Monday, June 09, 2014

Front Street: One for the Road

Motorcyclists on Front Street before it was resurfaced
In  April 2012, in River Vices, in the post “Front Street: Unsafe at Any Speed,” I warned  about the hazardous situation on Front Street. I argued that it was a potential fatality waiting to happen. One of the groups making it hazardous are the motorcyclists, like those in the photo above.

 Most of the bikers I’ve met on Front Street have been polite and considerate. Most bikers certainly  don’t want to cause trouble. They simply want to see and have their photo taken in  front of the Motorcycle Mural, which is  the most popular by far of all the murals. That mural has become mecca for thousands of bikers from Ohio and surrounding states, but not all those bikers are considerate and careful. Some of them are wannabe Brandos burning rubber.  Just last Saturday, about 6 PM, I saw two bikers take advantage of a lull in traffic to speed west on Front Street, roaring past the Motorcycle Mural at breakneck speeds. I also recently saw a show-off biker do wheelies with his rear passenger holding on to him for dear life.

Joggers passing staging used to wash and retouch murals

I don't know whether  the changes that are being proposed for Front Street, including making it one way, with a bicycle path, are feasible,  but  I do know that something should be done about the incompatible and hazardous multiple uses to which Front Street is now being put. What follows is a list of the principal users of Front Street:
  • Tourists, in automobiles, on motorcycles, in wheelchairs, and on foot.
  • Motorists who avoid the traffic lights on Second Street by using Front Street, which has no traffic lights and stop signs,  to get in and out of downtown Portsmouth as fast as possible, especially in the morning, as if they are late for work. 
  • Joggers, both individually or as part of a group, usually running in the middle of the street because of the planters obstructing the eleven foot lane next to the murals.  
  • Classes of grade school and middle school students on foot and sometimes on school buses.
  • The Portsmouth Garden Club. God bless the dedicated ladies of the Garden Club, who dutifully tend to the planters,  but the ugly, obtrusive planters are a plague that detract from the beauty of the murals and add to the hazards of Front Street. In 2012, I counted twelve planters. A few days ago I counted twenty-five. 
  • Portsmouth police officers in cruisers who use Front Street to travel to and from the Police Station and their clubhouse, which are  located at opposite ends of the Floodwall Murals. Since these cruisers sometimes go over the speed limit, especially in heading west, to the clubhouse, it is not surprising they do not issue traffic tickets to speeding motorists. In the all the years the murals have been there, I have walked Front Street for exercise at least once a day and in the thousands of times I've taken that walk I have never seen a motorist stopped for speeding, though I have seen many going over, sometimes well over,  the speed limit. 

Tourists in wheelchairs and a toddler in stroller amid  ugly obtrusive planters  

(For an earlier post,  "Front Street: Unsafe at Any Speed,"  in which the above photo appeared, click here.)