City Council agrees to request to install posts on Alley A

Monday, December 5, 2011 | 8:58 p.m. CST; updated 8:21 a.m. CST, Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Two people walk through Alley A in Columbia toward Ninth Street on Sept. 5. The alley has become busier after being renovated to include apartments and retail spaces.

COLUMBIA – Downtown's Alley A is about to become off-limits to cars and trucks.

An ordinance to install two decorative bollards (posts) at the east and west ends of the alley to make it more pedestrian-friendly was approved unanimously by the City Council during its Monday night meeting.

Alley A is a half block south of Broadway between Ninth and Tenth streets. About 10 feet wide, the alley is home to apartments and several businesses.

The ordinance is an amendment to the Alley A Right of Use Agreement that was endorsed by the City Council on Aug. 15, according to a memo to the council from Community Development Director Tim Teddy. The original agreement granted permission to Alley A property owners to install storm water infrastructure and paving.

The owners of Alley A businesses asked the council for the ordinance.

Jim Peckham, manager of Good Nature, which fronts the alley, said the ordinance is good and he looks forward to having Alley A reserved for pedestrians. He said cars driving through the alley pose a potential danger.

“Cars drive way too fast," he said. "I've seen cars driving at 50 miles. People could die or get hit."

Art Wuttisak, manager of Kampai Sushi Bar & Restaurant, has the same concern.

"The alley is too small. If you drive fast, it's hard to see cars coming from the private alley," he said, referring to a smaller alley that runs perpendicular to Alley A.

Peckham said the bollards also will be good because they will stop vehicles from parking in the alley for hours and make it more convenient for customers and residents to walk through.

In addition, he said, heavy traffic is destroying the road surface. He pointed to a two-foot-long crack on the alley outside his front door.

He concluded that making Alley A pedestrian-only is  “what it was designed for and what it should be.”

The Downtown Community Improvement District, which has offices at the east end of Alley A, also supports the ordinance, executive director Carrie Gartner said.

“There's so much going on in the alley, residence, cafe. It makes more sense to keep it a sidewalk," Gartner said.

Derek Garrett, manager of Jock's Nitch Locker Room at the west end of the alley, said his only concern is having to bring merchandise into his business through the front door. He has been using the alley to drop stuff off at the back door since he opened in October. 

The bollards will be removable or collapsible so emergency or service vehicles can access the alley when necessary. Emergency responders will have access to keys that will be stored in two lock boxes at each end of the alley, City Manager Mike Matthes explained on the meeting.

Alley A businesses will pay to install and maintain the bollards. The city, however, might have to pay for signs at the alley's entrances.

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Gary Straub December 6, 2011 | 10:25 a.m.

This is an idea who's time has come, now to close 9th from Walnut to Locust and make it a pedestrian mall. If we want people to use downtown more than it needs to be more pedestrian friendly.

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield December 6, 2011 | 11:25 a.m.

Downtown already is pedestrian-friendly. People don't avoid downtown because they fear they'll be struck by a car or because the sidewalks are too crowded (that'll be the day). They avoid it for reasons such as not wanting to pay for parking, not wanting to walk more than a block from their vehicle to a store (even though they walk at least twice that much from the mall or Walmart parking lot) or because other merchants are closer to where they live.

The bollards are as pointless as sharrows because they both ignore the real reasons why people aren't doing something.

(Report Comment)
Gary Straub December 6, 2011 | 12:09 p.m.

Jimmy, Have you done a study on this? Just the other day my partner and I had to jump out of the way from a car that was backing out of the intersection of 9th and Bdwy.. However the purpose of a pedestrian mall is not to keep things like this from happening, but to allow the free mingling of people between shops and to enjoy a park like atmosphere. Much like at the mall. 9th street probably has the most pedestrian traffic downtown, and since the Univ. closes it off on one end so it is not a through street, I feel it would be a perfect fit for Columbia's downtown. Aesthetics are very important in making people feel comfortable. Comfortable people will spend more time shopping, instead of the hurry in and hurry out that the downtown area currently promotes.

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield December 6, 2011 | 12:45 p.m.

No, I haven't done any study. My assessment is based on walking and driving downtown for almost 25 years. During that time, I recall only a few news reports about pedestrians being struck by cars. I think the problem is right up there with cyclists downtown getting hit by opening car doors -- which is to say, much ado about nothing.

I don't see traffic preventing people from mingling between Columbia shops any more than it does in Chicago, NYC or other cities large and small. I agree that "9th street probably has the most pedestrian traffic downtown." If traffic alone were enough to discourage most people from patronizing Ninth Street, you wouldn't be able to make that statement.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking December 6, 2011 | 1:02 p.m.

I don't think the issue with this alley is the same as it might be with 9th St. 9th St. has sidewalks and parking on both sides, but the alley is very narrow and anyone walking there has to walk in the street. It's that 9th St. is fully set up for traffic, and the alley is only meant to take traffic occasionally.

I don't think there would be any support from 9th St. businesses for prohibiting cars and parking. The situations are very much apples and oranges.


(Report Comment)
Gary Straub December 7, 2011 | 10:18 a.m.

As I stated above it is not about traffic safety. Have either of you experienced a pedestrian mall? Boulder, San Antonio, Aspen, Charlottesville, etc. Are fine examples. NYC is planning a very large one, many European countries are also embracing them. Like any other civil endeavor some make it and some don't. I personally can envision Columbia as being a good fit. Check this out for some good and bad images of what could be.

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield December 7, 2011 | 10:57 a.m.

Yes, I have experienced pedestrian malls, such as Denver's 16th Street. It didn't make me feel more inclined to linger than on, say, Chicago's Michigan Avenue. Speaking of Chicago, they experimented with a pedestrian mall on State Street but reopened it to traffic. When I shop along State Street, I don't feel rushed or concerned about getting hit by a car.

(Report Comment)
Corey Parks December 7, 2011 | 11:45 a.m.

“Cars drive way too fast," he said. "I've seen cars driving at 50 miles. People could die or get hit."

I assume he is guessing as he did not mention his state of the art radar gun or what time a day it was. Having driven down the alley and the cross streets it is nearly impossible to get up to his stated speed.

I have been to cities that have pedestrian malls and some were cool some where not. It was in how the city dealt with it. The nice ones have venders in the middle of the streets as well as giant potted trees for shade and bench areas. Others were just open areas and empty streets.

I would think that once they close it alley off then it will eventually move to a street like 9th street and then how can you stop Harpo's from closing off their area during games just like Blue Note does for concerts.

And for the record I myself try to avoid downtown not because of traffic or people but because of the additional tax for shopping there.

(Report Comment)

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