Dear Tell All: I was pleased to read the letter from "FixtheCommuterTriangle" about the challenges of walking, driving and biking around our community ("Close Encounters," 7/15/11). I was disappointed by your response, however, because I believe it's the whole "us vs. them" attitude (cars vs. bikes, cars vs. pedestrians) that gets us in trouble.
I work on campus and I drive downtown and then walk to my office, so I've witnessed every type of blunder from all perpetrators. I've had bikes speed by my car without stopping at stop signs, scaring everyone by narrowly missing pedestrians and cars alike. I've seen pedestrians jaywalk in front of my car when I had the right of way and they didn't even bother to look up from their text message. And also - as you rightly point out - I've had cars nearly hit me on foot by running yellow lights or turning when I had the right of way.
The problem is that every group thinks they have the right of way and that their needs supersede everyone else's. As long as that attitude persists people will continue to die.
Dear Tell All: The question of traffic safety is very complex. While it's easy to pin blame on one set of highway users, this has never been an effective strategy.
The letter writer, "FixtheCommuterTriangle," actually implies the more effective approach of encouraging every roadway user to stop treating traffic as a game of one-upsmanship.
As a taxi driver, I want to stop at crosswalks every time I see a pedestrian who wishes to cross the street. But I must also decide whether the stop can be safely done in heavy traffic, as well as whether the pedestrian actually expects me to move through. This is part of doing what's really in everyone's interest.
I lament that Maureen Grant was killed by a Madison bus, and I agree with the citation of bus driver Debra Foster for failure to yield. Ultimately, maximizing attention is the driver's only way of optimizing safety. But pedestrians, too, must be attentive to the risks they incur in crossing a street. I must point out that buses are noisy, and a pedestrian walk light coincides with a traffic green light. Foster's failure to yield was only part of a more complex, and tragic, event. Something else went wrong there, too.