A recent major change in a dangerous pedestrian crossing in downtown Princeton, NJ, begun June 10, has been extended beyond its two-week initial trial period. Even though everyone – motorists and pedestrians alike – are inconvenienced by the change, few horns have been honked in the longer than usual lines of traffic at the intersection and no angry letters have appeared in the community newspapers. Maybe this change, while not a significant improvement, will turn out to be a moment of enlightenment for the state Department of Transportation, which controls the intersection and which until now has greeted every proposal for increased pedestrian safety with the refrain that the proposed change better not impede traffic – and by traffic they don’t mean foot traffic.
Some background: The intersection in question is on the town’s main street, Nassau Street, where two cross streets, Vandeventer Avenue and Washington Road, meet Nassau. In 2016 a change was made to the traffic lights to make the intersection safer for motorists. It also had one small improvement for pedestrians — a three-second lead time that gave pedestrians a head start in a crosswalk before turning traffic could cut them off.
But I warned in a community newspaper at the time that there was one small problem for pedestrians: Activation of the walk/don’t walk signals depended on someone pushing a “beg button.” Often no one did – everyone no doubt assumed that the signal would change at the appropriate time. As a nearby resident who drove through the intersection twice a day and used it often as a pedestrian, I witnessed many platoons of confused pedestrians, with looks of desperation asking “when will it be our turn.” The answer: Never, if you don’t push the button.
My 2016 concern took a tragic turn in October, 2017, when a pedestrian in the crosswalk was struck and killed by a cement mixer. (Amazingly, the resolution of the case has not yet been made public, even almost a year after I wrote a major story on that accident and several other near-fatal crashes involving pedestrians. We have sent e-mails requesting follow-up information to the investigating agency.)> Read More …