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Letters to the editor

Consider both sides of crosswalk safety problem

While our community mourns the loss of SOU student Gladys Jimenez, let us take the opportunity to reflect not only on the responsibilities of drivers, but on the responsibilities of pedestrians. There is no doubt that many drivers proceed down the Boulevard too fast, too pre-occupied with getting where they are going, attending to phones, radios or CDs without appropriate alertness to pedestrians. I've done it myself.

I'm sure that many of us have stopped for a pedestrian only to have the car in the next lane whiz by just as the pedestrian reaches the portion of the crosswalk in that lane. It is terrifying to see these near-misses. But it is not only the drivers that have responsibilities in the relationship between driver and pedestrian.

How often I have watched as pedestrians step out into the crosswalk seemingly oblivious to the traffic, often chatting on a phone, assuming that the legal right-of-way automatically absolves them of any responsibility in the exchange between driver and pedestrian. Yes, the pedestrian does have the right-of-way, but it seems to me the pedestrian also has the responsibility to actively engage in what is essentially a life and death exchange.

I hope that the hand flags that have been set out not only help drivers be more attentive, but also help pedestrians engage more actively in a process that requires that both parties be fully involved. I shudder a bit to think that there will be those who grab a flag and walk without looking, assuming the flag assures their safety. Nothing replaces the need for driver and pedestrian to make eye-contact with one another, and nothing concludes the exchange better than a nod of the head or a quick wave to a driver to acknowledge a potentially deadly encounter made safe.

Meredith Pech

Ideas for safer crosswalks

The death of Ms. Jimenez due to being hit by a car at a crosswalk prompts me to write and suggest that there are options that would significantly lessen the danger to pedestrians at our more traveled crosswalks. I have seen a strobe system being used at the San Rafael Civic Center that works very well in alerting drivers that pedestrians are about to enter a crosswalk. That system has strobes installed in the pavement across the crosswalk that is activated by a button or a weight sensitive pad at the curb. The system is very effective but would cost about $20,000 per crosswalk.

In discussing systems with the regional supplier they suggested a solar powered system that could activate a flashing caution light and would not need to be hardwired into electrical power. That system would cost about $5,000 per crosswalk. The choice of systems would depend on the amount of traffic and comparative danger at each crosswalk.

The crosswalks in town (in particular at Main Street and N. 1st St.) would benefit from a strobe or flashing light solution or a traffic signal timed to the others signals along the one-way portion of Main Street.

Bob Walker

No news yet on dead homeless man in

I look every day for the results of the autopsy on the homeless man whose body was found in Lithia Park. There has been no explanation of his peculiar death, nor even an official identification that it is Bennet, the sweet scattered man who always had a smile for people. I think a lot of us in Ashland, people who gave him rides, who stopped to speak to him on the street, and who met up with him at different community functions, would find some closure if information from the authorities was forthcoming.

In the meantime, the very least to be done to recognize him as a human being, is to have a notice on the obituary page that includes words of appreciation for his bright friendly attitude toward his station in life.

Jill Iles