As demonstrated by new snow on mountain peaks on Memorial Day, weather is an unreliable indicator of the coming of summer.
Traffic, however, is sure giveaway. Toward the middle of May, drivers notice an increase in the number of out-of-town drivers who arent going with the flow. Theyre on the lookout for directional signs, motels and restaurants. They change lanes abruptly when they find what theyre looking for. They have trouble finding their way through the maze at the 160/491 intersection. They may come from places where walking and bicycling are much more prevalent forms of transportation. They dont always understand U.S. traffic laws.
And they bring a lot of money to the area.
It goes without saying that their time here should be not only enjoyable but safe.
Its equally apparent that locals deserve the same degree of safety all year. Right now, students are out of school. The weather is nice and the days are long, so adults also are walking more. But again, traffic is heavier.
Pedestrian safety is a challenge in a town whose main thoroughfare is a busy highway. The addition of a light on South Broadway will certainly help protect pedestrians in that area. The yellow signs at crosswalks are a visible reminder of the need to stay alert. The recent reduction in speed limits on Main Street will help drivers stop when a pedestrian steps off the curb that is, if the driver sees the pedestrian.
For many reasons, a driver might not. Morning and evening sun can be blinding to Main Street drivers at certain times of the year. Four driving lanes and a turn lane create many ways in which another car can block a drivers view. Anything that attracts a drivers attention in one direction a honking horn, a sign, a car changing lanes, a pedestrian distracts that driver from whats happening on the other side of the street, and thats a problem in places where pedestrians frequently cross from motels to restaurants and vice versa.
Calls for additional crosswalks and stoplights are well intended, although crosswalks are no guarantee of safety. Drivers still need to be aware of whats happening around them. They need to know that pedestrians are likely to be present, and they need to be willing and able to stop.
Traffic laws and devices are tools. At best, they can influence human behavior, but they cant force it. When a pedestrian steps into traffic regardless of the color of the light, the presence of pavement striping or a legal right of way only two things can happen. The pedestrian can (and, obviously, must) stay out of the way of moving vehicles, and drivers can (and, obviously, should) slow or stop to allow the pedestrian to pass safely.
The responsibility is shared, with the greater burden on the pedestrian because that person faces the greater risk to life and limb.
The community needs to have an honest discussion about traffic and pedestrian safety along Main and Broadway. But regardless of whats decided, the people on the street drivers, walkers and bikers have the most ability to prevent tragic accidents.
Pedestrians: When in doubt, dont step off the curb. Yes, its inconvenient to walk several blocks to a light; thats probably still the best plan, and even then, be aware of vehicles that are turning.
Drivers: Share the road. Yes, stoplights and pedestrians, in and out of crosswalks, slow the flow of traffic, but allowing them to cross safely is still the right thing to do.
Bicyclists and motorcyclists: Remember that youre almost invisible, perceptually, to everyone else.
Lets aim for a summer with no pedestrian accidents.