Sunday, November 12, 2006

Safety in the 'Hood

Stop Signs Are for People, Too.

The man stood in the middle of Pershing Drive, swearing at the top of his lungs, arms outstretched like a traffic cop. It was only about dinnertime last Wednesday evening, but already the night was dark.

“Stop your @#$#^*%*#@ cars!” he yelled in the wash of the streetlight.

“Steve,” his wife said lightly from the sidewalk. She stood next to their friend with both their daughters. The husband of the friend had made it across Pershing already, holding the man’s son.

“Stop your damn cars!”

He held both hands up to stop one car which slowed, then, one hand still up toward that car, he shifted lanes and brought the other car to a standstill at the intersection of Pershing Drive and Thomas Street. The man’s wife, friend and their two daughters walked across the street.

Minutes before, the man and his four-year-old son had been crossing Pershing when a Cadillac Escalade approached from Glebe Road. The SUV slowed but didn’t seem like it was going to stop—though it had plenty of space and time to do so—as the man approached the yellow lines, so the man slowed his step. The SUV hit the gas and drove past the man.

So did the next three cars.

Those four cars buzzed by him as though he wasn’t a pedestrian in an intersection with a young son, as though he didn’t exist, and the man lost it.

Readers have probably guessed by now that I’m that man (the “Steve” may have given it away). I wrote that in the third person because it allowed me to see how crazy I must have looked. My wife said later she didn’t mind me stopping cars as much as the 10 decibel swearing in front of the kids (and they were some choice words).

In writing it now, I realize there was no awkward silence after that happened as my friends, family and I walked to El Paso for dinner. It could have been that I’ve done enough crazy stuff that my friends know what to expect from me.

But when four cars won’t let a guy and his kid who are standing at the yellow line make it safely to the other side at night (and the street light is plenty bright enough for cars to see pedestrians in the middle of the road), my friends knew my frustration, though they might not have reacted in quite the same way.

Chris Zimmerman was in a community walking tour a year or more ago when I brought up this very problem. He told me the board couldn’t do anything because the county’s Department of Transportation wouldn’t allow it; he couldn’t even get a stop sign he’d wanted. (Huh? Come again? Who works for whom, now?)

So I talked to the DOT person who was there, too, and he said that because the car traffic along Thomas is considerably lower than along Pershing, cars won’t stop along Pershing, they’ll blow through.

But do you think an Escalade would blow through a stop sign when a man and his son were crossing the street?

Stop signs aren’t all about motor-powered traffic.

Darkness on the Edge of Town

I was talking with a neighbor the other day about how dark it is on Thomas Street at Henderson, the site of the Buckingham Village 2 construction. So I buzzed by at night, and sure enough, it’s dark.

When the buildings were ripped up, so were the street lights. The street lights are still up, obviously, on the sides of the streets where the buildings still stand, but everywhere in the neighborhood where there’s construction, it’s dark.

I’m not sure what can be done, but people should know.


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