Open Season on Walkers?

Bill Northrop


“Get out of my way. I’m driving a car”.

“@#$%^&^ I have a right to be here. Watch out for me”.

  It’s a confrontation between drivers, bicyclists and motorcyclists. The big guys win every time, of course. There’s plenty of blame to go around. Cars drive too fast and radically and without paying attention to their surroundings; bicyclists pedal on roadways they shouldn’t, pedal at night with minimal lighting, and cut across traffic; motorcyclists weave in and out, follow too closely, drive too fast. They all, occasionally, drink and drug.

 So, its like a Batman comic, Bam!Crash!Crunch!Pow! It would be comic except it’s usually tragic. Those expletives are the sounds of crunching metal, bones, and flesh. Unfortunately, make all the laws you want and things don’t change much. It’s hard to legislate common sense, patience or concern. Plus real accidents do happen.

  The latest concern…well, not really the latest because the concern has been around for the past couple of years…is the plight of pedestrians. Pedestrians in the Tampa Bay area are at great risk according to a report of Transportation for America, a self professed progressive organization located in Washington, D. C. for U.S. transportation policies. Just about any one who is anyone related to transportation belongs according to its web site. It all sounds good.

  Anyway, about those pedestrians: some 47,000 have been killed in the ten years between 2000 and 2009. That’s a little more than are killed every year in vehicles in general. Whatever. It’s a lot and cause for concern. The magic wand is, of course, federal legislation to cover highway and street design, signs, crosswalks, and so forth. In short, pass a federal law and throw money at it. Good luck.

  These are people, folks. And, people can do stupid things. Things we see every day. Along our beaches we have signs, flashing lights, flags, and a reasonable 35 mph speed limit and an occasional cop. Cars still speed, don’t stop for the cross walks and pedestrians cross wherever is convenient particularly near bars. Plus, we’ve cluttered the roadway with too many distracting signs that put pedestrians and drivers at risk. So, people still get hit.

  A federal law to apply to all communities? Get real. This is a pretty big country with thousands of towns, wild variations in weather and topography and sizes of roadways. It wasn’t a surprise that northern cities such as New York and Pittsburgh have better records than here. They have winter. That really discourages walking. They have narrower roads. They have people who actually know what crossing a street is about.

  Good weather states have people outside all the time. There are usually four lane roads, lots of activity between blocks. People are more likely to go walking at night though it’s hard to excuse walking on the roadway at night with dark clothing as I saw one woman doing on Starkey Road. Same for unlighted bikers.

  Don’t think federal. Think local. Yes, we should be concerned about the number of people killed. However, there is a thing such as individual responsibility. It applies to drivers, too. Whichever, address it locally. You can adapt, change, adjust, add on, take away, bend, twist, more easily and definitely more cheaply and, yes, with more common sense, if it’s done locally.