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View from the corner shows pedestrian safety lacking

By Gene Park

LAST UPDATED: 6:02 a.m. HST, Aug 3, 2011

An elderly woman with a bad back dashes into the crosswalk, even though the walk light has only five seconds left on it.

A mother with two babies in strollers bolts across the crosswalk even though the “Don’t walk” sign is flashing.

A driver turns into the crosswalk even though a pedestrian is entering his half of the roadway.

These harrowing moments and more happened within 20 minutes of me sitting at the corner of Keeaumoku Street and Kapiolani Boulevard, one of the city’s busiest intersections, and close to where I live.

These poor people. Do they know it’s almost Pedestrian Safety Month in Hawaii?

The state so proclaimed August, kicking off the second Walk Wise Hawaii
pedestrian safety awareness campaign for the state.

We’re more than halfway through the year, and we’ve seen 11 pedestrian deaths, an alarming number. Last year the state saw 27 pedestrian deaths, the first rise in deaths in five years.

A common cry I hear is, “Why aren’t the police doing their job?”

It’s true that officers aren’t everywhere. There are only 200 or so officers patrolling the streets at one time, says Capt. Keith Lima of the Honolulu Police Department’s Traffic Division.

“We have to depend on the civic-minded; we have to depend on law-abiding people,” Lima says.

That’s why education campaigns like Walk Wise Hawaii are important. The program, a partnership between the state, city and private sector, is in its second year, aimed at keeping up awareness, even when fatalities are down.

So what about people who walk when the hand starts counting down? That was likely the most common thing I saw at the intersection.
“They’re not supposed to walk, but a lot of people do it,” Lima says. It’s a potential $70 penalty.

Then there were more dangerous versions of that violation. I saw a woman run across the street with five seconds left on the timer, even as an ambulance careened toward her.

Drivers were often impatient as they made turns while pedestrians were still on their side of the road. Pedestrians shot them evil eyes and the drivers responded in kind.

I also saw many pedestrians fail to look both ways before crossing the street, something our parents always taught us.

“That’s kind of sad,” Lima says. “You feel you’re in the crosswalk and you have the right of way. And you’re right, but we don’t want you to be dead right.”

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