Yield to pedestrians

Yes, we now have freshly painted Main Street crosswalks here in Keene, and not a moment two soon. Last week I mentioned the boy who got hit by a car while crossing Main Street with his grandmother, and subsequent newspaper coverage of the accident blamed downtown construction for that and another pedestrian accident. (Incidentally, the newspaper also reported that the boy is fine, having been treated at the hospital for bruises and then released.) Main Street is crisscrossed with pedestrian crossings–there’s a crosswalk every 30 yards or so–and without painted markings and in the presence of construction-related lane closures and orange caution cones, the article claimed, drivers were confused as to where pedestrians would and wouldn’t be crossing.

Yield to pedestrians

When I first encountered this claim that road construction and a subsequent lack of painted crosswalks was to blame for both of last week’s pedestrian accidents, I was skeptical. Surely crosswalks (or a lack thereof) don’t hit people; drivers hit people. In my mind, blaming a lack of crosswalks for one’s careless driving is like blaming the sun in your eye for a fumbled fly ball. Surely good, careful drivers (like good, careful fielders) can compensate for real-life challenges.

Then in the interest of fairness, I took a drive downtown…and although I didn’t (thankfully) hit any pedestrians, I did feel disoriented and confused about where people would or wouldn’t be crossing. Keene’s extra-wide Main Street features angled parking, so sometimes it’s difficult to see pedestrians on the sidewalk. Since people here are so used to well-trained drivers stopping to allow walkers to cross in front of them (the New Hampshire way), pedestrians often pop onto the pavement rather than pausing to make sure drivers see them. Although I wouldn’t have thought that painted crosswalks would make that much of a difference to drivers, a quick spin downtown proved that I do subconsciously slow down and look around when I see crosswalks and painted “Yield” symbols. In the absence of such reminders, it was surprisingly easy to forget such precautions.


And while I don’t believe there is a New Hampshire law requiring drivers to stop for huge beetles crossing streets, apparently our local bugs have been emboldened by fresh paint, hitting the pavement with renewed vigor. Although it has been tropically warm and steamy in southern New Hampshire these days, I stopped in my tracks (literally) when I saw this six-legged pedestrian plodding down the paved sidewalk in front of the rectory of Saint Bernard’s church. Shouldn’t this guy be rolling balls of wildebeest dung on an African savannah rather than poking around the streets of downtown Keene?

Lest you think (in light of this and Friday’s post) that Hoarded Ordinaries is going to the bugs, let me assure you that I’m not particularly fond of insects. As a child, I was terrified of bugs, refusing even to touch pictures of insects in a children’s science book I owned. After I became a Nature Nut in high school, I had to change my anti-insect tune a bit…but not much. I’ll tolerate exoskeletonned creepy-crawlies out of a sense of scientific curiosity…but I wouldn’t want Mr. Giant Beetle plodding his pedestrian way across my living room floor. I didn’t step on Beetle, and I’m mighty glad for that: his huge body would have made a sickening squish, so I’m content to let him walk on and away from me, thank you.