The city’s attempt to enhance pedestrian safety in Chinatown by installing bulb-outs has misfired.

Our aesthetically pleasing, fun loving, restaurant centric, historically designated, residential/business community has been destroyed by the Complete Streets Program’s bulb-out blight and all its attendant street furniture clutter. It violates the Chinatown Special Design District regulations which sets forth the ambiance, height limit, etc. of the neighborhood. These hideous installations are an affront to our sensibilities and confusing pedestrians, those using mobility devices, dog walkers, care givers and drivers alike.

Instead of normal streets and pedestrian crossings, we now stare at reddish brown paint with small towers, planters, yellow hoops, and swaying vertical stanchions impeding our progress. Large vehicles are prohibited; only cars, small vans, and pickup trucks are allowed. Some drivers cannot access their parking garages.

Chinatown businesses are losing customers, deliveries cannot get through. Those who want to drop by to pick up a lei or food cannot find parking. All in the name of pedestrian safety!

Honolulu officials have put in “bulb-outs” — traffic calming devices — in areas of Chinatown, much to the dismay of some residents and business owners.

Jane Sugimura

The bulb-outs have also caused a major backup on Maunakea Street as drivers have a harder time turning on to King Street. Due to the bulb-outs trash collection was halted. The city is asking that trash be placed on the edges of the bulb-outs for pickups.

It appears city planners did not conduct due diligence when working on this project. As a result, business owners are calling their landlords who are in turn calling their attorneys.

They didn’t research  how many businesses are in the area or the types of businesses. They didn’t  contact USPS, UPS, Fed Ex and others to find out how they would be impacted. They didn’t ask ask how businesses received their goods.

They didn’t ask about  customer demographics, whether they drove a car, walked, bused, where they parked, how long they parked for, how far away they would park before deciding to go someplace else. They didn’t speak to customers.

They didn’t contact the residential buildings. They didn’t show anyone pictures of these monstrosities and mention how much of the street was being commandeered by the bulb-outs. They didn’t talk to the sanitation engineers to see how trash pickups would be affected.

They just foisted this on us in the guise of pedestrian safety.

I am a senior citizen. I served on the Downtown/Chinatown Neighborhood Board form 1988 to 2015. I walk through Chinatown almost daily. I am a bus rider. I was hit by a “distracted driver” (per the HPD report) several years ago, at the corner of Pauahi and Smith Streets. I was hospitalized for two days.

How are these bulb-outs supposed to help me and other pedestrians?  The streets were safer when I was hit than they are now with the bulb-outs. On Monday, July 3 I scolded a driver at that intersection for running the stop sign. I don’t think he saw it. He looked confused.

The bulb-outs aren’t helping pedestrians. They are making our life more miserable. Their street furniture is interfering with passage. They don’t belong here. They don’t belong anywhere except in the trucks taking bulky items to the dump.

Instead of saying, pedestrian safety is our top priority and your objections don’t matter, the city planners should admit they were wrong, go back to the drawing board (starting with enforcing the rules of the road), citing drivers who run stop signs and traffic signals, don’t yield to pedestrians, fixing the streets (potholes, cracks, uneven pavement, etc.), so pedestrians don’t trip and fall and cars are not damaged, and repainting the crosswalks. Their priorities are skewed and making life difficult for us instead of making things better.

Bulb-outs have taken up space businesses need for customer parking.

Jane Sugimura

These bulb-outs must be removed now, with other work orders postponed until this is accomplished, the streets repainted to the original black color, the parking spaces that were removed returned to the public, and all the signage that was removed (remnants were on Smith Street July 5) replaced and the new signage removed.

Every day delayed is another day we  suffer. Every day delayed is another day businesses suffer. The lost income cannot be recouped. Because of these bulb-outs some customers may never return.

Next month is the 20th anniversary of the Honolulu-Zhongshan sister city relationship. Zhongshan, where most of Hawaii’s Chinese emigrated from and the capital of the province Dr. Sun Yat Sen’s family was from, is sending a delegation for the celebration. It would be an insult if the bulb-outs are still standing when the delegation arrives.

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