On Crosswalks in Manitou Springs

in manitou •  11 months ago

{Originally published in the Front Range Voluntaryist, article by Paotie Dawson]

“HEY! USE THE CROSSWALK!” yelled a parking enforcement employee. It was a hot, sweltering July afternoon when an elderly woman, crossing the main street in downtown Manitou Springs, was jostled by the parking employee. She hurried and completed her journey across the street in spite of the barking man. She scanned the sidewalk for a parking kiosk, headed to one to pay to park, and then noticed the same employee who had barked at her was now eyeballing her car, parked across the street.

And so it goes in Manitou Springs, the most scenic and beautiful little town in all of Colorado. The city sits at the base of Mt. Manitou, home to hugely popular Manitou Incline. Nearby, the world-famous Garden of the Gods draws in millions of visitors each year with a good many of them heading west to Manitou Springs or up to Pikes Peak, AKA, “America’s Mountain.”

To say Manitou Springs is popular is a bit of an understatement. It is probably more accurate to state the city is primely located to take advantage of the tourist draws of the Garden of the Gods and Pikes Peak. Less certain is the Manitou Incline, in large part due to growing complaints of traffic and parking congestion from those who live and work in the city. Among the complaints are the fact parking enforcement employees, when not extorting more money for city politicians from unsuspecting tourists and hikers, are busy yelling at tourists to use the crosswalks in town.

And so begins the discussion about crosswalks. Are they safe? Are they dangerous? Do pedestrians have entitled rights to secure and safe passage in a public crosswalk? All of these questions tend to be answered by some folks who reduce everything into, “Pedestrians have the right of way.” DUH.

I don’t like crosswalks (and I’m not the only one). I’ve lived in Manitou Springs for almost 10 years now and have seen so many near accidents at the crosswalks that I don’t use them as much as some folks would like, such as the parking enforcement employees. The problem with crosswalks is that they breed complacency for pedestrians, as if they are somehow entitled to cross the street without needing to look in any directions.

Usually, these people will look straight down as they cross the street.And these people should be terrifying to you and every motorist .Studies repeatedly demonstrate crosswalks can and do make crossing streets dangerous. The more cars and pedestrians there are at a crosswalk/intersection the more likely are at a crosswalk/intersection, the more likely accidents will happen.

Additionally, some tourists, not used to driving in the downtown Manitou Springs area, may not realize they are driving through a crosswalk until they’ve passed one. Familiarity of the downtown area is not to be expected of tourists, though people who support or think enforcement of jaywalking laws will magically make pedestrians safer fail to take into account many variables that both make crosswalks safer and dangerous.

In nearby Colorado Springs, pedestrian fatalities have risen this year alone. In 2015, a pedestrian walked in front of and was hit by a police cruiser.

The report states,

"There is no marking on the ground, however,
this is a city park trail, designated to cross the
street. Bicyclists and pedestrians cross that every
day. Every day, all day. That is the place to cross."

So, here’s a summary of Colorado’s pedestrian right of way law (use the link to see your state’s summary of the same law):

“Vehicles must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians
within a crosswalk that are in the same half of the
roadway as the vehicle or when a pedestrian is
approaching closely enough from the opposite side of
the roadway to be in a danger. Pedestrians may not
suddenly leave the curb on foot, bicycle, or electric
bicycle and enter a crosswalk into the path of a moving
vehicle that is so close to constitute an immediate
hazard. Pedestrians must yield the right-of-way to
vehicles when crossing outside of a marked crosswalk
or an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection. Where
traffic control devices are in operation, pedestrians may
only cross between two adjacent intersections in a
marked crosswalk and may only cross an intersection
diagonally if authorized by a traf ic control device.”
It’s pretty simple to understand, though the basic
rule of thumb should be: are at a crosswalk/intersection,
the more likely accidents will happen."

It’s pretty simple to understand, though the basic rule of thumb should be:

● Before you enter a crosswalk, make sure you’re not about to step in front of a vehicle

● Look in the immediate direction of oncoming traffic before you enter a crosswalk

● Keep looking at your surroundings as you cross the street, crosswalk or not

● It helps to make friendly eye contact with drivers as you enter and cross a street/crosswalk

● Do not dart in front of a vehicle as it approaches a crosswalk

● If a traffic device is at an intersection, use it but keep in mind you will still need to do the above steps, too

● Finally, treasure your life and don’t play games with 2000+ pounds of metal rapidly moving at you

Bonus reading material: When Marked Crosswalks Can Be More Dangerous for Pedestrians

Meanwhile, I’ve already shipped an email to the City Council in Manitou Springs regarding a dangerous and marked crosswalk with pedestrian crossing signs partially and fully obscured by municipal trees. If motorists don’t know they are approaching a crosswalk because a large, yellow sign is obscured, and a pedestrian decides to walk into the crosswalk at about the same time…

Anyway, crosswalks are not guaranteed public safe spaces. They are merely to help you cross the street. And most importantly, public crosswalks create and foster complacency on the part of both motorists and pedestrians, so it it goes without saying that if and when you drive in Manitou Springs, be prepared to stop; and if you’re crossing a street in Manitou Springs, it may be best to ignore the parking enforcement employees.

Whatever. It’s your call. Be safe.

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