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270 Crossing Lights 2010-08-20

modern crosswalk lights

In today's new urban world there is a push toward being green. A major focus of the changes is in green transportation. What greener transportation can there be than riding a bicycle or walking?

Nashville, under Mayor Purcell and continuing with Mayor Dean, has begun to pay attention to sidewalks, bike lanes, and multi-use paths (greenways). Great progress has been made with the infrastructure and hopefully with code amendments to make the city kinder to alternative transportation. The mayors want to make the cities more walkable and more livable.

However, there seems to be some other issues that haunt quickly changing cities like Nashville - the residents.

For example...

Wednesday, I was running on a sidewalk along a busy urban street. A bicyclist came up beside me and I acknowledge the rider. We were not far from a major intersection and began crossing the street together.

Nashville has recently installed the new pedestrian crosswalk lights at most intersections. The lights change from a light colored walker icon - indicating it is okay to cross, to a blinking orange hand and an accompanying number value, and finally to a stop hand.

As we started across the street, the light had begun the transition between the go and stop phases. We had twelve seconds to cross.

Suddenly, a vehicles horn blasted us and a large pickup truck turned right cutting us off. The driver stopped his vehicle in the crosswalk - no one was in front of him. He rolled down the window and proceeded to yell insisting that we were crossing the street illegally.

We only had four seconds to finish our crossing so we crossed behind the truck and quickly to the other side of the street. The light still had not turned red. The bicycle rider and I were both dumbfounded. We shared similar experiences and then he rode off. His parting words were, "that's why they voted to let us carry guns into bars!"

Ha! I laughed for the next few blocks.

The city can build great paths, improve the sidewalks, install new crosswalk lights, stripe new bike lanes; but without public education it is still not a great place to walk, run, or ride a bicycle. In 2009 Nashville was rated as number 2 on The Top 10 Least Walking-Friendly Cities in America list. the city is working hard on improving our walkability status; but it takes more than improving the infrastructure to make the streets safe. The public must also change. The city needs public education and awareness programs.

In my example, maybe the driver was having a bad day. Maybe he was from out of town and did not know how to read the crosswalk lights. You know, it really does not matter. His behavior was just plain unacceptable. Luckily, he did not hurt anyone.


Happy safe urban trails.


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