Ithaca Blog

Thursday, January 31, 2008

For Pedestrian Safety: Enforce Traffic Laws

The Ithaca Times runs a thoughtful piece this week about growth in Ithaca, the attendant increase in vehicular traffic, and increased danger to pedestrians.

The problem is real. But it isn't complex.

The solution is simple: enforce traffic laws against speeding, and running red lights and stop signs.

Cars and pedestrians could co-exist if drivers were less hurried and more careful. They're not, for two main reasons:

1. Traffic patterns in town, especially with the lack of co-ordination of traffic signals, make driving downtown not just slow, but frustrating to the point of road rage. Thus, angry drivers speed through town, and through red lights, all but oblivious to the incidental reality of pedestrians.

2. Traffic laws are not enforced, so you will not punished for this kind of illegal and unsafe driving.

Reason 1 is hard to change. But Reason 2 is easy, and changing this situation will change the other.

Think about how many times you have done 40 in a 30-mph zone in the city (no? - how about on Rt. 13?), or barreled through a red light (intersection of State and Fulton?). How many tickets have you gotten? How many would it take to change your behavior?

Right. Me too. Not many.

A few months ago, two blocks from Small World Music, a pedestrian got hit at the intersection of Seneca and Fulton by a driver who was speeding on Seneca to try to make the ill-timed light, and made a left from Seneca into Fulton without signaling, all the while looking up at the changing light, never glancing at the pedestrian in the crosswalk. I know because I was the pedestrian.

Enforcing the traffic laws is an important role for the police department. It shouldn't be arduous. It should actually even be profitable.

The Times article gave the phone number for Tim Logue, transportation engineer for the city, for comments on these issues: 274-6535.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

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