Crosswalk Concerns

Published 3:18 pm Tuesday, February 26, 2013

FARMVILLE – Police Chief Doug Mooney promised his department would monitor the speed of motor vehicles on Main Street in response to concerns expressed by a Longwood University student government representative.

Mike Albrecht, Student Senate Freshman Class Representative, told Town Council this month that “we have a lot of concerns with the crosswalk” in front of Longwood Landings at Midtown Square.

Reminding Town officials of the LU student struck in a pedestrian crosswalk on High Street in September, Albrecht said, “We also have a lot of concerns with the crosswalk here in front of The Landings…My two concerns are, number one, cars coming down…Main Street are going very fast at times.

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“Our concern is that cars aren't having enough time to stop for pedestrians because I know, me personally, I've almost been hit in this crosswalk crossing the street,” he said during the public comment period of Town Council's monthly February meeting.

Motor vehicles must yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk. But pedestrians are not supposed to walk out in front of oncoming traffic.

Chief Mooney promised that police officers will increase their attentiveness to the speed of vehicular traffic.

“The officers do monitor that (the speed) and, in fact, you all know we have a speed trailer that measures individual speeds-average, high, low, all of them-but the problem there is having a place to put it,” the police chief said.

“We did get a speed box, through a grant, which we can put anywhere and it does alert drivers that their speed is being checked. It gives us the same thing-the high speed, low speed, every individual speed-so we can get an idea of how fast cars are going down anywhere we want to put it,” Mooney continued.

“What we do find a lot of times is that the speed is generally lower than what people perceive it to be when they're standing watching, generally,” the police chief continued, “but it gives us a good idea so we will put that there to monitor the speed.”

Albrecht had wondered about putting speed strips across Main Street coming down the hill from McDonalds and noted that there is but one 25 sign and it is a small one.

The LU student also asked if yield to pedestrian signs could be employed as they are in the crosswalk in front of the Prince Edward County Courthouse.

“We have decided as a board we would like to see maybe, as with downtown-they have the yield signs in the middle of the street. If we consider putting one of those so cars know to possibly stop if there are pedestrians in the road. We would think that would be somewhat helpful in this situation,” the student government representative said.

“We're very concerned about the speed coming down the hill from McDonalds. I know, just from waiting to cross the street, cars are not going 25 miles an hour going down that hill. They're going more like 30 or 35. I went out there just to see the signage…I'm afraid there isn't really enough awareness behind this crosswalk here,” he advised Town officials.

“I'm really not sure cars know to slow down going into this two-lane section from the four-lane section,” he explained.

Anything the Town could do to help, Albrecht noted, “I think that would be greatly appreciated by the student community.”

The students aren't alone in their concern for pedestrian safety, Albrecht was told by Town Council member Dr. Edward I. Gordon.

“There has been a lot of concern from council here about a lot of these issues. It has been discussed,” said Dr. Gordon, noting pedestrian safety is a two-way street.

“I'll come down at a very slow speed and students jump right out in front without looking as they're joking around,” he said, prompting a verbal nod from Albrecht.

“I couldn't agree more,” the LU Senate member replied.

“And so that while I think there's something on one side that can be done,” Dr. Gordon continued, “there's something on the other side that can be done too.”

Again, Albrecht readily concurred.

“I agree with you. Students who assume that they have the right of way when they're waiting to cross is a problem, as well,” the Longwood student said. “And we are going to have to raise awareness among students that you can't just go. You have to wait for it to clear and if there's a car coming and you're in the crosswalk that's the only time they're supposed to stop.

“But I agree with you. It's definitely a two-way street,” Albrecht continued. “I guess the speed coming down that hill was the biggest concern with our student government organization right now.”

Chief Mooney also addressed some of the signage issues raised by Albrecht

“One thing about the crosswalk, Mr. Spates (Town Manager Gerald Spates) and I have been talking about the possibility of adding some crosswalk signs. We had one on Main Street,” he said, but a truck needing to make a wide turn kept knocking it down. “And we kept putting it back up, so that was the problem on Main Street.”

After the Longwood student was struck last fall while a crosswalk-the motorist was charged with failing to stop for a pedestrian-Chief Mooney addressed the state law on pedestrians and crosswalks.

“State Code also puts pedestrians on notice that they have a duty to not disregard oncoming vehicles. They can't just step out and expect people to slam on their brakes,” he said. “They have to wait for cars to yield and that's kind of the smart thing to do.”

Pedestrians, he continued, “can't step out when the motorist doesn't have time to stop.

“So it's kind of a gray area there,” he said of the dual responsibility that was noted by Dr. Gordon and Albrecht, “where you have to use some judgment. If I step out on a road, even if I'm going to be correct, if I get hit by a car do I really win?

“Sometimes they don't take that into account,” Chief Mooney said. “They're just on their (cell) phone and don't even look, they just walk, thinking, 'Okay, well they've got to stop.' So it's tough…”

But Chief Mooney stressed that when the LU student was hit on High Street she “was clearly in the crosswalk…”

And section 46.2-924 of the Code of Virginia-drivers to stop for pedestrians-clearly states: “The driver of any vehicle on a highway shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian crossing such highway at any clearly marked crosswalk, whether at mid-block or at the end of any block…”

As Spates told The Herald last fall, “once a pedestrian steps in the crosswalk you're supposed to yield. There's a lot of pedestrian traffic around Longwood, so I think it's critical that people pay attention and be careful.”