

Blake Hall is an urbanism advocate. (CivicLex)

Blake Hall, a CivicLex board member and urbanism advocate, wrote about the incident and the problems with the road design on Polo Club Boulevard in correspondence with the Lexington Times recently. While the full story of how the crossing guard was hit is still unknown, Hall pointed out that there are numerous ways the intersection, street, and bike lane could be made safer.

First on the list of Hall’s potential improvements are curb extensions, which would physically block off the space at the intersection that is already designated as no-parking zones. This would cause drivers to slow down and be more cautious while also shortening the distance that pedestrians are in the street. Hall suggests that this improvement could be made almost immediately with plastic bollards.

Another suggestion Hall offered is the installation of raised crosswalks, which act as a speed table and would also benefit wheeled sidewalk users who would not have to dip into a curb cut that is often filled with water or debris. However, Hall notes that the Traffic Engineering department is unlikely to approve this as Polo Club Boulevard is classified as a collector and they do not allow any “vertical deflection” on collectors or above.

A raised crosswalk, E 5th Street and Fort Hamilton Parkway, Brooklyn (NYC Street Design)

A raised intersection, which hall described as “raised crosswalks on steroids,” is another potential improvement that would cause drivers to drive slowly through the whole intersection, while also making use of pavers, bricks, or textured materials to create road noise and signal to drivers to slow down. Neither raised crosswalks nor raised intersections impact snow plowing.

While Hall’s suggestions are specific to the intersection, he also notes that the whole road needs a redesign. Getting rid of the “useless parking lanes” would have drivers slow down on the road as a whole and not just when they get to the intersection, he said. The bike lane could be raised and properly buffered from car traffic to avoid the dangerous door zone bike lane right next to traffic going at 40+mph.

The crash highlights the result of two things, according to Hall – the sprawling, unwalkable school campuses built by Fayette County Public Schools and the city’s tendency to do the bare minimum when it comes to reassessing roads. Hall suggests that FCPS’s requirement for 10+ acres for a single elementary school means that the school has to be on the outskirts of town and is unwalkable. The city, or at least the Traffic department, balks at any substantial change “for fear of rocking the boat,” Hall writes.

The city is working on a Complete Streets policy, but Hall hasn’t seen anything specific about it yet and the jury is still out on whether it will be helpful or not. However, he notes that he is hopeful for change with the current city council.

Members of the Urban County Council did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Top photo: The intersection of Passage Mound Way and Polo Club Boulevard in Lexington, Kentucky, where an SUV struck and killed a crossing guard April 13. (Google)