A pledge for pedestrians and drivers

western ave intersection red light crosswalk

By AOA Greg

This has been a bad week for pedestrians. One person was killed on Central Ave in Albany, another hit just up the street during a vigil for the first person. And in North Greenbush, a pedestrian was hit by truck with a snowplow attached. [TU] [Troy Record]

Unfortunately, a week like this isn't surprising. I walk a lot -- because I have a dog, because I prefer it to driving when possible, just because I like it. Rare is the week that I don't have a an encounter with a vehicle that's a little too close. A lot of times it's a result of something a driver did (or didn't do) -- roll through a right on red, not respect a crosswalk, or just not pay attention to what's going on. But I'm also sure there are times I could have been a better pedestrian.

So, pedestrians and drivers need to come to some sort of understanding. And toward that end, here's a pledge for pedestrians and drivers (and municipalities) to do better...

As a pedestrian, I pledge to...

+ Cross at a crosswalk when one is nearby.

+ Pay attention to nearby traffic lights, especially when they're about to turn.

+ Look both ways before crossing.

+ Cross the street with purpose. That's not to say I'm going to run, but I'm not going to amble -- or stop halfway to text.

+ Not dart out from between parked cars -- because that gives a driver very little chance to see me.

+ Walk on the sidewalk when possible.

+ If it's not possible to walk on the sidewalk -- because it doesn't exist, or it isn't clear -- I will walk on the left side of the road so I can see the traffic coming toward me. And when traffic is coming, I'll do my best to get out of the way.

+ If I'm out walking or running at night, I'll make an effort to wear something that makes me more visible.

+ Be civil and give people the benefit of the doubt. (I admit I've yelled at a few people who have rolled through rights on red while I've been crossing. I probably shouldn't do that.)

+ Just generally pay attention to what's going on.

As a driver, I pledge to...

+ Keep an eye out for pedestrians.

+ Respect the crosswalks -- even where there aren't traffic lights. If a person's in the crosswalk, I'll slow down or stop to let them cross.

+ Not stop in -- and block -- the crosswalk.

+ Come to a stop when turning right on red. Because a red light is like a stop sign -- even when turning.

+ And when making that turn, I'll keep an eye out for people crossing the intersecting street.

+ Not run red lights.

+ Slow down on residential streets. There's a big difference between hitting someone at 20 mph versus 40 mph.

+ Not double park -- it makes it hard for pedestrians and other drivers to see what's going on up the street. (Also: it's tacky.)

+ Not use my mobile, re-arrange my playlists, or some other sort of distracting activity while driving.

+ Be civil and give people the benefit of the doubt.

+ Just generally pay attention to what's going on.

As a municipality, I pledge to...

While we're at it, let's not leave municipalities and planners out of the discussion. Because they could do things to make the situation better.

+ Make it a priority to install, maintain, and/or extend sidewalks when possible.

+ Maintain and conspicuously mark crosswalks. Add crosswalk signals where appropriate.

+ Critically assess intersections for how friendly they are to pedestrians. Is it readily apparently how pedestrians should use the intersection? Is there a natural place to cross? Will they have enough time to get across the street?

+ Crack down on speeders, red light runners, right-on-red rollers, and crosswalk blockers.

+ Keep pedestrians (and cyclists) in mind when designing new intersections or developments.

Comments

Over the past few years I've noticed a serious problem with drivers in Albany. Rampant running of red lights, stop signs, and speeding. I think part of this is due to little enforcement of these laws by APD. I have seen someone blow through a red light with a cop in the lane across from them, and nothing happened. Almost every time I slow down for a yellow light someone speeds past me, and many times when I am going through a yellow light, the person behind me goes through when the light is red. This is very dangerous driving.

Unfortunately the people that need to see this post, won't.

I'll take the pledge. Just as drivers need to be 'defensive drivers' to maintain safety, pedestrians need to be 'defensive walkers' to stay alive.

Maybe this will lead to a jay-walking law (at least in Albany if it can't be state-wide). I can't believe it continues to be fine for folks - sometimes with small children! - to cross streets like Central Ave in the middle of 5 o'clock traffic in a diagonal manner in areas that aren't even close to crosswalks. Honestly, it's terrifying to be a driver on Central, especially when it gets too dark to see pedestrians in the middle of the road.
/rant

I'd add "Crack down on jay walkers and ticket pedestrians who don't cross in cross walks." to the municipality pledge. This is a huge problem on State St. in Schenectady and Central Ave. in Albany, which no one seems to be talking about.

the texting drivers will be the death of us all. everyday i walk down delaware ave and or lark street. the police need to crack down on these jerks. and yes, if you text or otherwise look at your phone while driving, you are at the very least a jerk. if we had some highly publicized crackdowns on distracted drivers on certain corridors (central and delaware aves) it could go a long way to cut down on the problem and raise a little money for the city.

