Our Opinion: Stay on track by painting directional symbols on Wyoming Valley sidewalks

October 31st, 2016 10:58 am

Would it be a good idea to …

… paint directional symbols and arrows on Northeastern Pennsylvania sidewalks, pointing pedestrians to destinations such as theaters, museums and trailheads?

The state Department of Transportation recently embraced this low-tech solution to guide motorists to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport near Avoca.

Certain drivers negotiating a newly installed traffic roundabout linking Interstate 81 to the airport’s access road had been saying the setup was confusing. Archbald resident Berne Milarck was among them. “It was crazy. I never knew which way to go,” she told a Times Leader reporter. “So I thought if they painted airplanes on the road, you would just follow the airplanes.”

PennDOT officials listened to her pitch, and last week crews applied an aircraft symbol to the pavement in 11 spots.

Could a similar strategy by used in Wilkes-Barre, for instance, to point downtown walkers to the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts or the Luzerne County Historical Society Museum? Or perhaps Wilkes University’s art gallery? Or the Burke Auditorium on the King’s College campus?

Sidewalk symbols might be a less costly alternative to installing and replacing signs, or what urban planners refer to as “wayfinding” elements. Aside from helping people get from Point A to Point B, painted sidewalk signs could supply our streets with a touch of whimsy. A book symbol, for example, could put people on the path to the Osterhout Free Library. A barefoot symbol might show them the way to the Wyoming Valley Levee Trail.

Forward-thinking people in places that aim to attract new and younger residents – and stem population loss – are adopting strategies to make those communities more pedestrian-friendly. (For inspiration on the possibilities, see online resources such as a 2015 article about Arlington, Va., by Commons Magazine, as well as last year’s report on pedestrian infrastructure touted by WalkBoston.org.)

Can officials in the Greater Wyoming Valley’s cities and boroughs encourage more walking – and boost vitality on the streets – by adding symbols to their sidewalks? Or should advocates of this kind of action just take a hike?

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Likewise, tell us your ideas for improving the community. Maybe we’ll spotlight your suggestion in a future editorial and ask readers, “Would it be a good idea to …”

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