Has this ever happened to you? You’re about to cross Purchase Street by the Smoke Shop in the clearly marked crosswalk with painted diagonal lines inside it and a red stop sign.
By Tom McDermott
Has this ever happened to you?
You’re about to cross Purchase Street by the Smoke Shop in the clearly marked crosswalk with painted diagonal lines inside it and a red stop sign. A southbound motorist is busy speaking into her phone and begins to drive through the crosswalk without noticing you. So, you gesture so that she can see you, and, finally, she does and you cross.
When you are midway through your journey, another vehicle that has just made an illegal left turn from Elm Place and is bearing down on you. You hold up your hands and the driver sees you in time for him to stop.
Or, how about this one?
You gingerly – you’ve done this before – enter the Purdy Avenue crosswalk by School Street, the one with the iridescent yellow crosswalk signs. Then, you watch as two-way traffic continues to barrel through the crosswalk, oblivious to anything but making the green lights at the top and bottom of that hill. After three to four vehicles go by each way, one or two finally stop for you to cross.
Both of those happened to me on the same day recently, as well as this whopper: I was about to enter the crosswalk connecting to the corner by Chase Bank. A northbound vehicle stopped, but as I was walking across, another coming from the opposite direction drove right through at about 30 mph. That caused me to throw my hands up in disbelief. As I did, the fellow in the car that had stopped rolled down his window and shouted, “We don’t have to stop for you there; it isn’t the law!”
Really? I begged to differ. So I consulted higher authorities: New York State traffic law (see box), Lt. Robert Falk, Rye’s interim Police Commissioner, and Sgt. Mike Anfuso, who is in charge of traffic.
What’s clear from State traffic laws is that both pedestrians and motorists must obey the traffic signals, whether there is a crosswalk at the intersection or not. Also clear is that motorists must stop at crosswalks where there is a full stop sign – like the one by The Smoke Shop.
But, what’s the difference between crosswalks with yellow signage and ones without; or ones with “high visibility” diagonal white lines painted within or “standard” ones without lines?
Sgt. Anfuso confirmed that, in terms of the law, there is no difference. Pedestrians must be visible and give motorists time to stop when crossing, and motorists with time/distance to stop must stop regardless of the design.
The difference between crosswalk safety and risk occurs within seconds and depends almost entirely on pedestrian and motorist awareness of and courtesy towards one another. The odds are stacked against the police being present to intervene or witness violations.
The Rye Shared Roadways Committee tried to tackle some of this confusion and risk in their 2011 report (www.ryeny.gov/tpsi .cfm), which made specific recommendations for crosswalk improvement and standardization near schools and around town – and a lot more.
This winter’s weather has ravaged many roads, drilled hundreds of deep potholes, to say nothing of the local disaster area called Station Plaza. So, perhaps it’s not the most opportune time to spend City money on standardizing, re-painting, and creating more crosswalks. Also, there is no practical way for our police, no matter how diligent they are, to manage thousands of weekly crossings.
Until the City can upgrade, repaint, or add crosswalks (north side of Purchase/Purdy intersection, Locust Avenue from south end of the parking lot across to the Village Green are two of our recommendations), the best thing that both pedestrians and motorists can do right now is to understand the law, begin paying more attention (and quit texting while walking as well as driving), and be prepared to stop in the name of the law and safety.
New York Vehicle and Traffic Law
S 1151. Pedestrians’ right of way in crosswalks.
(a) When traffic-control signals are not in place or not in operation, the driver of a vehicle shall yield the right of way, slowing down or stopping if need be to so yield, to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk on the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling; except that any pedestrian crossing a roadway at a point where a pedestrian tunnel or overpass has been provided shall yield the right of way to all vehicles.
(b) No pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impractical for the driver to yield.
(c) Whenever any vehicle is stopped at a marked crosswalk or at any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection to permit a pedestrian to cross the roadway, the driver of any other vehicle approaching from the rear shall not overtake and pass such stopped vehicle.