October 17, 2021

Motorists, pedestrians responsible for safety

Todd R. McAdam/managing editor

A pedestrian crosses Tompkins Street near Duane Street on Tuesday, about 300 yards from the nearest crosswalk at Broadway and more than 600 yards from the next closest crosswalk at Main Street.

The man looked up Tuesday from his phone, looked left, looked right. Paused a moment as a car passed, then crossed Tompkins Street in Cortland.

He was near Duane Street, perhaps 300 yards from the closest crosswalk at Broadway and 600 yards from the next closest at Prospect Terrace. His head was back in his phone by the time he hit the other side.

In 2018, the city worked with the state Department of Transportation and added the crosswalk at Prospect Terrace after 1,630 SUNY Cortland students signed a petition. The need for more crosswalks and overall actions to increase pedestrian safety is something SUNY Cortland communication studies Professor Syed Pasha has been discussing since at least 2012.

He’s happy the crosswalk at Prospect Terrace was added but said more can be done to increase pedestrian safety, especially during October which is National Pedestrian Safety Month.

“I realize that a couple of lines alone do not create a revolution,” Pasha said. “Pedestrians seem to wait forever and then make a mad dash across, while the big trucks and automobiles keep zooming by. If a couple of signs could be added such as ‘Stop for Pedestrians’ or ‘Pedestrian Crossing Ahead,’ that might help.”

The crosswalk at Prospect Terrace is one of three crosswalks within about a mile — at Main Street, Prospect Terrace and Broadway Avenue — said police Lt. David Guerrera.

Guerrera said the possibility of adding more crosswalks near the college has been discussed at the city’s Traffic Safety Committee but nothing has happened.

But Guerrera said both motorists and pedestrians can take steps to be more responsible when trying to cross or when someone is crossing:

  • Pedestrians should cross at a crosswalk.

“That’s the safest place to be,” he said.

  • Use a cross light if there is one.
  • Look both ways, always, he said.
  • At night, pedestrians should wear reflective clothing.
  • Motorists should always expect pedestrians to be at corners or looking to cross the road.

“I always say drive defensively,” Guerrera said.

He also said that a car does not need to yield to a pedestrian until the walker has actually stepped in a crosswalk.

“As a courtesy, you can (stop) yes, it’s the polite thing to do,” he said.

But on a busy street like Tompkins, unless they’re in the roadway getting ready to cross you don’t need to and he said you shouldn’t hit the brakes just to let someone cross if it means you may cause an accident.

He also said if a person runs out in the road to cross the street or another similar scenario and causes an accident, that person would be ticketed.