Following the recent crash that claimed the lives of three pedestrians in Augusta, the city has taken some steps to try to better protect pedestrians (“Augusta equipping pedestrians with flags at some crosswalks, to signal drivers,” June 18). One step being discussed, the addition of sidewalks to Cony Street, the Bicycle Coalition of Maine wholeheartedly supports. The other, asking pedestrians to wave and carry neon flags at three different crosswalks around the city to alert drivers to their presence, we view more skeptically.

The BCM appreciates the efforts of the city of Augusta, but the recent slew of crashes should come as a huge red flag that the state has a problem — having amassed eight pedestrian deaths already in 2021 — and it’s one that a few flags can’t help.

Not only are the flags unlikely to be effective (as the article mentions, a city engineer stood in a crosswalk waving a flag and still couldn’t get traffic to stop), but they ignore the real problems on our roadways and put the onus of slowing down traffic on the pedestrians, and not the speeding drivers enclosed in their fast-moving, two-ton metal boxes. It is the responsibility of drivers to be alert, focused on the road, and following traffic law, which includes yielding to pedestrians showing intent to cross at a marked crosswalk.

Will the failure of a pedestrian to use one of these flags result in more victim-blaming if they are hit in one of these crosswalks?

Instead of slapping a neon band-aid on a broken bone, cities and towns need to take proactive steps to calm the culture of speeding, better educate motorists, curb the still-rampant distracted driving, and start holding drivers accountable for their actions.

We have the technology and know-how to make streets safer now for people biking and walking. We simply need political will and the support of our fellow Mainers.

 

Jean Sideris

Portland

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