While I applaud the efforts of Michael Doyle to seek safer streets for pedestrians, I see no evidence of better behavior by pedestrians, cyclists or drivers. In fact, if anything, our streets are less safe as drivers turn right on red without stopping, make “Hollywood” stops at stop signs and routinely race through yellow lights. And now there are those e-scooters to add to the mix.
Getting serious is what’s urgently needed. I will tell you how it’s done. Fifty-three years ago I arrived in Portland, Oregon, ready to start college. No one had told me how serious Portland took pedestrian safety. On my first day, I saw no traffic so I crossed on a red light in downtown Portland. A cop on the beat came over to me and handed me a ticket. Say what? The cop informed me that pedestrians must neither jaywalk nor disregard street lights. The fine was $25 or report to the central police station for a movie shown every Wednesday evening. Being a poor student, I went to the movie.
I was surprised how many people, mostly young people, were at the movie. Before it started, a police officer commented that she knew that all of us believed nothing could happen to us. Now watch the movie. It was scene after scene of shocking footage of mangled bodies of pedestrians hit by cars, trucks, motorcycles or bicycles. It was hard to look at, and all of us were squirming in our seats.
After it ended, the officer started a discussion about pedestrian safety. She made it clear that our safety started with us. Don’t ever assume a moving vehicle of any kind is aware of our presence. From that day forward, I took that advice. I also became far more pedestrian aware as a cyclist and motorist.
I don’t know if this movie still exists, or if there is an updated one, but I believe that if Alexandria is serious about pedestrian safety, it can follow what Portland did a half century ago. It’s all about education and enforcement. Is Alexandria ready to get serious? The verdict is still out in my view.