As a runner, this resonates with me too. I never run listening to music for this very reason, i am ALWAYS paying attention to my surroundings, especially the vehicles. Many times i've had to head toward either a ditch or snowbank to avoid a driver who either isn't paying attention or doesn't have the time to move over (due to a curve or bend on a narrow road).

There are many kind drivers who often stop to wave me across the road, however, it's very likely that there are a number of other drivers who will go around said nice driver. So, i'm sorry kind driver, but i am very distrustful, preferring to wait until there's a red light or nice, safe gap in the traffic (a good opportunity to sprint).

I guess the bottom line for me is that as a pedestrian, runner or cyclist, it's best to assume that the drivers on the road won't see you until it's too late.

All good suggestions. I especially like "Walk on the sidewalk if possible." I live in Pine Hills, which has sidewalks throughout, and I frequently see people walking, running, and pushing strollers in the street. I can understand this if the sidewalk has not been cleared--and this is a genuine problem at times since some property owners are negligent---but I often see pedestrians in the street when the sidewalk right next to them is clear and dry. I am puzzled and curious why people do this. Does anyone know?

@Jeremy-

I think the biggest problem is that lights in the City of Albany are timed to change from green to red in about 3 seconds. Meanwhile, many lights in other places (like in the suburbs) change in around 6 seconds.

It also doesn't help that the street lights in Albany are very old and mechanically driven which means they cant be programmed to change over from green to red at the times when it would be best based upon the flow of traffic. This means that you can easily end up going down a major road like Washington or Central and end up having to stop at every single light for miles on end (even if there are no cars coming from the side streets) because they are timed in such a way to make that happen.

Because of this, I am really not suprised that many people fly through red lights, especially when they are in places like the City of Albany.

Great post, Greg.

I know I've been guilty of of some of this stuff on both sides, especially the one where I get angry and yell at cars who've nearly run me over when out walking the dogs. More than once I've been tempted to throw the bag of dog poo at an offending car that's intentionally sped up, flashed their brights or splashed me with a puddle.

And seriously people, as drivers we need to slow the heck down. Most of Albany is residential, do people really need to be flying down a dead-end at 40+ mph? Where's the fire?

You know what I love? The Defensive Driving course. I know most people zone out, but the entire point of the class I took was to forget about all the crap going on in your little self-centered universe and focus on driving appropriate to the conditions surrounding you. We should make it mandatory even if we have to force it on the masses Clockwork Orange style.

I live on a side street of Western Avenue in Albany and in the 8 years I have lived here there have been at least 50 accidents on the Corner of North Pine & Western Avenue because of DRIVERS on Western Ave (Route 20) blowing through RED LIGHTS. For every accident there is - there are 20 blown red lights where the drivers simply got lucky and got away with this.

SCARY !

From the "Albany Left" at the 3-way intersection of Henry Johnson with Washington and Central, to the "Rolling Right on Red" at Willett and State, I take my life in my hands walking to and from work every day. And reports like this on AOA show that I'm not alone.

This is one of the reasons the Albany Roundtable is bringing Jeff Speck, the author of _Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time_ to our Annual Meeting on Wednesday, May 22. We're thrilled that the Capital District Transportation Committee has signed on as a corporate sponsor. We all need to work together to make our cities more walkable and more liveable!

abc, did you justify why it is OK to run a red light? Really? It is never OK to run a red light - the only reason a quicker light change caused you to run a red is because you didn't respect the yellow which gave you plenty of time to slow and stop (not speed up).
As long as the police do not enforce running red lights, this will be an issue because most drivers seem to think the laws only apply to other people and they won't kill someone when they run a red light. And the police dont. At all. Ever. And they see it every day.

I am both a walker and a driver - I live in Center Square, work downtown and walk probably 75% of the time. I typically only drive if I'm visiting my parents or going to a grocery store on Central.

To reiterate the earlier rants - Central Avenue is THE WORST. People will stroll right out in front of your car at dusk and assume it is your responsibility to slam on your brakes or swerve.

I was stopped at a red light on Central, and as it turned green, I hit my gas as a person bolted into the street. I hit him and he bounced off my hood, shoes flew off, whole nine yards. Thank God there were enough witnesses to defend me to the cops, as I was shaking, thinking I killed the guy (he just had a cut on his head). Cops told me not to worry about him, he would be fine, and that it was most likely a set up. Sure enough, the "victim" is currently suing me for $100k.

