Perhaps because he is a frequent walker himself, our editor and (more or less) regular columnist Richard K. Rein has written several pieces about pedestrian safety and the values of walkable communities.

In the October issue of the Prince­ton Echo, our monthly sister publication circulated to Princeton residents, readers will find more of Rein’s thoughts on the town’s streets and sidewalks and their relative safety for pedestrians.

And readers of Rein’s September 12 column in U.S. 1, a tongue-in-cheek letter of advice to first-year students at the university, may have noticed some serious advice to the kids who will soon be crossing Nassau Street. One who did notice offers some additional thoughts in the letter below.

Protect Pedestrians

Thanks for your sage words of advice regarding crossing the street in the September 12 U.S. 1.

New Jersey unfortunately suffers from a pedestrian fatality share about double the national average (almost 30 percent in New Jersey vs. 15 percent nationally), and Mercer County’s share, which has been 40 percent the past few years, is currently 56 percent so far this year (9 pedestrians of 16 total fatalities). New Jersey has been a federally designated pedestrian safety focus state since 2004, yet the problem persists.

Others have solved the problem of traffic fatalities by systematically addressing the causes, from roadway design and maintenance to motorist and pedestrian education. As a result of New York City’s Vision Zero initiative, which features redesigning streets for all users, not just cars, pedestrian fatalities in 2017 were the lowest since 1910.

Current New Jersey law requires mutual responsibility for both motorists and pedestrians — 39:4-36 states in part “No pedestrian shall leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impossible for the driver to yield or stop.” Also “Nothing contained herein shall relieve a driver from the duty to exercise due care for the safety of any pedestrian upon a roadway. Nothing contained herein shall relieve a pedestrian from using due care for his safety.”

Many New Jerseyans are not aware that a crosswalk exists at every leg of every intersection by legal definition. Motorists are required to yield to pedestrians at unmarked crosswalks (no paint on the pavement), and stop and stay stopped for pedestrians in marked (painted) crosswalks. Mid-block, pedestrians must yield to motorists before crossing, unless in a marked mid-block crosswalk. There is no such thing as “jaywalking” in New Jersey law, though pedestrians are prohibited from crossing against a red signal, climbing a median barrier and crossing at an angle other than a right angle (the shortest crossing distance).

— Jerry Foster
President, West Windsor Bicycle and Pedestrian Alliance

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