I thought people might feel the same way as I did about the Monon Trail Crossing at Main Street in Carmel. But after I wrote my first column about it, I didn’t expect so many letters to the editor and people stopping me to give their opinion on what to do.
Here’s the issue: At this crossing, the law says that pedestrians have to stop because there is a stop sign and cars don’t have to stop unless someone is already in the crosswalk. This is confusing because nobody seems to follow this system. Some cars stop – trying to be nice – and some pedestrians get mad at motorists when they don’t stop.
The city has addressed this issue by putting a sign in the street reminding motorists that once a pedestrian steps into the street then they have the right of way.
This is done to remind people that just because pedestrians are supposed to stop at the stop sign, it doesn’t mean you are legally protected if you hit someone with your car if they are crossing the street.
So what are we supposed to do?
To me, the idea that pedestrians have the right of way once they are in the street is just common sense. You don’t hit someone when they are crossing. It’s obvious. Of course, this is true at any time. As a motorist, you need to be aware of pedestrians. Just as you need to be aware of cars if you are a pedestrian. Again, common sense.
The problem is that some pedestrians feel they can jump in front of traffic because once they have that foot in the street then the right of way is theirs. That’s not a good system. There is a stop sign and people should stop, not only for their safety but out of courtesy for others.
I understand that there are cyclists in spandex who are serious about their rides and don’t want to stop at stop signs these folks also know how to time themselves so they don’t hit traffic. Plus the visibility in this intersection is really good so that helps alleviate many safety concerns.
But what drives me nuts is when I’m walking my dog and I do the right thing by stopping at the intersection and waiting for my chance to cross. In fact, I teach my dog that and I’m sure many people teach their children that.
But some motorist, who again might feel they are being nice, decides to put on their brakes and hold up traffic to let me by. One time I waved backed, “No, you go. You have the right of way.” Yet, the motorist remained motionless until I went. It was ridiculous. Again, I know people want to pat themselves on the back but we just have to follow a system. It slows down traffic when nobody knows what to do and everyone is stopped waiting for the other person to go.
So the law is clear: Pedestrians need to stop. But once they are in the crosswalk, don’t hit them with a car.