Our View...Give pedestrians a brakeSometimes the area of the community that poses the greatest risk to personal welfare is not a dark alleyway, a shadowy backstreet, a remote patch of woodlands or the fast-paced Interstate. It’s the city streets.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
Sometimes the area of the community that poses the greatest risk to personal welfare is not a dark alleyway, a shadowy backstreet, a remote patch of woodlands or the fast-paced Interstate. It’s the city streets.
Motorists who drive distracted, or who are ignorant of state traffic laws, or who prefer to adopt the “king-of-the-road” attitude that they have the right of way no matter what, can pose a dangerous, even life-threatening, risk to pedestrians.
A number of years ago — after numerous near misses at the hands of passing motorists — residents of Larson Commons senior apartment complex voiced their concerns to the city of Cloquet, which then chose to erect a free-standing sign on Cloquet Avenue to remind heedless motorists that state law mandates that drivers must yield the right of way to any pedestrian in a crosswalk. Since that time, a second sign has been erected on the other end of Cloquet Avenue as well.
The city of Carlton has likewise had ongoing incidents where motorists have failed to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk between Inter-Faith Care Center and Pine View Apartments.
No doubt every town has had its issues.
It’s a shame to think that pedestrians have to take their lives in their hands in order to cross the street. And yet, the close calls continue.
Now consider how a blind person must feel.
Cloquet resident Rick Wilkinson, who is legally blind and regularly navigates the streets of town with a white cane, had several close calls with motorists in a single outing recently. And sadly, he said it happens all the time. Motorists who fail to stop for pedestrians, blind or sighted, pose more than an annoyance. They pose a real and present danger to human life. Wilkinson cited the case of Cloquet resident Jack Thornton, also blind, who was struck and killed in the middle of a local street a number of years ago by a young motorist who claimed he “just looked down for a moment.”
According to Minnesota state law, “The driver of a vehicle approaching a totally or partially blind pedestrian who is carrying a cane predominantly white or metallic in color, with or without a red tip, or using a service dog, or totally or partially deaf person with a service dog identified with a burnt orange collar or leash, shall bring such vehicle to a stop and give the right-of-way at any intersection of any street, avenue, alley, or other public highway to such blind or deaf pedestrian.”
The justification for such a law goes far beyond public safety. It’s a matter of enabling the blind, visually handicapped, and otherwise physically disabled to have “the same right as the able-bodied to the full and free use of the streets, highways, sidewalks and walkways.”
Failure to abide by that law is considered a misdemeanor by the state and carries a fine for those who fail to observe it.
Wilkinson spends his winters in Florida, and he said the small village where he resides has signs posted at regular intervals requiring motorists to yield to pedestrians and also clearly stating the amount of the fine for those who fail to do so. And apparently money speaks, because he said motorists there do stop for pedestrians, particularly the blind and physically disabled.
Wilkinson appealed to the Cloquet City Council on Tuesday night, asking them to consider passing a local ordinance to consider increasing the penalty for failure to yield to a pedestrian and/or posting the amount of the fines on the warning signs. Let’s hope the city will give the matter the serious consideration it deserves.
Granted, signs and fines are only as effective as those who actually pay heed to them. The rest is up to us.