The Coalition to Take Back Our Streets held its first Crosswalk Workshop at the pedestrian crosswalk on Aloma Avenue between Forsyth and Tangerine. This crosswalk is 100 yards west of the crash site where Kasön Bailey was killed Friday night, October 8th. The three workshop participants were Keri Caffrey, Christopher Eggebrecht and myself. Will biked up controlling his lane on Aloma to lend support but had to leave to attend to family obligations.
The picture is of Keri asking traffic to stop so she can escort someone across the street. Notice her foot in the crosswalk, her arm and hand outstretched to catch motorists’ attention, and her eyes intent on catching the motorist’s eye. Keri took some video clips:
We met with about 25 people and most we escorted across the street in the crosswalk, several both coming and going. I printed 30 brochures and we handed out 26. We were there for two hours. There were three near rear-enders and we got lots of negative and off-color comments from drivers. No one called the police and we didn’t see any police cars during the time we were there. Most people understood and agreed with what we were doing. Many were Hispanic and didn’t speak English, but welcomed the assistance crossing the street. There were a few that crossed outside the crosswalk just to stay away from us, mostly young males. Everyone wants lighting and a signal beacon on the crosswalk. The t-shirts Keri designed are awesome and really added to the event. The near perfect weather was very welcome.
I’m going to schedule another workshop for the same crosswalk on the 31st. With the longer lead time we should be able to get a few more participants. I’d like to be able to get everyone a T-shirt next time. Since it will be Halloween I’d like to give out iced water bottles and treats for the kids. Costumes optional.
Here’s my response to a question on motorist compliance:
It’s obviously hard to pin down a percentage since when the traffic is heavy and speeds are high, it’s difficult to say which motorists would be required to stop under Florida’s ambiguous law. Next time we should put markers at the reasonable stopping distance for the 45 MPH speed limit which could help. But even then it might be difficult to determine whether a driver really should have been required to stop or not. When a platoon of cars comes by the leaders are usually so close together that if one stopped there would almost inevitably be a chain reaction set of rear end collisions. The person looking to cross is so intent on watching that drivers don’t run into him/her that it’s hard to be able at the same time to judge who should have stopped or not. (More good reasons for a look at the basic structure of our traffic laws.)
All that being said, I have to say that when presented with reasonable conditions to stop, about half of the drivers did. However, if you include cars streaming by at 45 MPH bumper to bumper, the percentage drops dramatically to around 15%. Many drivers switched lanes to avoid having to stop. One driver tried to switch lanes when the car in front of him slowed down to stop, only to find the driver in the other lane was stopping also. He had to slam on the brakes to avoid a collision. (I jumped back big time!)
The 45 MPH speed is a big, big issue. If traffic were slower, many more motorists would be willing to yield since they wouldn’t be as afraid of being rear-ended. I understand FDOT’s concern about placing crosswalks on higher speed roads. The solution, however, is very simple; lower the design speed and speed limits in pedestrian areas. The right to build high-speed arterials through pedestrian-active urban areas needs to be revoked.
Here are comments on the workshop from Keri Caffrey:
“As an outreach, I think it went well. I’m not sure if most of the motorists agreed with what we were doing. I found the motorist attitudes and behavior discouraging. That crosswalk needs an RRFB [Rectangular Rapidly Flashing Beacon, a strobe light set that signals a pedestrian is in the crosswalk] and regular police enforcement.
This is my observation of the people who live in the area:
The ones we helped cross were grateful, but I bet 90% of them will not be assertive on their own. There’s little reward for it. It’s humiliating and lonely to stand with a foot on the asphalt, holding out your arm while a dozen motorists blow past you. No one wants to plead like that and be blown off—especially a solo person. As added negative reinforcement, when drivers do stop, other drivers yell and honk. There is far less psychological burden to stand back in the shadows till the coast is clear and slip across the road unnoticed… even if that means waiting a long time.
It’s infinitely easier and more rewarding to be an assertive bicycle driver than an assertive pedestrian.”
I agree with Keri’s excellent comments.
I even found myself more willing to wait until the traffic cleared to attempt to step out into the crosswalk as the day wore on. There are many more drivers than pedestrians and as Keri stated, they are almost all opposed to what you’re trying to do.
So that’s it. A good experience with lots of insights obtained and a plan to move ahead with another crosswalk workshop on the 31st, same location. Hope to see you there!