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This article by Richard K. Rein was prepared for the October 30, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
On Pedestrian Safety
Let us now praise famous men and women of the future
— the students of Princeton University.
Most of us never really get to know these young beautiful minds but
we hear about them (rated No. 1, we recall, in the U.S. News and World
Report survey of top colleges and universities) and we get to see
them (most prominently criss-crossing Washington Road, engrossed in
conversation or lost in thought).
Washington Road, which we traverse at least twice a day seven days
a week, is our personal window into the world of Princeton University
undergraduates. What those thoughts and conversations are about we
can only imagine: the latest breakthrough in genomics, the new English
course on the "Curious Aesthetics of Musical Theatre," the
economics professor who won the Nobel Prize, or the latest exploits
of one of the many varsity sports teams.
So we don’t know what they are thinking about, but we do know one
thing they probably are not thinking about: The cars that are bearing
down on them as they blithely cross Washington Road.
On Wednesday, October 16, two more of Princeton’s finest were struck
down by auto traffic as they attempted to cross Washington Road. Freshmen
Jessica Case and Mary Spencer, both members of the swimming team,
were returning from practice and crossing the road near Fine Hall
(the towering building near Princeton Stadium) at around 7 p.m. when
they were hit by a car traveling down the hill toward Route 1.
One of the first people passing by was another Princeton student,
senior Amanda Neely. This being Princeton, Neely’s extracurricular
activity happens to be leading students on Outdoor Action wilderness
trips and she is trained in wilderness first aid and CPR. She stabilized
the accident victims until the ambulances arrived.
But the lingering question is who will stabilize the flow of cars
and pedestrians criss crossing each other every day on Washington
Road. The university and municipal officials keep thinking they have
a solution — a pedestrian crossing here and there, flashing blinkers
to alert motorists to the crossing, a stern sign warning that state
law requires motorists to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks, and
a new light opposite the Woodrow Wilson School fountain.
Still the accidents continue. Princeton Borough police, quoted in
the Daily Princetonian, the student newspaper, report an average of
five pedestrian-related incidents a year on Washington Road.
Now, on the occasion of the latest accident, the Princetonian reports
that the university has a new scheme in place — a pedestrian bridge
that would allow students to walk over Washington Road near the spot
where the latest accident occurred. While that bridge would require
county and state approvals, the university has other suggestions that
might be implemented sooner, including better lighting at the crosswalks,
a lower speed limit, and rumble strips to force cars to slow down
as they approach pedestrian crossings.
While all those ideas are worthy, we have to say that none will be
the magic bullet to protect the preoccupied undergraduates from the
rushing motorists. The pedestrian bridge, we predict, would provide
little more than false security. Students would be asked to climb
a bridge while at the same time they see a jaywalking opportunity
on either side. Princeton students’ heads may be in the trees, but
their bodies follow the universal path of all college-age youth —
the shortest and easiest.
So what are we motorists expected to do? As a veteran member of the
Washington Road Dodgers, I have the following suggestions:
governed by traffic lights.
minds, do not make that sweeping gesture that suggests they are free
to walk in front of you. Remember that motorists coming in the other
direction may have no intention of stopping. Let the students make
their own determination.
and as they step out into the pedestrian crossing they are smugly
reminding themselves that they are entitled — it’s state law,
you dumb motorist! — to be in that space and you are required
to stop for them.
within you, remember that these soon-to-be-famous men and women are
also soon to be affluent. As I remind myself: "They are the future.
And they will pay for my Social Security." Thanks, kids.
Corrections or additions?
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