Credits: Sidewalk Terminology Research Analyst – Larry King; Professional Thespian – Jimmy Howe; Staged Accident Accomplice – **Loree.
Thus far, I have accumulated 76 years of life-experience on planet earth. Twenty-five of those years were cop years that catapulted me to the center of a multitude of tragic incidents. My accumulated life experience triggered a change in my brain.
My brain now features x-ray vision. My x-ray vision allows me to look where nothing is happening and see into a future time warp where something can and will happen, given enough time. My extraterrestrial power can best be described as combining a retired cop with a gypsy crystal ball reader. When what I see happening in the future, happens in real life, it is no surprise to me.
Let me give you a burning example of an accident, injury, death, and lawsuit ready to happen. The stage is set.
It should come as no surprise when I tell you I enjoy patronizing John and Niki O’Brien’s Topside Coffee Cabin (TCC) in Steilacoom. I often park my car or motorcycle near the corner of Chambers Creek Road and Wilkes Street. It is a short walk up Wilkes Street to TCC.
My photos below provide you with a clear vision of what I am describing related to my ability to visualize what happens before it happens.
As my eye winds up the hill following the sidewalk as it zigs and zags towards Rainier Street, I spot two people walking up the hill using umbrellas. These two citizens can be seen in both photos. They were not injured because they were paying attention as they walked through the kill zone.
I have identified three engineering options for this particular dangerous traffic design.
Option #1: Do nothing. Do nothing advocates will immediately respond with the tired and pathetic defense for doing nothing. Their statement will be, “No one has ever been injured by the curb before.” Or “That will not happen on my property.”
This risk-taking gamble with human life is not my favorite option. At the bare minimum, the property owner should be motivated by their own self-interest in doing what they can to avoid becoming a defendant in a lawsuit.
Option #2: Leave the concrete curbing tripping hazard to help block cars from inappropriately crossing the sidewalk, but add several brightly colored flexible traffic delineators. Reference photo below to better understand what a traffic delineator looks like. You should recognize what I am referring to even if the industry jargon name, delineator, means nothing to you. Option #2 is my favorite option.
Option #3: Remove the curbing that is a tripping hazard and depend on pedestrians looking both ways before traversing the sidewalk, which includes crossing the exit driveway of the parking lot. While it would be better to remove the tripping hazard than to leave the curb, relying on human beings to look for traffic is risky at best. Option #3 is rated as my second favorite option.
**Some names changed to protect the shy and innocent.
To use words given me by one of my readers, “I am talking about this potential problem out loud.” If you have a connection with the lot owner or a town hall official, I encourage you to join my problem-solving team by forwarding this Westside Story to them. By doing what we can, we may save a life.
There is a significant benefit for putting a solution in place before an incident happens. It will mean we can avoid those tired and often repeated words exclaimed by property owners, government officials, and politicians following another unnecessary death. Those words are, “We have to do something, so no five-year-old kid ever dies on this sidewalk again.”
When I hear these words, I always ask myself, “Why did someone not do something to avoid having the first person die?”
After the body is removed, the slow and blind problem solvers will belatedly move to Option 2 or Option 3 above proving, once again, that someone has to die first.
I, on the other hand, am dedicated to beating the Grim Reaper to the scene. Graphic description? Yes, but true to life. I make a habit of telling it like it is without pulling punches.
When I was a police officer, people may or may not have liked what I had to say, but no one ever accused me of providing a confusing message. My words of warning tend to be crystal clear.
Fix the problem, before it becomes another unnecessary disaster!
Larry King says
The site in your photos is unfamiliar to me, but it looks like the low curb is alongside a ramp or drive for vehicles. It could be a tripping hazard. Still, there are vertical curbs next to roadways everywhere. Tripping over them is to be avoided. In your article you are making the assumption that we have no responsibility for our own safety in public spaces. An example would be Jimmy the Scammer looking at his cell phone instead of what is in front of him. We learn as small children to look in all directions before crossing a road. The proliferation of cell phones has made that lesson moot.
So, what can we do to mitigate a problem for the mentally and visually unaware or oblivious? The simplest and most expedient solution would be to paint the curb yellow (Ocam’s Razor.)
Traffic delineators are normally used to keep vehicles on a roadway, not to keep pedestrians out. Also, they are ugly. If the intention is to create a true barrier, delineators won’t do it.
A permanent solution would be to replace the low curb with a two foot high concrete wall. Anybody who trips over that has been in a bar, not the Topside Coffee Shop.
I agree that the curb was poorly designed and could be a hazard, but sometimes we just need a bucket of yellow paint to protect us from ourselves.
Joseph Boyle says
I know you speak from the vantage point of having knowledge, training and experience in the construction field. I appreciate youir having shared your viewpoint.
There certainly are solutions beyond what I came up with. When I was on the road in Lakewood, I would bring a problem and my solution suggestions to the Lakewood engineering department. After the engineer and I made a joint inspection, the engineer would pick a solution; theirs or mine. The problem would be solved.
Another possible solution would be to cut back on the dirt planting bed of the landscaped sidewalk area. This action would be followed by filling in the old landscape area with more concrete sidewalk.
Human nature being what it is, many would short cut across the sidewalk and miss the tripping hazard. My suggestion could help, but would not eliminate those trippers who are heading into the parking lot.
You make a good point about personal responsibility, but the way people think these days, motivated by their lawyers, personal responsibility is an old concept that is no longer adhered to as it was in the past.
Mary Hammond says
As an experienced senior citizen who has fallen several times, always unexpectedly and unintentionally, I’m not really satisfied with any of your three ideas, Joe. I think that whole corner appears to have been “designed” and executed piecemeal. It needs to be torn out and redesigned. Looking at picture #2, pedestrians are expected to suddenly make a hard right turn in order to avoid tripping over the low, unmarked curb. But it appears that the sidewalk after that abrupt turn is no longer wide enough for two friends walking side-by-side: poorly planned, if at all.
To avoid right-of-way confusion between sidewalkers and drivers exiting the parking lot, I would eliminate (or move) the planted area, and make the sidewalk come straight down to meet the other sidewalk at a right angle — no curves in either sidewalk. The plants could be moved “inland” to enhance the area where the “Walking Steilacoom” map is displayed, but *inside” the sidewalks. Now as walkers make their way up the hill, they will be right next to the street as the cars exit the parking lot. Perhaps a well-placed sign reminding drivers exiting to ? and watch for pedestrians?