If you see something say something. It may seem trite but it still makes sense. And at least one of us here at U.S. 1. and at our sister paper, the monthly Princeton Echo, is kicking himself for seeing something and not getting around to saying anything until it was too late.
What was saw was a flaw in the operation of the pedestrian walk/don’t walk signals at the intersection of Washington Road, Vandeventer Avenue, and Nassau Street in downtown Princeton. We saw the flaw, we said something in brief in the August, 2016, issue of the Princeton Echo, but we did not say it again or shout it out again to make sure we were heard. That’s why we are kicking ourselves now, after hearing of the death of a 62-year-old pedestrian at that intersection on the afternoon of October 10.
We do not know if the flaw in the timing of walk/don’t walk signals contributed to this accident. As of one week after the accident, police had not yet updated their earlier report. That indicated that the woman, Leslie Goodrich Rubin, the wife of a visiting professor at the university, was struck by a cement truck as she was crossing Washington Road at its intersection with Nassau Street. The truck, which was traveling west on Nassau Street, was making a left turn onto Washington Road, according to police. Rubin was walking in the crosswalk when the accident occurred, police said.
Any number of factors could have contributed to the fatality. But we know this much. Back in 2015 the Princeton Echo identified that intersection as “less efficient and more dangerous” for pedestrians. In the spring of 2016 the intersection was equipped with new signals that reconfigured the flow of traffic and pedestrians in the intersection. The municipality made some improvements, particularly for motorists crossing or turning onto Nassau Street from either Vandeventer or Washington Road. And it was apparently rebuffed when it requested that an “all stop” phase that would have permitted pedestrians a chance to cross in all directions at the same time. The state DOT argued that would lead to increased congestion.
In the August, 2016, edition of the Echo we reported on the progress but at the end of the piece we had the following paragraph:
“A quibble from pedestrians: The system has buttons for pedestrians to trigger the walk/don’t walk signals. But if no one pushes the button the signal says ‘don’t walk’ through the entire cycle, even when it should obviously state ‘walk.’”
That was more than a year ago. Since then our editor, who walks and drives through that intersection almost every day, has been keeping his eyes open. When pedestrians push the button the intersection works fairly well. When they don’t, they expect that the walk/don’t walk signals will change automatically. When those signals don’t change, pedestrians wait in frustration as the traffic lights go through a new cycle. As pedestrians get frustrated, they try to figure it out on their own — not always the safest solution to the problem.
So we saw it, and we have said it. Will anyone listen?