September 11, 2018
At 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 8, Parsells Avenue at Greeley Street looked like it does every day: a broad straightaway that encourages drivers to zip along at high speeds, frightening walkers, bikers and bus riders.
Then came the architects, paint buckets, brushes, musicians, food, sculptures, community organizers, volunteers and lots of good will.
By the end of the day, the intimidating intersection was no more, at least temporarily. In its place stood a transformed streetscape, complete with colorful crosswalks, realigned curbs, a large mural in the center of the intersection, and painted cardboard box sculptures to represent potential permanent art installations.
“We are changing Parsells Avenue to make it safer for everyone – pedestrians, cyclists and drivers,” said Joe Di Fiore, secretary of the Beechwood Neighborhood Coalition. “Our neighborhood wanted drivers to slow down and to prevent cars flying down the street and around corners. Today we are turning our vision into a reality, and we plan to ensure that this pilot installation leads to permanent changes for our neighborhood.”
The Parsells and Greeley transformation is part of the Complete Streets Makeover project, a creative way to test street enhancements that could make neighborhoods roads more welcoming for non-vehicular traffic. Complete streets are streets that allow everyone to access the street safely, whether they are in cars, on bicycles, riding transit or walking.
“The elements we are installing today encourage drivers to slow down and remind them the road is shared by pedestrians and cyclists,” said Renee Stetzer, vice president of community outreach and pedestrian work group chair for Reconnect Rochester. “The temporary installation demonstrates how we can create safe and supportive environments for all users of our community streets, regardless of their mode of transportation.”
Data collected by Common Ground Health indicate that Beechwood residents are more likely to go to a hospital emergency department for pedestrian- and cyclist-related crashes than other areas in the city. In nominating the intersection for the Complete Streets Makeover, the submitter noted that “Parsells is often used as a cut-through and speedway, and it’s not at all uncommon for vehicles to be traveling at 50+ miles per hour.” In November 2016, a young child tragically died after being hit by a car on this stretch of road .
The Community Design Center of Rochester gathered feedback from residents during a community input session in July with dozens of neighbors, including many that live in the immediate area and witness firsthand the unsafe conditions at the intersection. Architecture firm Stantec provided the design for the on-street experiments based on the neighborhood input. City and county officials will study the response to the changes to determine if the new streetscape should become permanent.
“The support of neighborhood partners is inspiring and critical to the long-term success of the makeover,” said Mike Bulger, healthy communities project coordinator at Common Ground Health. “Our data demonstrate speeding cars are a key barrier for families to walk, bike and play in neighborhoods across the city. Adequate infrastructure, education, and ongoing advocacy by neighborhood partners continues to advance long term changes that support healthy neighborhoods and communities.”
The street improvements are examples of tactical urbanism: temporary, small-scale changes to an urban space that test whether there is need for permanent redesign. Just like the namesake Extreme Makeover TV show, filmmakers will capture the intersection’s makeover on video to show as part of Reconnect Rochester’s Street Films event at the Little Theatre on November 14.
In addition to the Parsells-Greeley makeover, Stantec will create improved design renderings for two other locations nominated by members of the public as trouble spots that could be made safer. The two other finalists were Lake Avenue and Phelps Street on the block encompassing Lakeview Tower, and Monroe Avenue, Canterbury Road and Dartmouth Street.
A collaborative venture, the Complete Streets Makeover project is supported by the City of Rochester, Monroe County Department of Transportation, Stantec, Reconnect Rochester, the Healthi Kids Coalition of Common Ground Health, Community Design Center of Rochester, Genesee Transportation Council, Center for Disability Rights, RTS, Rochester Cycling Alliance, Beechwood Neighborhood Association, and 441 Ministries.