Stop bowling for pedestrians
In the Wood River Valley, drivers are the
bowling balls; pedestrians and cyclists are the pins.
A woman died recently after a truck struck
her as she was traversing a crosswalk at a controlled intersection on Hailey’s
Shortly thereafter, a vehicle struck a
child on a bicycle at the same intersection. Luckily, the child survived with a
few bumps and bruises.
In Ketchum last week, a car at the
intersection of Fifth Street and First Avenue struck a child on a bicycle who
was riding in the wrong lane of traffic. This child also survived.
The circumstances surrounding all three
incidents were different, but in one sense, they were all the same. The streets
the pedestrian and cyclists were crossing were all designed with one major goal
in mind: to move as many cars and trucks through as fast as possible at the
lowest possible cost. Pedestrians were not top priority.
The consequences of such limited thinking
are demonstrably deadly. In communities whose livings are rooted in the
recreation industry, it’s inexcusable.
Technically, our towns’ Main Streets are
state highways. To cross them, pedestrians must navigate five lanes in Bellevue
and Hailey, and four in Ketchum. They must cross at the same time traffic may be
turning right or left—which poses a danger from even the most diligent drivers.
Crossing lights, which blink warning about four seconds into the crosswalk,
scare the wits out of the slow or the disabled and anger drivers who
misinterpret the sign of the blinking hand as indication that the pedestrian
should be out of the way.
Traffic engineers working on a new highway
plan for the valley have acknowledged the danger of the highway’s vast expanse
to pedestrians. One alternative may be to provide "safety islands" halfway
across to help protect pedestrians. But there’s a hitch: They’re expensive to
build and maintain.
Ketchum has an additional problem. It has
three major streets that join Main Street at signal-controlled intersections.
Yet, it has refused to improve a major portion of one, Fifth Street, which
includes the intersection where the child was hit.
The intersection is a tangle of bad
asphalt, missing sidewalks, two hills, disorganized parking and poor lines of
sight. The writing’s on the wall.
The cities should undertake major
pedestrian safety initiatives and urge the state of Idaho to do the same. They
should not leave the valley’s pedestrians and cyclists as unprotected as the
bowling pins on a slippery lane.