Thursday, December 4, 2014

Let's Talk About Traffic

I am standing in the crosswalk near University and Euclid waiting for traffic to yield so I can get to work. As you might guess, it does not. Monster trucks, souped-up rice burners, and blithe co-eds zip past at 35 miles an hour. And it is a rainy morning, so they send up a rooster tail of street run-off high onto the sidewalk.

Insult? Yes. Injury? Not this time.

As I assert my rights as a pedestrian, I get soaked for my actions.

Don't these people know a woman in a crosswalk was killed last night by a car just like these?

The thought is sobering as I finally run to beat the next driver in his jacked-up pickup. He lays on the horn as he sends spray in my direction, laughing no doubt.

You might think this behavior is limited to drivers who don't know traffic etiquette, but it is not. The hipster on his fixie laying into corners like he's at a velodrome, slaloming through pedestrians on campus is just as bad. Don't even mention long-boarders. And women are great for texting as they roll through stop signs on First Street. The street cars are pretty good, but the tracks are treacherous.

My friend Ken was hit last week in a crosswalk at First and Mountain, in bright daylight. An international student was struck by a bike, knocked out, and suffered brain damage a few years ago. The examples and varieties go on and on and include all of us.

The subject is traffic, but the problem is inattention and a self-interest at the cost of the common good. In other words, it's more important for Me-Me for to get where he or she is going at the rate he/she wants to go than it is to watch out for others who might cross the path.

I hate to say it, but we all need reminders that pedestrians have the right of way. Legally.

Signs saying "Yield to Peds" line bike paths, but are obscured by trees and not very abundant. Since people look down and ahead more than up, how about some speed limits painted on the bike paths, some big, reflective traffic stencils that say SLOW? More flashing lights would be nice too, even the ones that line the perimeter of a crosswalk sign. The solutions are out there, but are only a start.

What I would really like to see though, is a big flashing alarm that says Wake Up!

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