2016-07-07 / Opinion


‘Complete Streets' Means Safe Streets

We are, among other things, a popular international tourist community–especially during these summer months. That means a plethora of motorists driving in what for them is unfamiliar territory, or reading signs that may be in a foreign language. It means sidewalks filled with tourists, some of them looking one way, or down at their phones while walking in a different direction.

Our streets and sidewalks are busy places. But they should never, ever be so busy as to compromise motorist or pedestrian safety.

Mindful of these concerns, the Rhode Island General Assembly in June, 2012 enacted what is known as the “Complete Streets” law that is intended to provide safe access to all users, regardless of how or where they are traveling, or how busy the roads and sidewalks may be. The legislation was sponsored by Sen. Louis DiPalma and former Rep. Peter Martin.

Of course, when we think of streets, our first thoughts are of cars and trucks. We expect drivers of these vehicles to know and obey the rules of the road, particularly as they pertain to traffic signals, stop signs, yield signs, the use of turn signals and any other such directives. We have even begun to accept the notion of roundabouts.

Somewhat newer are “share” arrows for bicycles and–as embraced by the “Complete Streets” program–bicycle lanes to the right of motor vehicle travel lanes and clearly marked by solid white lines and unmistakable logos, as can be seen on America’s Cup Avenue in downtown Newport and on Memorial Boulevard.

For all of this to work, everyone–pedestrians and bicyclists, as well as motorists–must abide by common sense rules of the road.

Traffic citations no longer apply to just cars. Newport police officers have begun to be more vigilant by ticketing bicyclists who do not adhere to common sense rules of the road. “Complete Streets” can only truly be safe streets if everyone using our roadways sticks to the same set of rules.

Pedestrians, as unprotected as they may be, have as much responsibility for safety as do motor vehicle drivers and bicycle riders. Earlier this year, a pedestrian was cited for paying more attention to her phone than the traffic.

There is no excuse for anyone on foot, really, to attempt crossing a busy road anywhere but where the path is clearly marked. Nor is it excusable for anyone behind the wheel of a car to blithely breeze through a marked area if a pedestrian is patiently standing there. And especially if the "State Law–Yield" sign has been placed at the crosswalk.

It's just a simple matter of heightened awareness, and there's no middle of the road about it. The “Complete Streets” rules for pedestrians can be found on page 8 of this issue of Newport This Week.

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