In Mt. Lebanon, officials view pedestrians as the menace

MtLebanonJonDawsonFlickr

In defense of Mt. Lebanon’s Walkers

By Eric Boerer, advocacy director

Instead of figuring out why so many people find the need to walk across the street at unmarked crossings in their business district, Mt. Lebanon officials voted to criminalize them with up to $300 in fines and fees.

Copious amounts of safe crossings are common fixture in walkable, inviting business districts. By reducing the amount of places where people can legally cross, officials are just making more people into “jaywalkers” and ceding even more ownership of the road to the automobile. This car-centric way of thinking treats pedestrians as a menace to cars, instead of the other way around. Fining pedestrians will never get to the root of the issue: signals and crosswalks in their current locations aren’t serving people.

“I’ve lived in the township for over 51 years, I jaywalk every singe day,” said a resident at the township’s meeting.

For the most part, people can judge when it’s safe to cross a street. Humans have a tendency to take the simplest, most convenient path of least resistance. For instance, if it’s clear and there are no cars coming, most people will weigh the cost, and cross instead of waiting in the rain or snow.

Instead of criminalizing pedestrians, officials should be looking into making the pedestrian experience as convenient as possible, especially in business districts.

– Is the signal cycle too long, leaving people impatiently waiting at a corner, even though there are no cars coming?
– Do the beg buttons even work?
– Are the walk signals long enough for an elderly person to cross in time?
– Is the crossing distance short enough?
– Are there enough well-marked crossings?

Considering that three of the four pedestrian fatalities along Washington Rd/West Liberty Ave (2003-2012) were people over 80, it’s surprising that officials failed to mention them, assuming their goal is actually to improve safety, and not just to serve cars’ needs.

Before criminalizing walking, decision-makers should look at the root indicators of a safe street: pedestrian visibility at intersections, street design, signal timing, and speeding. Especially when it’s previously been documented that a disturbing 77% of motorists speed through Mt. Lebanon, some reaching speeds up to 77 miles per hour on streets marked 25 and 35 mph.

It is a misplaced priority and a poor use of limited resources to legislate against the very things that we want more of and want to promote, namely people walking around, especially when solutions exist to actually improve your neighborhood.


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