Letter to the Editor: Pedestrians, Be Alert

Letter to the Editor: Pedestrians, Be Alert

I read with great interest your excellent article about pedestrian safety. I hope your readers will take the time to read this letter as it conveys some very important additional points.

I was not surprised to see your map that clearly indicated that one of the most dangerous, if not the most dangerous, street to cross is Duke Street. Our community knows this well, as there have been a number of pedestrians and cyclists hit by cars and trucks.

First, I want to stress that many such incidents are not reported to the police, so numbers in your article are understated. There are various reasons for not reporting, including a reluctance to talk to the police, a concern by some service workers, including caregivers pushing baby buggies, that they will lose their jobs, etc. If this frightens you, it should.

Second, it took us six years of petitions before we finally got something we consider the bare minimum for a safer crossing of Duke at the intersection most of us in our community use. I pray the reported interest in the City Council to pedestrian safety is not simply polite words.

All pedestrians should cross our streets only with the greatest of caution. It's not simply a matter of driver distraction, which indeed only gets worse every day. It's a matter of Commonwealth Law, which like some many Virginia laws, is written by those in rural areas who have no priority in pedestrian safety.

The law is clear: Drivers only need to avoid hitting a pedestrian at a crosswalk that does not have a red light. They can swerve, they can speed up … as long as they don't hit you. Once again, if this frightens you, it should.

At the same time, our police have competing priorities. Alexandria has no limited access highways, so there is high priority in keeping traffic moving, especially at rush hour. Pedestrians are most vulnerable during the morning and evening rushes, especially on Duke, where drivers coming east in the morning have the sun in their eyes and those going west in the afternoon face the same problem.

I appeal to pedestrians to never expect a vehicle to stop. Be alert, try to make eye contact with drivers before crossing and never cross until you are confident you can do so safely.

Jim Larocco