I am usually totally on the side of pedestrians, but I am consistently astounded by the walkers on Central Ave. Why are they out in the middle of the street? It's as if people have no clue that it's the most dangerous corridor in the region for pedestrians. Do they not know how many people get slaughtered out there? Are people really that clueless? Just stay on the sidewalk.

I'd love to think that a pledge would get drivers to behave more considerately, but I think it comes down to the law, and even more to the physical infrastructure. On almost all roads, cars are the main consideration and so are encouraged to run rampant, and go as fast as possible.

We need far, far more traffic calming measures if people want to be truly safe (and also encourage other modes of transport). I would not leave it up to drivers to behave better. On highways, let cars rule the road, but on all local streets, they should be an afterthought, after people, bicycles, and buses. There should be lower speed limits, traffic "humps," and more space given over to sidewalks, curbs, and bike lanes to make those modes of transportation more comfortable, and cars slower.

Can we have a pledge for cyclists? I'm SO sick of them playing a game of frogger across lanes to avoid stopping at intersections. IT'S NOT OK for bikes to ride on the wrong side of the road, cut across lanes without hand signals, refuse to use turn lanes, and ignore lights/stop signs. As a motorist it's NOT OK to crowd bikes off the road, speed past, and cut them off when they have the right of way.

@KM: As a person who pushes strollers in Albany fairly frequently, it is sometimes VERY difficult on pusher and child to go over certain sidewalks not only because of not being cleared (which is, indeed, a big problem) but also because of the actual state of the sidewalk. There are huge potholes, uneven cracks, roots pushing up the cement, etc. that make it so difficult to push a stroller. I hate walking on the street, esp. with a child, but in certain areas, I have to do it so I can actually make it through that area on foot. Ugh.

Pedestrians need to follow crosswalk signals as well, they account for things like green arrows.

Pedestrians need to never walk in the road, ever. I see pedestrians walk on the road in snowy conditions to avoid unshoveled sidewalks, if the sidewalk is slippery, the roads are slippery too, especially near intersections. Impeding traffic that can't stop easily is dangerous.

And a third, children should never play in the street.

Pedestrians need to learn to use the ped signals when provided. Push the button and wait until the walk signal before you cross. If you cross against the orange hand, you're jaywalking. Cars don't have to yield to you because you are breaking the law.

Hear, hear!

I especially love it when the students from Albany High amble across Washington and the cross streets when traffic has the green light. It's like they're daring you to hit them. I know where they've learned this behavior, too, after watching mothers drag young children across Central against the light.

Why fight Darwin? He'll always win.

Add to the above that almost nobody slows down in the 20 mph school zones. There are so many schools on my route to work and when I actually slow down to 30, the cars behind me don't even seem to understand why I've slowed down to what seems like a crawl.

I meant to write "slow down to 20" in the school zone -- but even 30 is too slow for Albany drivers.

I once drove the exact speed limit for the length of Krumkill Rd. (where I confess I got a speeding ticket years ago) and when I got to the end to make my turn, a red neck in a pick-up truck who had been behind me pulled up next to me and shook his fist at me (I'm a benign looking older lady) and was screaming at me through his window. There are sociopaths out there who feel entitled to speed and run red lights and ignore the rules of the road and no doubt drive drunk until they kill somebody.

Regardless of the right-of-way, the driver is required by law to take great care to avoid "hitting" pedestrians. Cars still have to avoid hitting pedestrians which may require vehicles to yield.

Greg, it would be great if you could do some follow up on some of the points raised here, for example on the timing of the lights in Albany or why the Albany police don't have more traffic cops handing out tickets. I know there was some neighborhood associations looking into red light cameras in the city to automatically send out tickets when someone ran a red light.

Also, a personal pet peeve is when cars park or stop in a crosswalk. I can't tell you how many times I have had to walk around cars that were parked right up to a corner blocking pedestrian access to the cross walk or people stopped at light blocking the cross walk and sometimes the whole intersection.

Crossing Central Avenue itself in Colonie is like an equivalent of walking the interstate highway (like the Thruway and Northway) with traffic
going by at the same time. It is a very dangerous road for pedestrians to cross. Alot of people are being killed trying to cross Central Avenue. Cars go between 55 mph and 60 mph on Central Avenue. That is very fast, and with that speed, pedestrians would be very frightened, and end up killed in the matter of seconds. Police should crack down on people who walk across Central Avenue who don't use crosswalks (that is a good way to get killed) When I walk across Central Avenue, I always use a crosswalk, wait until the light turns red, and the walk-don't walk sign is set to walk.

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