Committee takes campaign to the streets

MARSHALL – Members of the newly-formed pedestrian safety committee in Marshall recently spent some time hanging out at a few intersections in Marshall. Although it might have appeared they were doing little more than loitering, they had an important purpose.

Committee members observed three intersections in Marshall to put a statistical face to a problematic trend they are trying to curb when it comes to pedestrian safety. The intersections were chosen based on public feedback gathered at a forum that took place in June.

“Our purpose of doing this – because it’s difficult for pedestrians to cross some of these intersections – was to find out what is happening at these intersections,” said committee member Jean Replinger, who along with Carole Martin and Cathy Amato started a grassroots campaign earlier this summer to raise awareness about pedestrian safety. “We really urge the community to join us in helping us make this work and create awareness.”

The numbers committee members came away from the hour they spent at each of three intersections are eye-catching. They reported that, cumulatively, 93 percent of vehicles did not stop for pedestrians to cross at the three intersections.

Of the three intersections observed, the worst, according to the numbers gathered by the committee in the one-hour time frame, showed 46 percent of vehicles did not come to a full stop when there were no pedestrians. The committee noted that pedestrians at that particular intersection acted as if they had no right of way at all and therefore did not even try to enter the crosswalk until no cars were in sight. Some, they said, had a “fairly long wait.”

“What happens is pedestrians think they have to wait until there are not any cars around,” Replinger said. “Well, they have the right of way to go. I think people are just not aware of the rights of way, be it the pedestrians or the drivers. We simply need to make that more obvious to people.”

At another problem intersection, 30 percent of vehicles did not come to a full stop when pedestrians were not involved, the committee said. At the other intersection studied, committee members noted that some drivers did a “rolling stop,” some stopped in the crosswalk and some “just rolled through.” During the hour, 20 pedestrians “indicated a desire to cross” at that intersection, and only seven of the 95 vehicles approaching the intersection at that time honored the pedestrian’s right of way.

Replinger knows she and her fellow committee members are not traffic cops and can’t enforce any laws, and she doesn’t want them to be portrayed as vigilantes of any sort. They simply want to make all drivers more aware of the issue, and to change their driving habits and accept a commitment to be more mindful in their driving habits.

“We aren’t trying to be heavy-handed at all,” Replinger said. “We think what has happened is our habits have gotten worse and worse. Our way of behaving in society is if we get away with something it’s OK. That can intimidate pedestrians.”

Replinger thinks that most people are simply in too much of a hurry to come to a complete stop at intersections without a traffic light.

“We need to give ourselves permission to not be in a hurry,” she said. “People need to understand that being in a hurry is not the primary thing, being safe is. It’s a small town, we’ll get there in time.”