Your front-page article (Jan. 29), "Crosswalks--a Fading Landmark," states that painted pedestrian crosswalks are being phased out in many Southern California communities. They tend to give a "false sense of security," while experiencing double the accident statistics for pedestrians using unmarked crossings. Could it be that more persons use marked crosswalks than unmarked ones? Why, would you suppose they were painted in the first place?
Drivers also have a "false sense of security" in their reliance upon others complying with traffic signals and stop signs. On the basis of the logic applied to pedestrians, drivers would be best served by removing traffic signals and stop signs. Shades of the 1920s and '30s and their much higher casualty percentages. Back to the days of stalking the tiger in tall grass that is also stalking you.
When I venture onto a roadway it is with the healthy realization that the streets were made for vehicular traffic and, as a pedestrian, I am in alien territory--the tall grass of the tiger.
THOMAS J. SULLIVAN
Pedestrians want rights of way across streets, the domain of the auto, and fail to realize that right of way is meaningless if it needs to be argued from a hospital bed, or worse, a cemetery. In a collision between an auto and a pedestrian, the pedestrian ALWAYS loses.
An obvious danger I frequently encounter is when a driver in the curb lane yields his right of way (there being no red light nor stop sign) to a pedestrian stepping off the curb to cross. A second driver in the next lane and behind the first auto has no view of the pedestrian through the first auto and no reasonable expectation of an impending stop. Given sufficient speeds, proximities, and reaction times, a pedestrian collision can occur, or if the second driver locks his brakes in time, the auto behind him might not stop in time to avoid an auto collision.
For this reason it is against the law in many states, Michigan as an example, for drivers to yield their rights of way to pedestrians. Indeed, back East, one rarely sees an auto stop for a pedestrian. Courtesy is not germane. Given the risks, this law justifiably places the onus of safe crossing on the pedestrian. It is his responsibility to look for a clearing in traffic, crossing half a street at a time if necessary, waiting in the median for opposite traffic flow to clear.
Further, the pedestrian should expect traffic NOT to stop, forcing him to look. In Southern California, many pedestrians noticeably cross with "tunnel vision," indicating that years of crossing under present laws (and bad habits) have made them complacent. Herein lies the biggest danger. When laws breed complacency and lack of awareness because pedestrians expect traffic to stop for them, the laws need changing.
I found the article about the dangers of crosswalks one of the funniest pieces since Mark Twain. Because more people are hurt in crosswalks than outside of them our enlightened bureaucrats are removing the offending crosswalks. Next, I expect these experts will recommend cutting back on fire engines because they've determined that when there is a destructive fire the fire engines are usually present.
As traffic densities increase, less and less attention is being paid to driving "niceties" such as crosswalks, red lights, signaling, etc. While removing crosswalks will certainly solve the statistical problem of people being killed in them it begs the question of what happens when street crossing becomes a free-form sport and drivers are under even less compunction to stop? Having driven a motorcycle in this city, very briefly, it can be said with assurance that the average motorist yields to nothing smaller than a Honda (although Honda drivers seem to yield to nothing smaller than an 18-wheeler, or a Lincoln).
So with this logic (!) firmly entrenched in the minds of our safety engineers I recommend to you who would cross the road, Be Patient and Be Nimble or else get a small urban guerrilla-style hang glider. Good luck!
GEOFFREY A. GRAHAM
It is not the crosswalks that are dangerous, it's the pedestrians. They walk out into fast oncoming traffic as if they own the road, with no consideration for the driver's problem. And when the driver screeches to a stop, the pedestrian doesn't even have the courtesy to nod "thanks."
If pedestrians lose the crosswalks, it's their own selfish fault.
I think the Transportation Department is missing the real pint about crosswalks being unsafe. According to their reasoning, will they next abolish red lights because they give a false sense of security?
When I first moved here in 1969 it was an accepted fact that cars would stop when a pedestrian stepped off a curb. It was a strictly adhered-to rule that a driver must stop his car for a pedestrian crossing the street.