Monday, January 25, 2010

Pedestrians In Crosswalks

This post is about trying to cross the street.

For the many years, when I worked downtown, I had monthly parking privileges across the street,--West 3rd Street (incidentally, West 3rd was briefly named in honor of the long-time, now-disgraced alcoholic Sheriff of OurCounty.) 

On each end of this short stretch of West 3rd Street which runs north-south, major east-west intersections are controlled by traffic signals. The significance of this fact, is that cars are usually at a dead stop immediately prior to approaching the crosswalk which was at a mid-point.  The cars should not be faster than 25 mph. The entire distance from one light to the other was no more than 450 yards and as I said--with the pedestrian cross walk bisecting at a small one-way crossing street.  The lots were separated from one another by this small one-way street that ran in front of my building on Public Square and south to a W. 9th Street.  The foot traffic across this crosswalk during the hours between 8 am-9 am, and; again, at 4 pm-5:30 pm is steady.  This crosswalk remains active throughout the day, since this is the foot route to the federal court house, and the state office building. 

Notwithstanding, the cars race through the throngs of pedestrians, often gesturing and shouting and with impunity, not giving an inch. 

To cross in this crosswalk with cars moving along West 3rd is to take your life in your hands.   I'm not going to say literally, or actually, in reality, or fatally--since fatalities have occurred in this crosswalk, and in the crosswalks ringing public square including a recent horrific (available to you with a strong stomach on YouTube) homicide of a crosswalk pedestrian by a city bus driver who was texting.  Which brings me to this article from Madison, Wisconsin;  according to the Wisconsin State Journal, the Madison police ran an operation directed at this problem and cited 35 drivers in 4 hours last Tuesday. 

Wisconsin is not your most urban locale, but according to the article 756 pedestrians were hit last year with 58 fatalities.  Which makes me think that the statistics must be mindbending, and sure enough a cursory Google searcxh turns up this link on pedestrian-motor vehicle statistics from 2008.  The shocker in this article, is that 64,000 pedestrians are injured every year, and 5,000 killed.  The numbers dwarf the losses in in Iraq and Afganistan over the same period. 

When you cross West 3rd Street as I did nearly every working day of my career sometimes, multiple times I can not tell you how many times I've been shouted at, nearly hit, and seen near misses involving others.  While the traffic right of way in the United States is that pedestrians have the right of way, in crosswalks, being mighty cold comfort when you are dead. 

This is on my mind, in part because I was offered a job which I'm inclined to take.  It offers a slow, steady road back.  I have no ambivalence at all about the job offer or the terrific people who extended this opportunity--it is legal support work that is already in my wheelhouse. Obviously, my efforts at Bad Lawyer will be affected, and yet for the time being I do not envision ending this chronicle.  My exhausitve look at the odd corners of the local legal world will change, how--I can't say, maybe it will be improved with the need to budget my time--we shall see.  

Back to the crosswalks--as you will recall I've been looking for a path back, I hope not to be run down in the crosswalk.

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