News reports from the Nov. 17 death of a man, who was attempting to cross Abercorn Street Extension, have included a familiar reminder issued by the Savannah Chatham Metropolitan Police Department, which is automatically echoed in by local media in similar reports:
“Pedestrians should use crosswalks.”
The police and media surely have the best intentions when they use the phrase. Yet on Abercorn Street Extension, the scene of the latest fatality and scores of others, using a crosswalk is often easier said than done. (Besides, as explained here, the causal link between failure to use crosswalks and pedestrian deaths is tenuous). Since most of us view Abercorn Street Extension through our windshields at speeds of 45 m.p.h. (and frequently, faster) we may be unaware that at some points along the street the distance between pavement marked crosswalks is almost a mile.
For instance, imagine you live in the Edgewater Trace Apartment complex and want to mail a package at the U.S. Post Office located directly across the street. Crossing the street using the nearest crosswalk means a round trip of almost a mile. Would you walk a mile to reach a destination you can see just dozens of yards away? How tempted would you be to wait for a break in traffic and dash across?
At other points along Abercorn, crossing mid-block may actually be safer than crossing at intersections. Put yourself in the place of a pedestrian at the corner of Abercorn and White Bluff Road, pictured above (click on the image and try in Google Street View). Is this intersection even possible to traverse on foot? If you want to walk from the Eyeglass World store on the west side of the street to the Michael’s craft store on the east side, using the nearest pavement marked crosswalk, you’ll need to hoof it all the way down to Montgomery Crossroad. Even here, you’ll contend with — by my count — six lanes of traffic. Would you walk half a mile to reach a destination that you can easily see from across the street (provided you picked up your new glasses)?
But who would actually walk on these segments of Abercorn Street? Plenty of people. Again, our windshield view of the world may blind us to the fact that it’s not the purely commercial corridor we imagine it to be. It’s dotted with apartment complexes and motels. Residential neighborhoods are arrayed on adjacent blocks. Tens of thousands of people live on or within a stone’s throw of Abercorn Street Extension. And some of them were among “more than 43,000 Americans – including 3,906 children under 16 – who have been killed this decade alone, walking along streets in their communities.”
“Children, the elderly, and ethnic minorities are disproportionately represented in this figure, but people of all ages and all walks of life have been struck down in the simple act of walking. These deaths typically are labeled “accidents,” and attributed to error on the part of motorist or pedestrian. In fact, however, an overwhelming proportion share a similar factor: They occurred along roadways that were engineered for speeding cars and made little or no provision for people on foot, in wheelchairs or on a bicycle.”
Frequent reminders to use crosswalks will never provide adequate protection for people who live, work and shop on Abercorn Street Extension and other Savannah streets that are “Dangerous by Design.