City addresses mid-block crosswalk concerns, changes and potential challenges

Some of Oahu’s crosswalks do not comply with national safety recommendations.

One recently cost the city nearly a quarter-million dollars.

The attorney for the family of Mal Sun Chun says the city settled a lawsuit and paid the woman’s family $245,000.

The 79-year-old was crossing King Street in November 2009 when she was hit by a car and died.

Chun was in a mid-block crosswalk at the time, and attorney Roy Chang says the city is still not doing enough to make those crosswalks safer.

KHON2 spoke with Mike Formby, the city’s director of transportation services, and he agrees that changes need to be made.

But chances are not everyone’s going to be happy about it.

There are about a dozen of so-called mid-block crosswalks along South King Street.

With pedestrians having to cross five lanes of traffic, a study by the U.S. Department of Transportation points out that these types of crosswalks need to have a traffic light or should not be there at all.

“By the time they get halfway, they’re now playing traffic dodge ball with cars. That’s the real danger,” Chang said.

According to studies, one of the reasons why the Coolidge Street crosswalk, where Chun was killed, is so dangerous is because it’s so close to Isenberg Street, where a lot of cars turn from.

“What we’re saying is this crosswalk is basically a ticking time bomb that the city needs to take out. It’s a very simple process to take it out,” said Chang.

Formby agrees. He says the city has been doing its own safety studies with the Honolulu Complete Streets campaign and he would like to eventually take away some of the mid-block crosswalks, which it did by Straub Clinic and Hospital.

But he needs to inform the community to do that, and it was the community that requested the crosswalks.

“You need to understand one thing. I wouldn’t go to the community and ask them, but I would want to have a conversation about why we made the decision to take them off the street,” Formby said.

As far as installing traffic lights, Formby says he has to consider the cost and the time but most importantly, the traffic flow.

“You want to have equities between pedestrians, bikes and cars and when you start putting in too many traffic lights and pedestrian lights, then the flow of traffic becomes disruptive so it’s about finding that balance,” Formby said.

Formby says he plans to inform the community about taking out some of the mid-block crosswalks in September.

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