Pedestrians always have had a hard time getting respect, and that’s doubly true in Janesville, where General Motors reigned for so many years, and a deep-seated car culture still exits.
Many drivers here think nothing of blowing past pedestrians, especially at uncontrolled crossings. Some drivers even turn visibly upset when pedestrians refuse to sheepishly wait at the curb and instead exercise their legal right to enter crosswalks.
Bad driving habits likely explain why Janesville police released last week a list of tips in response to complaints about crosswalk violations and pedestrian safety.
Reminders about the rules of the road are appreciated, but the city should do more. In particular, the city should install more “Yield to pedestrians” signs and beacons at uncontrolled crossings. Roadways near schools often feature these enhancements, but there’s a dearth of these signs and beacons in other parts of town.
Too many Janesville drivers are either ignorant of the rules or simply don’t care, perhaps believing the rules won’t be enforced.
That’s not to say pedestrians are helpless victims in this situation. They, too, can take steps to help their cause.
Like drivers, many pedestrians need to relearn the rules of the road. Some act clueless at crosswalks and don’t pay attention to traffic, often with their faces buried in their smartphones.
Pedestrians also need to summon a little courage against the 4,000-pound masses of metal hurtling toward them.
We don’t want people leaping in front of vehicles, but pedestrians should be assertive in claiming their right-of-way.
A rise in pedestrian deaths nationwide prompted a 2017 study examining pedestrian and driver behaviors in Wisconsin. The study examined pedestrian and driving habits in Milwaukee, Madison and La Crosse.
Video collected at crosswalks in Madison and Milwaukee showed “71% of drivers yielded to pedestrians who entered the crosswalk without changing their walking pace; 30% of drivers yielded to pedestrians who stood in the street or at the curb or indicated that they wanted to cross by looking directly at oncoming traffic or making a gesture with their hand or body. Only 3% of drivers yielded to pedestrians who did not look at oncoming traffic or stood away from the crosswalk.”
Pedestrians might feel showing assertiveness is dangerous, but the study concluded fewer crashes occur at intersections with higher driver yielding rates.
Janesville suffers from a lack of pedestrian awareness, and the city’s car culture contributes to a sense of entitlement among drivers. Around here, it’s not cool to yield to pedestrians.
That needs to change.
Pedestrians, you deserve to be treated better than this. Take back that crosswalk!