I was checking out the Cedar Rapids Gazette for news about my beloved but apparently cursed Iowa Hawkeyes when I ran across this article about a recent uptick in pedestrian fatalities in Iowa. While it’s somewhat comforting to know that, despite the vast geographical and cultural differences between them, Oregon and Iowa share many of the same transportation problems, it’s lamentable that there’s not more being done to prevent them.
The most interesting tidbit:
On Dec. 2 a jaywalker was crossing Council Street NE when he was struck by a pickup in the turn lane at 6:40 a.m. Police cited him for failing to use the crosswalk.
Ouch! Don’t you think the poor fellow perhaps learned his lesson merely from being hit by the car, without the added emphasis of the ticket too? And no ramifications for the driver at all? Perfectly legal to keep right on trucking if the pedestrian isn’t in a crosswalk and presently assigned right-of-way by statute or an MUTCD-approved traffic control device? Really?! What if it’s a person in a wheelchair? An elderly person? A child?
Look, I’m not defending jaywalking here, but I think it’s something we all do from time to time, maybe even without knowing it. Take a close encounter of the vehicular kind I had last night as I crossed Morrison Street along West Burnside. I posted a picture of the intersection below. I might have been guilty of jaywalking here, although I’d argue that there is an “implied crosswalk” along Burnside that I was in when a teenaged driver ON HER CELL PHONE sped around me while leaning on the horn. Can I cross legally there, rightfully expecting drivers to yield to me as they should at a marked crosswalk? Or would a good, law abiding pedestrian have walked south on 20th to cross Morrison (where the crosswalk is also unmarked, incidentally) before walking back to Burnside on the far side of Morrison? I honestly don’t know if I was legally in the right here or not.
Indeed, gazing out my window to gather my thoughts just a second ago, I saw two citizens jaywalk across Harrison Street to catch an approaching streetcar. This happens often at bus stops as well. Is this because these jaywalkers are lawless heathens who deserve their fate should they be struck by a car during their transgression? Or is it because perhaps we fail to serve pedestrians with ample and well-placed crosswalks, and have written the rules of the road to disproportionately favor drivers?
The answer to that question depends upon your belief of the primary purpose of a street. Mine is that they’re for people, not cars, but if our policies and enforcement are any indication, I’m firmly in the minority there. C’est la vie. As a driver, I’m still going to break for pedestrians in the road whether they’re there legally or not, and even if they’re not actually human:
“Often drivers don’t even recognize the figure as a person [...] People think they are deer,” Iowa Department of Transportation spokesperson Dena Gray-Fisher said.
Well then. I must admit, I’ll think more carefully before my next jaywalk knowing there are licensed drivers out there who have a hard time with that whole person-deer distinction. Well played, Dena Gray-Fisher, well played.