January 12, 2010 Our Opinion: Watch the walkers Pedestrians have their rights, too In a town where the car is king, life can be perilous for pedestrians. That's probably not news to anyone who has ever walked more than a block in Tallahassee, but the "Dangerous by Design" report released at year's end by the Surface Transportation Policy Partnership and Transportation for America is certainly newsworthy. The report gave the Tallahassee area - which includes Gadsden, Jefferson, Leon and Wakulla counties - a "pedestrian-danger index" of 109.4. That measure of the risk of walking was more than double the national number of 52.1. Here at the Tallahassee Democrat , we don't have to look far for anecdotal evidence. A reporter out in search of a sandwich once wound up on the hood of a car while trying to use a crosswalk on Mahan Drive near the paper. We talk a good game here in Tallahassee. We say we want neighborhood schools and a bustling downtown and a thriving university community and a pedestrian-friendly Gaines Street and alternatives to fossil-fuel-powered transportation. But the numbers in the study as well as first-hand accounts from residents - drivers yelling at pedestrians, pedestrians having canes knocked out of their hands by cars, dog-walkers nearly hit, children endangered even in school zones - say otherwise. We need wide and well-designed sidewalks, a fact emphasized by County Commission Chairman Bob Rackleff, who called a lack of sidewalks a major impediment to having people use mass transit. We need clear signals and well-marked pedestrian crosswalks (in Monday's news story on the safety report, Mr. Rackleff pointed to the intersection of Magnolia Drive and Apalachee Parkway as the ultimate challenge for travelers on foot). But what we really need is more awareness from drivers. Ask yourself: When you're watching traffic and getting ready to turn right on red, do you also look to your right, in the crosswalk, before you pull out? Do you know the laws of Florida, about when a pedestrian has the right-of-way? Do you know how much room to give a pedestrian who is forced to walk at the side of the road when there is no sidewalk? As traffic is piling up behind you, do you find yourself resenting the fellow who is legally crossing the street in front of you? Take a moment to consider what sort of community you want this to be. Pause an extra second to look both ways. Give those with disabilities an extra-wide berth. Think. It will be worth it if you can save a life and make this a better place to live.