Today’s post is a bit of a rant.
My rant goes out to driver’s of vehicles who don’t understand/ignore/forget about/don’t care about the pedestrian’s right of way in crosswalks.
Many communities have gone to great lengths to highlight crosswalk areas in their towns, so that driver’s will either slow down or stop completely before they hit a person.
Apparently, many drivers are still confused by this. I admit I was. As a driver, the first time I saw the funky little ‘yield for pedestrian’ signs, I was confused. But, since it had a little red yield sign in it’s background, my first instinct was – to stop, and yield. (which I remember annoyed the hell out of the driver behind me) After all the beeping and honking I learned – I only had to stop when a pedestrian was present. OK. Makes sense. I can do that. I became increasingly more aware as I drove, to be respectful of people, especially those not protected by 4000 pounds of metal.
As a walker, I have a different perspective.
In the town I live next to, pedestrian crossings are a more serious problem. Park Ridge’s crosswalks border on something you might see on Saturday Night Live. My longer walks will take me through Park Ridge’s downtown area. Always hustling and bustling with shoppers, coffee drinkers, and families with kids, it’s a lively and enjoyable interruption on my distance walks.
The first time I encountered PR’s crosswalks I wanted to laugh out loud. Are they serious I asked myself? The crosswalk is painted in super big bold stripes – not such a bad idea, they are obvious and clearly marked. Next, on either side of the walk, are those neon green little traffic sign thingys. Pretty normal like most communities.
OK, this is where it gets crazy… Park ridge takes it to the next level – on each lamppost, on either side of the crosswalk is a bucket of bright orange flags. I guess the pedestrian is supposed to pick up a flag on one side and walk across the street with the flag, and then deposit it into the bucket. My first thought was is this one of those “prank” TV show situations?
Feeling incredibly awkward, I picked a flag out of the bucket and marched through the crosswalk. Still keeping one eye open for a camera crew, my focus then changed to – is there some kind of protocol for carrying the flag? Do I wave the flag? Do I just hold it up over my head, my shoulder? Do I throw throw the flag at the cars who still ignore all of this pageantry for simply crossing a street? OR, is the flag merely present to draw attention to my lifeless supine body if I do get hit? Honestly, I don’t know.
I do know that in 2012, streetsblog network reported that “83 percent of the year’s known Chicago pedestrian fatalities were hit-and-run collisions.” I also know from the local nightly news, almost once a month there is the report of some innocent person getting run over by a vehicle and then left, dead in the street.
Does anyone else think this is a sad commentary on the value of human life? As a society, are we content to “run over” people because they are in our way? Do we think people are indestructible zombies? When did crosswalks become scary places? Oops! My anxiety runneth amuck.
I don’t mean any disrespect to Park Ridge, they are trying to “over” protect their citizens and for that I am thankful. But really, I have to wonder what’s next? Flashing lights? A Marching band? What will it take for driver’s of cars (myself included) to pay attention for other humans. Humans as in beings who are just out for a walk.