[tabi] article from Saturday's Democrat on pedestrian safety

  • From: "Chip Orange" <Corange@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 17 Aug 2010 16:48:01 -0400

Pedestrians, bicyclists deserve to live

Pop quiz time for you drivers.
You're headed south on Bronough Street, near the library. Ahead are two
yellow pedestrian
signs and a striped crossing in the middle of the block. A librarian
with a bag of
books steps into the crosswalk as you're building up a good head of
steam from the
light at Call Street.
What do you do?
(a .) Wonder what that thump was and pause from texting long enough to
make a note
in your iPhone to get the alignment checked. (b.) Lean on the horn,
raise your middle
finger and let the librarian know what you think about pedestrians and
overdue fines.
(c.) Come to a complete stop in mid-block and allow her to cross the
Astoundingly, according to Florida Statute 316.130 (7b), the correct
choice is "c."
But trust me, no librarian is going to bet her life that you know that.
This was a bad week to be out on the streets of Tallahassee. Not in your
car, mind
you, but getting around in any way that doesn't include being wrapped in
two tons
of steel.
Jill Caputo died Tuesday when she and her wheelchair were hit by an SUV
on West Jefferson
Street, and the same day, a bicyclist was hit and injured at Bronough
and Carolina
- one block from where a ghost bike now sits, marking the spot where
another cyclist
was killed in May. It's too early to place blame in the most recent
accidents. But
it's not too early to state the obvious: Walking or biking just about
anywhere in
Tallahassee is literally worth your life.
A former reporter here was walking to lunch when he wound up on the hood
of a car
whose driver apparently thought a crosswalk at Mahan and Magnolia was
some sort of
visual aid to help draw a bead on pedestrians. I've seen tourists with
panic in their
eyes as they consider crossing North Monroe near LongHorn Steakhouse.
When I'm out jogging, nine of 10 drivers will give me plenty of room (I
smile and
wave a thank you). But to that 1 in 10, I'm as inconsequential as a bit
of litter
in the road, and I can feel the breeze from the wide-view mirror as the
truck roars
by. An online bicycle group called Tal-Rides has stories. "The flyway? I
think that'd
be nuts"; "agitated drivers getting steamed behind me, cars switching
lanes in a
wild fashion once I get up on the road. A little spooky"; "A few
(drivers) did the
minimum - they moved over enough not to clip me, but not enough to meet
the legal
minimum (that's 3 feet) or to give a cyclist a fair break. ... I may
have worn out
my mirror, looking at it so hard."
Zing!s and online comments (including, no doubt, comments that will be
added to this
column) make it clear: Many Tallahassee drivers have no time for
pedestrians or bicyclists.
The attitude is, "Get the heck off my road."
I have two theories on this.
The first is that people have poor time management. Think: Why do you
have to be
on the phone for those 10 minutes when you're driving to work? Why are
you so angry
when a pedestrian makes you slow down or when a bicyclist causes you
miss a light?
Why are you so angry, period?
(Near the courthouse the other day, a driver beeped another who was just
at a green light. The driver in front honked back furiously and shook
his fist before
speeding off.) If you're in a hurry, leave five minutes earlier. You can
skip the
phone call, enjoy the scenery and maybe even see the pedestrian or the
at the corner. My second theory is that modern cars have made us forget
how hard
driving really is. Great sound systems, leather seats, quiet air
conditioning, computers
that shift our gears and literally watch our backs. Why not grab the
laptop and get
a little work done in this mobile living room?
I read a great book this summer, "Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do
(and What It
Says About Us)" by Tom Vanderbilt. He examines the incredible work the
human brain
- which did not evolve to function at more than 15 or 20 mph - has to do
when we're
behind the wheel.
Driving isn't some video game in which the only goal is to stay on the
road or sidewalk,
with extra points for picking off pedestrians. We constantly make
calculations involving
our position and those of other divers, not to mention the proverbial
kid chasing
a ball into the road.
Or a bicyclist. Or a person in a wheelchair.
Read the book and you'll be amazed we can get safely to the end of the
block. The
margin for error is so small, there's no room for anger or resentment or
even a cell
phone. So leave early. Share the road. Calm down. Pay attention. A
librarian and
pedestrians all over town will thank you.

Contact Mark Hohmeister at mhohmeister@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx or (850)

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