Monday, January 29, 2001
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Posted on: Monday, January 29, 2001

Island Voices
'Pedestrian Bill of Rights' is needed

By Duke Sturgeon

Visitors on a jet to Hawaii may be surprised to learn their plane must yield air space to a less maneuverable hot-air balloon. This rule protects and saves lives. These same visitors may be shocked to learn they are not offered the same protection when they venture into marked crosswalks on city streets.

It seems the term "marked" applies only to the pedestrian, as in marked for injury or death. Their lack of maneuverability does not enter into the equation; nor does the city’s goal of encouraging a friendly "pedestrian sense of place."

Some believe the problem is faded paint marking the crosswalks and speeding cars. No matter, both are the city’s responsibility and solvable if the city administration and City Council have the inclination and money to act.

The most important is wanting to take action and not by talking about the problem or commissioning another study.

We must fight this problem on many fronts to save the lives of our aging family members who have lost some mental clarity and physical mobility, our young schoolchildren trying to get to the bus stop across the street, the tourist with money to spend or any other human being. The drafting and implementing of a "Pedestrian Bill of Rights" could be the first step in changing all of our mindsets.

If money is the problem in painting and maintaining truly visible marked crosswalks, might a citizens’ group be formed, similar to "Friends of Iolani Palace," that would be "deputized" to paint the crosswalks? The paint could be supplied by the city or some civic-minded organization.

The city needs to be able to increase, collect and spend the fines generated by drivers breaking the law. At this time, the city is probably reluctant to expend more police power to ticket speeding or crosswalk violators since the money (fines) is turned over to the state treasury. It is unreasonable for the state to expect the city and counties of Hawaii to perform a function without compensation.

With proper compensation, the city could hire more personnel, install and monitor overhead cameras and collect the fines that would help pay for the enforcement of these programs. If a change in the revenue-sharing law is needed, now is the time for the city to lobby the Legislature.

The final piece of this puzzle is to change the mindset of drivers regarding pedestrian rights, especially in crosswalks.

Duke Sturgeon lives in Honolulu.

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