PEDESTRIANS IN PERIL

23May07

Boston Police are going after motorists who don’t stop for pedestrians in crosswalks. According to a report on WHDH 7News, cops have set up a sting operation where a plain-clothesfemale officer posing as a young mother, using the crosswalk, attempts to cross the street with a doll in her stroller. The Channel 7 report showed one vehicle after another blowing by mother and “baby” without making any effort to stop. Motorists caught in the sting are being issued $200 tickets by uniformed officers.

The goal of the sting, according to Boston Police, is to improve both pedestrian safety and the city’s image.

No one is surprised that Boston drivers ignore pedestrians in crosswalks, but things aren’t much better out in the civilized suburbs.
Crosswalk Sign
Not long ago, I wrote about the dangers of being a pedestrian in downtown Wakefield, Massachusetts. I described a situation where a young mother is pushing a baby stroller across Main Street, in a crosswalk. As they approach the center of the street, a motorist, instead of stopping or even slowing down to allow them to cross, swerves around them while steering with one hand and talking on a cell phone.

Some people may have thought that I made that story up or embellished it for dramatic effect. Sadly, I don’t have to invent those kinds of stories, as anyone who does any walking around Wakefield Center knows. Most people have a few tales of their own.

Recently, I witnessed another near miss.

As I was walking down the steps of the Wakefield Post Office, I saw a young woman crossing Main Street in the crosswalk directly in front of the building. She wasn’t pushing a stroller, but she was carrying her very small child in her arms.

She was about halfway to the center island that divides Main Street when a truck owned by a prominent Wakefield business (that I should name but won’t) passed right in front of her without so much as slowing down. And yes, the driver was talking on his cell phone.

The woman paused for a second, shook her head and raised her free hand palm up in a gesture of utter incredulity. By now, I was just a few feet behind her in the crosswalk.

“It’s unbelievable, isn’t it?” I said to her.

“The incredible thing,” she replied, “is that the driver looked right at me. He made eye contact and kept going anyway.”

I told her that she should call the local company’s office and report the incident. I even spelled the name on the side of the truck twice to make sure she’d remember it. She said she would call.

What’s the solution?

Some would say more police enforcement. But the fact is that under the budget constraints of Proposition 2½, Wakefield simply can’t afford the number of police officers that a town this size should have. That’s the reason that downtown foot patrols, at one time omnipresent, were discontinued.

At the risk of overstating the issue, it’s not just a matter of safety, but of commerce. Why should people shop at local stores and patronize downtown merchants if they feel like they are taking their lives in their hands crossing the street?

And any driver who operates a vehicle with a local company name on it ought to know that everything he does behind the wheel reflects on the business he works for.

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