The prospect of gaining a crosswalk in the front of our offices through the Delaware Avenue Street Enhancement left us rather excited when it was proposed last year.
Residents who find themselves needing to cross our town’s main street are too familiar with the challenges of navigating through the steady stream of vehicular traffic during rush hour. It’s a dangerous situation. From our windows, we often see drivers driving above the speed limit and carelessly ignoring the right of way of pedestrians and on-coming traffic, alike.
It was only two years ago when we witnessed a pedestrian-vehicle accident in front of our office. In that case, the pedestrian came off the bus and was crossing the street before being struck by an oncoming car. But, authorities found that no one was at fault. There was no crosswalk, so pedestrians had to cross the street at their own risk.
Since the crosswalk was installed in front of our office, we’ve noticed it has done little good for pedestrians. Though it has been New York state law for well over 20 years, most drivers do not yield to people attempting to walk across the street in a crosswalk. One could argue that drivers still have to familiarize themselves to the new street markers, but let’s be honest about that for a second. There’s a crosswalk in front of the Delmar Post Office, and has been there for decades, and many drivers still ignore it and the people trying to use it.
People need to understand the definition of the “right of way.” May we suggest looking of the “New York State Department of Motor Vehicles Driver’s Manual.” It’s online in PDF format, which means you can do a keyword search. You’ll find in particular “drivers must yield to pedestrians who legally use marked or unmarked crosswalks. This means you slow down or stop if necessary.” Yeah, we took that directly from the book.
While we’re on the subject, we can talk about those of you leaving the Bethlehem Central Middle School parking lot at the beginning and conclusion of each school day.
“A vehicle that enters a roadway from a driveway, private road or another put that is not a roadway, must stop and yield the right-of-way to traffic on the roadway and to pedestrians.”
That would mean that if you are leaving a parking lot, you are not in traffic. Any other car on the road, however, is and therefore has the right-of-way. In this case, it means they go before you. Nowhere does it state any provisions for cars with more horsepower or those assessed at a high market value. It simply states that if you’re not in traffic, and someone else is, you stay.
On the flip side, there’s a peculiar behavior we’ve noticed with residents who decide to walk and jog around town. In Bethlehem, we’re fortunate to live in a town with an exceptional network of sidewalks, but a lot of us choose to walk on the road. As we pose the argument to motorists that they recognize and follow the right-of-way, pedestrians need to exercise more common sense. Walk on the sidewalk, pay attention to oncoming traffic and, even if you’re using a well-marked crosswalk, don’t walk into traffic until you’re confident motorists see you.
Though we make reference to our highly coveted crosswalk outside our offices, this message is not entirely self-serving. As your local newspaper, we often find ourselves at a variety of accidents, many of which would have been prevented if someone slowed down, exercised a little common sense, and drove down our streets the right way.
Michael Hallisey is Managing Editor of Spotlight Newspapers.