Thursday, August 27, 2009

Pedestrians take action to make their neighborhood safer.

Local residents on a residential street ( Louise de Colignylaan) in a neighborhood in Naarden, the Netherlands took pedestrian safety into their own hands when traffic was channeled through their neighborhood while a nearby major highway nearby was under repair. Residents painted their own unofficial crosswalk on their street. This action angered local government officials because of the cost in removing the painted crosswalk. But what about the issue of pedestrian safety? Is this going to be a new wave of pedestrian action beyond Naarden? Will this start happening in Charlottesville? Will neighborhoods start putting in their own speed bumps, too?

I am not advocating that residents start acting independent of the city in maintaining our pedestrian infrastsructure, but I urge our Charlottesville city staff to be proactive in providing pedestrian safety signage or other safety measures - permanently or temporarily - as unsafe pedestrian circumstances arise. I admit that I have contemplated mixing some QUIKRETE cement patching material to fill holes and large cracks in the sidewalks of Charlottesville (but I haven't actually done this). Maybe Charlottesville can start an "Adopt a Sidewalk" program and provide willing citizens training, approved patching materials and access to tools to fix some of these safety issues on their own. I am sure there are legal implications about letting citizens do infrastructure repair, but with so many tripping hazards on our sidewalks and crosswalks maybe this is something worth considering. Maybe Charlottesville can be a leader in channeling citizen action into safer pedestrian ways. I am happy to sign up for duty.

If you want to see the online story or view the news video (both in Dutch) , they are available through de Telegraaf - online.

1 comment:

daniel said...

I read about a man in Portland who got in trouble for doing something similar to this last year.

I haven't gone so far as to make my own infrastructure improvements, but I have made efforts to assert my legal right as a pedestrian. Most pedestrians wait until cars pass even when they have the right of way (and then scurry ashamedly when they do cross). I have decided to wave my arms in the air, make eye contact with approaching drivers, and then step out into the street.

I did this a couple of weeks ago at the Main and McIntyre intersection by downtown. After letting three right-hand turning cars cut in front of me, I decided to step out visibly in front of the fourth one. He did stop but he honked at me, and my wife pointed to our walk sign. Nevertheless, he was visibly angry as he sped away.

I did this as safely as possible, but I recognize it was not 100% safe. Still, if I could help one more person be more aware of the human beings who happen to co-inhabit his machine world, it seems worth it to me.