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I “Advocate” Growing Up!

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There is a large university near where I live; we’ll call it The U. Last year The U created several new crosswalks on some of the busiest streets on and bordering campus, partially in response to the traffic death of a student pedestrian at another of the state’s universities. Tragic as that was, it should be pointed out that he was jaywalking and not making use of available crosswalks there. He also, it was reported, stepped directly out in front of a moving vehicle on one of the town’s busiest streets, without looking either way.

Nevertheless, The U’s administration determined that more crosswalks would equate to greater student safety. Campus and local police joined forces to issue warnings and tickets, and to educate drivers and pedestrians on how to peacefully coexist.

Incredibly, when this fall semester began and despite another “joint crosswalk enforcement blitz,” there have been several unwanted configurations of pedestrians, cyclists, and motor vehicles in the streets. This despite “crosswalk enhancements” such as signs and “bright paint.” And a significant police presence — officers issued nearly 600 tickets during the first few weeks of the semester, the great majority of them to jaywalkers.

During this campaign, a young woman was struck on one of the busiest streets bordering campus, when she stepped out in front of a vehicle. In the middle of a block. Without looking. While texting on her phone. Fortunately, her injuries were minor, and both she and the driver were ticketed (the motorist for operating without a license, not for being at fault in the collision).

There have been two remarkable outcomes from the ongoing crosswalk controversy. First, The U’s student government passed a resolution suggesting that fines be waived for ticketed students, to avoid further financial hardship on the relatively impoverished students. It has been pointed out to the student government that jaywalking is against local law; they were not swayed.

And now The U has hired crossing guards, or as The U calls them — presumably in the hope that using an obfuscating euphemism will make their existence any less ludicrous or pathetic — “pedestrian safety advocates.”

Like most American universities today, this is a cash-strapped institution, one that’s attempting to cut tens of millions of dollars from its budget, and yet is hiring crossing guards to stop traffic so that students and other adults can stroll, mosey, or distractedly shuffle from one curb to the next. And this is no metropolis: the total student and community population is under 100,000.

The hiring of these 18 “pedestrian safety advocates” is misguided for several reasons. Unless the police are being prejudicial and selective in their ticketing, most of the offenses are being committed by pedestrians, not drivers. I routinely cross these streets myself and it’s true, some drivers are a menace to pedestrians, but far and away most of the street-crossing conflicts I witness are due to the foot traffic or cyclists.

Also, isn’t part of the college experience supposed to be learning self-sufficiency? It certainly was when I was a student, and it has been for both our kids. Tell me how making students less responsible for their actions, through waiving fines for infractions or hiring someone to walk them across the street like infants, helps them develop into adults. If I thought my college freshman couldn’t safely cross a busy street without a crossing guard, I’d be at his dorm today to bring him back home, where his parents could continue to smother and overprotect him.

Next time you wonder why our kids can’t do things for themselves, ask a pedestrian safety advocate.

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About James A. Gardner

  • WillAtTheBigU

    Well written! The crosswalks have only bred an even more complacency in personal safety. At the very least with the increase in admission standards our big U has decided to implement you would think that a basic understanding of Newton’s Laws would have been covered in high school. It really doesn’t matter what the federal, state, our local law says, 2 ton vehicle moving at high rate of speed will always win against human body. Am I willing to risk Force = Acceleration * Mass because of the white paint on the ground? Stay tuned for my stroll to my car this afternoon!