For Traffic Engineering Manager John Padon, a 30-year Lakewood employee, his work day typically entails reviewing and designing signs, roadways and traffic control measures. But a Lakewood resident who doggedly expressed his concerns about the need for a traffic signal at a residential intersection led Padon to discover that traffic wasn’t really the issue.
The resident lives near the intersection of Dartmouth Place and South Estes Street, just south of the Bear Creek Greenbelt. He had contacted the City numerous times for about a year, requesting a traffic signal to allow for safe pedestrian crossings. Padon conducted a traffic count for three days at the intersection, checked the Police Department’s accident database and monitored pedestrian crossings and gaps in traffic during peak traffic times. All of that showed a traffic signal wasn’t needed at this intersection of residential streets.
The resident was “not willing to take that for an answer and not going to give up,” Padon said, and he asked to meet with the mayor and Padon. Because the resident lives close enough to the intersection to hear the traffic “all day, every day,” Padon was empathetic to his concerns, so Padon decided to meet him at the intersection to discuss the issue.
“I said, ‘Let’s do this, and see what’s there.’ Sometimes the best way to do this is to meet them, with traffic,” Padon explained.
After standing on the street corner together watching about 15 minutes of the traffic flow – which included ample gaps for safe pedestrian crossings – their casual conversation gave way to a walk with a purpose. First, they headed down the west side of Estes, which has a somewhat narrow 5-foot sidewalk. They continued down the street to the Stone House Trail, which has a major mid-block pedestrian crossing, and then something interesting happened.
“Before I even push the (crossing) button, (the resident) is halfway across the street and cars stopped for him,” Padon said with a smile. “He cruised up that hill, and I could barely keep up” as they completed a walking loop back to their original location at the intersection.
It turns out that the resident had once lived an active lifestyle. But a stroke led him to use a wheelchair, and his vision had also become impaired. Padon began to understand that the resident wanted to feel safe in his neighborhood and to be able to comfortably go out with his wife on a walk. His time spent with Padon seemed to give him the confidence he needed to cross the street and regain a sense of independence.
The resident told Padon the experience was “so great, so liberating and a goal of mine for a long time,” Padon said. “He just said, ‘You know what, I can do this now’ with a little help.”
Padon coached him a little more by providing him with three key safety points: wear bright colors, affix a flag to the wheelchair and avoid going out during peak hours if possible.
Taking the time to resolve this resident’s concerns shows Padon’s willingness to go above and beyond his typical duties, and connecting on a personal level made far more impact in getting to the resident’s real concerns.