the state

-of crosswalks!? by jgrimsrud
Sunday, 2 August 2009, 0:34
Filed under: -of harrisonburg, -of health, -of jgrimsrud, -of localism

i got sickening news tonight.  just after dark an elderly neighbor was hit by a car about a block from our respective houses.  she was out for one of her famous (in the neighborhood) dog-walks & must have been crossing highway 42.  last i heard, she was on the way to u.v.a.–just have to hope for the best.

now this feels, on one level, like another one of those horrible reality moments, when a normal point in everyday life is slammed by a ghastly, unforeseeable, ungodly curve ball.  it’s a moment that sticks in your head for a long time.  it’s a moment that makes television news possible.  it’s terrifying & tragic, but it also brings together neighbors & communities, even clarifies things in a personal way.

however, this particular tragedy sends me running for my laptop & my blog.  because, i’ve been carrying around snapshots on my phone for months meaning to write a gripe piece about this exact corner:

DSC00130when my family was planning looking for our home, our realtor mentioned that harrisonburg has one of the highest rates per capita of traffic lights for a u.s. american town.  funny, i thought, since the traffic isn’t exceptional, yet the pedestrian infrastructure & transit budgets seem exceptionally low.  harrisonburg buses are rare birds indeed, and sidewalks are about as dependable as waking up to a poultry-odor-free morning in this town.

we live across high street (/highway 42) from the nearest grocery store (and public school, and city park, and swathes of residential blocks w/ friends & associates).  my toddler and i frequently have to dash across this arterial, so when i saw tractors lining up & it became clear that the city was going to rework the traffic signal at our nearby highway corner, i was hopeful.

in the end, lots of man & tractor hours, and plenty of utility equipment later, we have a more complicated, less visible traffic signal & no pedestrian anything.  no signal.  no sidewalk.  not even a staging ground from which to plan your frantic dash between cars.  i’ve already had at least one sickening moment when i ushered my toddler across, and realized on the other side that the signal (which i couldn’t see when crossing) had already turned & i hadn’t bothered to check in the direction of traffic before we both strolled into the road.  all clear, but what if…?

DSC00119so, we walk along the gutters, we depend on our son to learn about road safety, we depend on motorists to be aware (which isn’t the best idea in this town–i’ve definitely had folks try to charge us on downtown crosswalks, had drivers nod or wave greetings in response to my cursing & flapping, totally clueless as to why a guy and his two year old are anywhere near their asphalt territory sans wheeled, steel cage).

now our neighbor is in (at least) critical condition…  and my grumpy, slightly humorous, sarcastic complaint that i’d planned for the state blog seems really inadequate.

so, where are the sidewalks harrisonburg?


3 Comments so far
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[…] -of jgrimsrud, -of localism sorry for the text-heavy, late night blogging, but this relates to my post on our neighbor’s pedestrian vs. vehicle accident tonight & our neighborhood’s […]

Pingback by -of crosswalks!?, p.s. « the state

Thanks for this blog. As someone else who lives in the neighborhood and walks to the Red Front grocery store and the nearby park, I have felt extremely vulnerable to cars whizzing by and I have almost been hit by a car trying to cross 42. There is no safe place to cross 42 and while I realize it costs money to put in the pedestrian walking signals, at the very least a cross-walk painted on the ground would indicate that this is a road people cross very often (and many people do). Additionally it feels unsafe and vulnerable to walk in gutters as there are no sidewalks and cars swerve around you, but there are no other options. I feel the city’s commitment to pedestrians (and bicyclists) is very, very low. Wouldn’t it make sense to ensure safety for people walking on 3rd street across 42 to Red Front? Not to mention the danger that is Chicago Ave. Perhaps a neighborhood petition to city council requesting a cross walk is the first step?

Comment by NielyJean

i couldn’t agree more!

Comment by vastate

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