Over the past year I have had the opportunity to serve as commission liaison to the Mt. Lebanon Traffic Board. While road safety is often a topic of conversation at these meetings, a subject that is less frequently discussed is pedestrian safety. I spoke about this with Lt. Duane Fisher, staff liaison to the traffic board, and he said that pedestrian safety is always at the top of his list of concerns. “All too often, everyone wants to quickly blame the driver,” he said. “However, more often than not, pedestrians do one or more things incorrectly or take shortcuts that put themselves and others at risk. These decisions often contribute to an otherwise preventable collision. It is just as important that those on foot do what they can and should for their safety.”
Did you know that state law requires that sidewalks must be used if present, even if they are on the opposite side of the street? (Personally, in light of the fact that we call ourselves a walking community, I wish we had far more sidewalks to do our walking/jogging on, but perhaps that topic is best left for another article.) Joggers and walking pedestrians should always stay on the sidewalk, if there is one. In addition, if a sidewalk is closed for any reason, cross the street and walk on the other side, if that sidewalk is available. This may seem like common sense, but not everyone follows this practice. All too often pedestrians (and drivers) have a false sense of security that causes them to make poor decisions. In addition, best practice dictates that pedestrians should always walk toward (opposite) traffic so that they may see oncoming drivers. If pedestrians are walking with traffic (in the same direction as traffic flow), their backs are toward the vehicles. They have no way of seeing a potential safety hazard or collision waiting to happen.
Another very dangerous habit of some pedestrians is to cross roads wherever they feel is most convenient, while disregarding crosswalks. We all know that it is quite common to see pedestrians crossing Washington Road in Uptown Mt. Lebanon both at crosswalks and everywhere in between. It’s easy to rationalize that there isn’t time to walk all the way to the nearest crosswalk, when you really only have time to bolt across the street and run in for that cup of coffee, or want to be on time for that guitar lesson, or need to make it to that meeting promptly. It’s true that we live in an extremely fast-paced world. The average person is always on the run, and seemingly doesn’t have time to worry about following all the rules of the road. After all, how likely is it anyway that you could get hit by a car while crossing between crosswalks?
Unfortunately, our police department knows just how likely it is, and it’s more probable than any of us would like to think. Much like pedestrians expect cars not to drive on sidewalks, motorists should be able to expect pedestrians to cross the road using appropriate methods and locations. However, drivers don’t get a free pass here either. No doubt we have all stood at the old Washington School crosswalk and felt like we were taking our lives into our hands because cars did not stop to accommodate pedestrians wishing to cross. The commission is very pleased with the new lighted sign enhancements at this particular crosswalk, and looks forward to further in-road light enhancements in the coming months.
Dim lighting conditions at night, inclement weather, and other distractions can also lead to crashes when pedestrians fail to do their part. As much as alcohol and cell phones impair drivers, they also can equally impair pedestrians. People who are intoxicated or are staring at the screen of a phone while walking often walk out in front of vehicles because they have failed to pay attention to their surroundings.
Clearly, a top concern for any municipality is safety. We have a top-notch public safety staff that is dedicated to the security and well-being of every resident of this community. They encourage each of us to do our part to keep Mt. Lebanon’s roads and sidewalks as hazard-free as possible. If driving, please be mindful of speed limits (even if you are in a hurry), and if on foot, please keep pedestrian laws in mind. We will all greatly benefit from these practices.