On June 27th, I wrote about my personal “Pedestrian Awareness” campaign where I focused on cars that stop at a light or stop sign by pulling right into the crosswalk. It’s rude and sometimes dangerous, but for the most part, the cars are going slow enough that injuries tend to be minimized.
But on June 28th, a pedestrian was hit and killed while walking in a crosswalk on E. Elizabeth near Patton Street. And I was suddenly reminded that cars stopped in the wrong place are one thing. But moving cars are an entirely different matter. And a car moving through a crosswalk when a pedestrian is in residence can be lethal.
Though the police report hasn’t come out yet on exactly what happened, the Coloradoan has stated that, “neither distraction nor impairment are suspected.” (Jason Pohl, “Pedestrian ID’d from fatal Fort Collins crash,” Coloradoan. June 30, 2016.) Which makes me wonder… if the truck driver wasn’t distracted, and she wasn’t impaired, then was she just plain not looking? And if so, then what in the world can protect any of us when we’re out walking?
Though I believe it’s wise as a pedestrian to wear reflective gear or lights when walking at night, this happened at 10 am, so darkness wasn’t the issue. And the sun should not only have been high enough at this point not to be in the driver’s eyes, but it was also behind her. So if anything it should have made the pedestrian easier to see, not harder.
When I’ve been in a similar situation, crossing at a crosswalk with a motorist making a left hand turn right at me without apparently noticing me, I’ve waved my hands in the air to try to get their attention and point out that I’m in the middle of the street. Please don’t run over me! But there’s only so much I can do in a situation like that. If a driver isn’t looking, then what more can I do but run?
It makes me wonder if there isn’t something else that could be done to make the streets safer for pedestrians.
My husband and I visited a friend in Cambridge, England, almost a decade ago and there were several times we’d see things right in the middle of the road, blocking traffic. It totally threw us and we asked our friends why in the world there’d be islands, cones, or other devices permanently blocking the traffic lane. Everyone we talked to seemed to think these devices were just a normal part of using the streets. They acted as traffic calming devices, slowing cars essentially by using the threat of meeting an oncoming car in your lane as a deterrent to driving too quickly.
In the photo above, the cars in the left lane have to slow down, look for oncoming traffic, then proceed slowly around the small island before returning to their own lane. Bicyclists, on the other hand, can go right through.
Now imagine something like this around a pedestrian crossing area. Not only would the pedestrian have a safety island to stop at, but the cars would be traveling much more slowly in order not only to avoid hitting pedestrians, but to avoid hitting each other as well.
I’d like to see the City of Fort Collins explore what other communities are doing to calm traffic and make the streets and sidewalks safer for all users. Pedestrians shouldn’t have to wear special equipment just to walk from one place to another. There have got to be infrastructure solutions that can help us more safely share the road. Let’s search them out, talk them over, and start putting the best ideas into place throughout the city.
In your travels have you seen solutions that you think would work well here in Northern Colorado? If so, please share them in the comments. And if you have pics, I’d love to see them.