NOB HILL--Sometimes I think the city of Albuquerque hates pedestrians. Oh I know…pedestrians jaywalk all the time and some pedestrians just seem to dare a motorist to hit them.
Well, that's true. But what has the city done except threaten pedestrians with arrest? In the last year 23 pedestrians were killed. Yet there has been nothing said to drivers about being careful of both pedestrians and cyclists. Do we need some clarity as to who has the right-of-way? Do we need some clarity as to what constitutes a crosswalk?
As far as I understand it, pedestrians at least, do have the right-of-way. The Pofahl Law Firm here in Albuquerque states on their website, "It is common for a vehicle driver to take the right-of-way, expecting the pedestrians to step back or dodge, but pedestrians always have the right-of-way especially in a crosswalk or parking lot."
Where are the Zebras?
One thing the city has done is to get rid the "zebra" crosswalks that were aimed at helping people cross safely. The one on Girard SE disappeared a couple of years ago. And there no longer is a striped crosswalk in front of Expo New Mexico which was heavily used by people visiting the flea market on weekends. The white paint was scraped off the street and everything painted black. It was if to say, "Good luck! We abandon you to the speeding gods of idiocy!"
Actually they would probably say that painted crosswalks are more dangerous than nothing at all. And this is true, partially. Wikipedia cites a study: "Research undertaken in New Zealand showed that a zebra crossing without other safety features on average increases pedestrian crashes by 28% compared to a location without crossings. However, if combined with (placed on top of) a speed table, zebra crossings were found to reduce pedestrian crashes by 80%." A "speed table" is an elongated speed hump that is large enough to accommodate the vehicles wheelbase on the top of the hump. One example would be to elevate the crosswalk itself on a speed table.
Frankly, there is no excuse for not protecting people crossing the street in front of the Expo NM. That street is loaded with families pushing strollers and pulling toddlers across the street while dodging cars and standing in the middle of the street awaiting a break in the traffic. If pedestrians have the right-of-way, nobody told the drivers.
San Mateo and Central Ave. is the really big problem. It has to be the most dangerous intersection for pedestrians in Albuquerque. What a nightmare for both pedestrians and vehicles! The problem is the buses--both Rapid-Ride and regular buses stop at the corners and people are always hurrying to get from one bus to the other. Not only that, the Rapid-Ride stations are not even close to the corner so the most direct route from station to station is right across the lanes of traffic.
Last month APD cracked down on jaywalkers at this intersection, giving out 100 jaywalking citations in February. But how about addressing the root of the problem: all those buses and people running between them? Let’s try something new, rather than giving out tickets to people who are dodging traffic jogging from the south-bound San Mateo bus to the west-bound Central Rapid-Ride.
Here are some ideas.
I know this would cause some problems for cars turning right, but remember, we lost 23 of our people in the last 12 months. And if this idea doesn't appeal to you, suggest something else. I'm open to anything. The question really seems to be, "Do all those really smart traffic engineers have a solution to the problems inherent in having four heavily used buses arriving at the same corner at the same time? Here are some more thoughts.
Nob Hill is a different matter. One problem is that cars edge through the marked crosswalks on side streets to get a better view of the road and a faster entry into Central Ave. The problem with that is it forces pedestrians to either walk way out of the crosswalk in the front near the cross traffic, or to go behind the car and risk not being seen by a turning vehicle. My own rule is to never cross behind a car. Somebody from the traffic dept. should walk around Nob Hill and see what keeps cars from being able to see oncoming traffic clearly. I know that the city's own bus stop on Tulane and Central creates a big blind spot for cars coming out of Tulane SE. And mostly it is the big advertising poster that obstructs the view.
Central Ave., Again
Another problem is trying to cross Central Ave. at a corner is hardly safe. Supposedly all corners are considered unmarked crosswalks. But that doesn't make them safer than crossing in the middle of the block. For one thing, there is no pedestrian refuge on the median at corners. The median at that point is less than two feet wide and an adult can feel the breeze from traffic as it whizzes by. Forget about it with children, strollers, or walkers.
No…probably safer to cross in the middle of the block. There are no cars turning in front of you or in back of you. There is a safe spot to stand on the median half way across the street. Many times there is a tree or something to hang on to. And best of all, there is one less lane of traffic. Just make sure the coast is clear.
Maybe if there was a campaign to slow cars down and prevent cyclists and cars from being hit I would feel better about obeying rules that would seem to endanger me. But I can't remember the current or past Mayor of Albuquerque get on television and say that pedestrians do have the right of way, no matter what. And that the procedure is if a person is waiting at a corner to cross the street, stop your car and let them. Or that speed limits in high-use pedestrian areas like Nob Hill, or San Mateo & Central, or in front of Expo New Mexico should be reduced to no more than 30 mph.
Instead, all we get is the police handing out $10 jaywalking tickets to people who can least afford them. That is not a solution to 23 deaths per year.