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On Third Street, Accidents and Crosswalk Laws Ain't Workin'

The real solution lies in changing our driving habits, and it can be done!

It ain’t workin'! Our relatively recent pedestrians have the right-of-way in crosswalks state ordinance, that is. Though, truth be told, it isn’t all the different from the old law where pedestrians clearly had the right-of-way in crosswalks.

But being the inveterate year-round outdoor runner I am, I can count the number of motorists who’ve deferred to my 2012 street crossing efforts on the digits of one lonely hand.

When a driver actually does apply the brakes, it’s such an frightening happenstance that I immediately start to hesitate out of a paranoid fear that an irate reader has finally caught up with me.

It would be the perfect crime, wouldn’t it?

To make those chickens and the road matters even worse, the city’s reasonable efforts to remind motorists of their obligations seem to be creating more problems than they’re solving.

And I can say this because it happened to me.

There I was, aiming for that Third Street Post Office when I noted a blue westbound vehicle approaching that James Street stop sign. When, instead of intently watching me pass safely through the intersection, the young woman looked straight ahead, I knew what was coming.

A brief aside, every road biker on the planet knows the key to their longevity is looking those intersecting drivers squarely in the eyes.

Apparently mistaking that in-street stop for pedestrians stanchion for a four-way stop, she went! Thankfully, I was already applying the brake before being cut me off and, though it left me a bit unhinged, there was never any real danger.

Now I avoid driving down Third Street like the plague.

Having made it home in one piece, I emailed the GPD to propose those pedestrian warning signs might not be the best idea.

Let’s fast forward to last week when an errant James Street driver made the very same mistake. But this time the vehicles collided causing collateral damage to a third parked car. You can find the full details here.

If there’s one thing I love about Patch, it’s the commentary, and some of you came up with some rather interesting thoughts as to how to solve our Third Street quandary.

Though it seems like a reasonable solution on the surface, stoplights, which run around $200,000 a pop, would be far too expensive and they don’t address the root issue.

Four-way stops might work, but if there’s one thing former GPD traffic expert Bob Smith taught me, it’s that the state clamped down on their willy nilly placement because so many cities were abusing the privilege. And none of those Third Street intersections qualify.

Ah! But my favorite thought was closing Third Street to traffic. However, even though I believe it would create more a mall-like atmosphere and amp up business, those staid downtown merchants would never go for it.

In the end, the reader who suggested replacing those stanchion stop sign images with yield signs, probably came up with the best solution. It may not perfect — some James Street drivers might fall into the same trap — but it’s very easy and inexpensive to do.

No matter which way we go, as GPD Cmdr. Julie Nash duly noted, this is a symptom of a greater problem that affects all areas of Geneva.

To wit, I’ve always believed our best bet is to provide the impetus for shift from that cars always come first motorist mindset. And don’t tell it can’t be done. As the commander also pointed out, if you step into a Los Angeles crosswalk, traffic comes to a conditioned reflex complete stop.

And when you consider the GPD’s laudable and longstanding tradition of educating the public via written warnings, I asked the commander if it was time to remove that ambiguous signage and start swinging the pedestrian pendulum with stings.

“We have discussed both possibilities,” Nash said, “And Cmdr. (Eric) Pasarelli is going to be starting a campaign blitz to remind people of the law. Our goal is to refresh motorists memories as to exactly what the law is.”

“One of our 2013 yearly objectives will be an increased police presence in the downtown area to monitor and perform crosswalk enforcement,” the commander continued. “Remember, enforcement does not necessarily mean a ticket. We will also encourage the officers to monitor the rest of the city, as well."

So, since the GPD will be doing its part, I’ll do mine! C’mon, people! This one’s so much simpler than fretting about a teachers strike.

If you’re driving down Third, or any other Illinois street, and a pedestrian places just one foot in the marked or unmarked crosswalk (jaywalking doesn’t count), you must let them pass. No exceptions!

And the sooner we all get that, the sooner they can remove those Third Street signs.

Jack November 20, 2012 at 10:35 PM
The problems of distractions and unwarranted assumptions are not affected by these silly little signs.
samcar1 November 21, 2012 at 04:49 AM
None so far. Who wants to be the first?
samcar1 November 21, 2012 at 04:49 AM
No one will insure this idea.
samcar1 November 21, 2012 at 04:50 AM
You'd block parking spaces all four ways, which nooooo-body is going to be happy about.
samcar1 November 21, 2012 at 04:52 AM
...perhaps a speed bump of sorts right before the intersection: raised outlines of bodies about 100 feet before each intersection.

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