The crosswalk gamble: Cross, near miss or hit

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Al Hartmann  |  The Salt Lake Tribune Girls hold orange flags high as they cross intersection at 2300 East and 3000 South Monday morning November 27.   Crossing guards are on hand in the morning and afternoon during school days only.   Salt Lake County is putting orange flags at four unincorporated area crosswalks to help people cross safely the rest of the time.

Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune
Girls hold orange flags high as they cross intersection at 2300 East and 3000 South Monday morning November 27. Crossing guards are on hand in the morning and afternoon during school days only. Salt Lake County is putting orange flags at four unincorporated area crosswalks to help people cross safely the rest of the time.

 

Crosswalk safety just sounds so boring doesn’t it? Yeah it’s boring. So boring until it isn’t. Until something terrible happens to a citizen as it did several years ago when a woman was killed in a crosswalk in downtown Madison during the holiday season after leaving a downtown restaurant.

It’s boring until my husband was literally hit by a car (without injury thank God) while walking from Perk Avenue towards Amici last month. Yes, it’s boring all right until you see one of your best friends nearly get killed in a crosswalk this past Monday morning while walking from the Post office towards the Chamber when out of the blue a car barreled through the crosswalk causing her to literally jump out of the way or get hit!

We both froze and looked at each other in shock. She was so lucky.

Admit it. Nearly all of us who walk, work, shop and dine in downtown Madison have had a near miss. People often laugh at me when I literally yell at a driver YOU HAVE TO STOP! But, it’s the only thing I can think to do! You can never assume you are safe because you are in a crosswalk! Too often, drivers are in a hurry, they’re on their phone, they’re not paying attention.

I’m proud the City of Madison has taken measures to make our crosswalks safer especially with crosswalk signage, new walkways and newly painted crosswalks.  The City also increased the fine for getting a ticket for violating the crosswalk regulations. The City, this newspaper and local banks have also worked together to distribute crosswalk safety flyers to drivers and pedestrians at the beginning and end of the school year.

But, the adage that there’s always room to improve is tried and true. A walkable, shoppable downtown is not just a safety issue. It’s an economic issue! And, yes I realize it’s been an issue since I moved here in 1991.

Things change. Roads change. Walking habits change. Technology distracts.

After my friend avoided an ill-fated end on Monday, she called me: “I would have hated for you to have witnessed me being killed,” she said. Her near miss reminded me of another near miss several years ago. It was during Downtown Trick or Treat when a car lost all of its power and rolled up onto the sidewalk that was just before crowded with children. That’s all it took for our mayor to determine Downtown Trick or Treat was just not safe.

But, crosswalks aren’t like an event. They are a daily necessity.

Later on Monday, my husband called to tell me he saw my friend in the crosswalk carrying a bright flag. I think she’s onto something. I mean, imagine if she had been in a wheelchair during her near miss, totally unable to jump out of the way of a car. With a flag at least, she has another tool to that says STOP A PERSON IS WALKING HERE!

Some cities actually use flags for pedestrians to hold while walking through a cross walk. I hope the City of Madison considers this. Downtown Greensboro even has bright crosswalk signs in the middle of the road . . . sort of like our stop sign in the middle of the road in front of the Court House.  Not a bad idea. It sure makes me slow down.

But back to that flag. I’d rather do the crosswalk gamble holding a bright, big flag. Surely it will improve my odds.

Dianne Yost writes a weekly business column for the Morgan County Citizen.

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