Archive for Wednesday, September 12, 2001

Shouts and Murmurs

They drive like maniacs, don’t they

September 12, 2001

At almost any given time, on almost any given business day, pedestrians can be seen waiting to cross the street in Tonganoxie. And waiting, and waiting.

Then finally just after, say, a vehicle traveling west passes and before a vehicle heading east approaches, a mad dash is made, with the pedestrian hoping there are no untied shoestrings to trip him up and that bifocals are correctly reading the lay of the road. A fall in front of a moving vehicle is never, ever good.

Much appreciated, even if an all-to-rare a beast, is the driver who voluntarily stops to let a pedestrian cross the street.

Tonganoxie's Fourth Street has no official crosswalks, except near the elementary school. That means Tonganoxie drivers rarely have to stop for pedestrians. Still, it's a welcome sight when small-town courtesy prevails.

The question arises who are these drivers who fail to stop for pedestrians? Most of us wouldn't have to look farther than our own bathroom mirrors to find out. How many times have we passed a pedestrian who is standing on the edge of the street and then wondered later why we didn't stop? How many times have we driven down any road, anywhere, slightly oblivious to the speedometer, and then realized we were driving too fast?

For the most part, these drivers who are passing pedestrians aren't wild-eyed derelicts who come to Tonganoxie with the sole purpose of speeding through town and annoying pedestrians. For the most part, these drivers are us.

Of course, there are exceptions. Like my father, Philip Stevens, who has probably never exceeded a speed limit in his life. Since 1955, Dad has had a front-seat view of Fourth Street from his office windows.

Years ago when Tonganoxie was still a sleepy little farm town Dad seemed almost ridiculously cautious when he would warn people to be careful when crossing Fourth Street.

"Those people drive like maniacs out there," he would say.

Today, his words ring truer than ever. For there is intense traffic on Fourth Street, and when you cross the street, sometimes even on weekends and evenings, there seems to be a continual flow of traffic.

Perhaps no one has been killed by being struck by a vehicle on Fourth Street. But that doesn't mean it couldn't happen.

As I ponder issues of traffic, a question comes to mind: Could a town the size of Tonganoxie designate Fourth Street, from the grain elevators to U.S. Highway 24-40, as a pedestrian crossing zone?

This area includes an elementary school, three churches and dozens of downtown businesses, as well as the post office, which seems to have a constant flow of users.

One might predict that as Tonganoxie continues to grow, the traffic will correspondingly increase. It is anticipated that eventually the business district will head to locations on U.S. Highway 24-40. But even then, chances are that downtown, or Fourth Street, will continue to be a hub of activity with traffic to boot.

And with this increase in traffic, the odds increase that someday, a pedestrian might get hurt or worse.

And then what would Dad say?

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