Herschel Street businesses, residents petition for crosswalks

Herschel Street businesses, residents petition for crosswalks
Business owners along Herschel Street are petitioning for crosswalks, of which one could continue from this striped “no parking” area.

For customers of small businesses and restaurants along Herschel Street, crossing the busy state road (Florida SR 211) on foot is no easy task. Limited store-side parking on the west side of Herschel Street forces patrons to park across the street in a “parking field” on the east side and walk to their destination, exposing them to heavy traffic, often at high speeds.

The maximum speed for SR 211, which is classified as an “urban minor arterial,” is 30 mph, but motorists are often seen exceeding the limit.

“We are petitioning to make Herschel Street safer for pedestrians. With all the new businesses popping up on this street, plus the new large development on the corner where The Loop used to be, we are petitioning to have crosswalks installed,” said Dori Thomsen, owner of Soluna Yoga+Spa, 4154 Herschel St.

At the base of a tree is a memorial for Dillon Mullis, the motorcyclist who was killed March 4 on Herschel Street.

At the base of a tree is a memorial for Dillon Mullis, the motorcyclist who was killed March 4 on Herschel Street.

“People still drive down this road like it’s a highway. And, technically, it is a federal highway, owned by the state” she said. “Years ago they tried getting speed bumps installed, but it failed to pass. This road is not safe and there have been multiple fatalities over the years, including the one that just happened last weekend, practically outside our doorstep.”

Thomsen was referring to the fatal accident which occurred March 4 when a motorcyclist traveling south on Herschel struck an SUV attempting to turn left (northbound) from Beverly Avenue, which is approximately 250 feet south of Thomsen’s business.

On Jan. 30, 2009, a man was struck and killed while crossing Herschel Street after picking up takeout from Hungry Howie’s, a pizza restaurant where Chomp Chomp is now located, according to Nancy Pedrick Cusimano, who is working with a group to have crosswalks installed.

“We are hoping to get crosswalks similar to those installed throughout the Shoppes of Avondale to assist in slowing traffic, allowing safe pedestrian passage, improving business opportunities and maintaining the intended purpose of our walkable neighborhoods,” said Cusimano. “We feel  there is an immediate need for a crosswalk on Herschel between Melrose and Beverly, where two fatal accidents have occurred. I also feel at least one additional crosswalk is needed further down Herschel, possibly between Irvington and Marquette, to cover the entire shopping district.”

The area under scrutiny, which has been variously called Avondale, Fairfax, Ortega and BOA (Between Ortega and Avondale), begins roughly at the intersection of Herschel Street and San Juan Avenue and extends north on Herschel to the “Y” where SR 211 veers left as St. Johns Avenue and Herschel continues right as a city-owned road.

Originally designed as a walkable community, allowing Fairfax Manor residents to walk their children to Fishweir Elementary School or to the preschool at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, concerns are being voiced regarding speeding traffic, poor visibility, limited storefront parking, non-compliant handicapped parking across from the businesses, and a half-mile stretch of Herschel Street with no crosswalks.

Petitions are available at businesses such as Soluna Yoga+Spa, Carpet Concepts, The Growing Tree, and Michelle’s Alterations in the block between Beverly and Melrose Avenues. Sonya Hanlin, Soluna’s studio manager, is spearheading the effort to collect signatures. As of early March, there were almost 300 signatures.

“We do not have a set cut-off date for the petition. For now, we will be keeping them in the shops while we do more legwork to bring awareness to the situation. The goal is to reach at least 500 signatures before approaching the Department of Transportation,” she said.

In addition, letters have been sent to Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and District 14 Councilman Jim Love, and Hanlin has spoken with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, asking for a stronger police presence on Herschel Street.

“We are excited to have new growth in the area and just want to maintain a harmonic balance for everyone and provide a safe environment,” said Cusimano.

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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