2017-02-16 / Opinion

History Repeating Itself


At approximately 10 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 8, an 83-year-old Newporter within a crosswalk on Broadway was struck by a northbound vehicle. Newport police officers were dispatched to Broadway at Caleb Earl (near Cumberland Farms) for a motor vehicle accident involving a pedestrian. The driver remained on the scene until help arrived.

The pedestrian was transported by Newport Fire and Rescue to Rhode Island Hospital, and is presumed to remain in critical condition. (HIPAA regulations preclude the release of information, and the police have not been able to ascertain if there has been a change in the status of his injuries.) The accident is under investigation.

At almost this same time three years ago, another Newporter was struck in a crosswalk on Bellevue Avenue and died as a result of her injuries. The accident occurred on a very sunny day while she was crossing the snow-lined street.

Also in January of 2014, another Newporter was fatally injured by a pickup truck while traversing a crosswalk on Memorial Boulevard in his wheelchair.

How many serious accidents must happen before we say enough? Of course, there is no fail-safe magic solution, and motorist speed and sun glare are factors, but it seems we should at the very least remind pedestrians and motorists alike to be vigilant. Maybe the city should consider buying more of the short stanchions mounted with the neon green sign that says “State law, yield to [universal symbol of person crossing] within crosswalk” as seen in the photo below. There need to be more visual clues at street level, especially during the winter when the streets are snowy or messy with slush and salt, or obstructed by banks of plowed snow. Online it appears that these types of signs sell for $479. Is that too high a price to pay for public safety?

During the warmer months, we also implore that the city maintenance department repaint the white lines as often as needed to make sure they keep their bright-white and reflective qualities.

For their part, pedestrians need to be mindful too, and should be responsible members of the street landscape. When about to cross, if you are in the middle of using your cell phone, stop. Walk to the curb, close enough so a driver can see your intent to cross. Look both ways, and make eye contact with the driver, if possible. Proceed to the center of the street cautiously, and maybe even raise your hand in a wave of thanks to the motorist who stopped for you.

BikeNewport’s “Newport Waves” campaign (make eye contact with the person at the wheel before crossing the street) applies in equal measure to cyclists, walkers, and runners.

Newport has a Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission that meets monthly. If you have suggestions regarding a plan for better street safety, consider contacting them, join the group, or let a council member or the city manager know how you feel.

This is not to say that the city hasn’t tried to respond to the recent accident. A flashing mobile sign midway along Broadway appeared last week with a reminder message to motorists that says, “Slow Down! Yield to pedestrians in crosswalks.” And along the revamped Broadway, there is attractive curb-side lighting at the crosswalks and about 10 feet up there are numerous signs with an arrow and the pedestrian symbol signs.

After crossing the street at City Hall, one city employee was asked if she had any safety concerns. She responded, “More often than not, people don’t stop, and it’s clear I want to cross. In my opinion, they don’t look like crosswalks. People need to see those big white lines.”

Let’s not let (bad) history repeat itself. Drive, walk, and ride bicycles safely! Remind others to do the same.

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