My son has classes Tuesday and Thursday evenings all summer long. Since I have nothing better to do, I end up wandering around the north side of town while I wait. I’ve been all over the place, partly because we are considering moving into town to give us better access to my office and our kids’ schools. I’ve driven everywhere, from the “bad” neighborhoods to the recently gentrified areas. It’s been enlightening.
One of the things I noticed was the number of people walking around on the street. I don’t mean on the sidewalk next to the street, I mean in the street, or on the medians. When they cross, it’s never at a crosswalk or at an intersection, even if the nearest intersection is just a few feet away. I watched some guy stop his car on a four-lane divided street to talk to two girls who were walking in the median.I thought several times, “that bonehead is going to get hit.”
Sure enough, it happened.
When I drove by this intersection last night, it looked like half of the Baton Rouge police force was there. I thought there must have been another shooting. Nope, someone was hit while crossing the street.
Why did this happen? I can see three problems. First, this is close to the intersection of two major roads. Florida Boulevard, the road the man was crossing, is also U.S. Highway 190. For those unfamiliar with our naming conventions, U.S. Highways were the original interstate transportation system. They were replaced by our modern Interstates which are designed for higher speeds and have limited access. U.S. Highways are usually multi-lane collector streets, but don’t have limited access. In rural areas, they are often two-lane high-speed roads. Florida Blvd., where this happened, is a four-lane highway with adjacent sidewalks.. The speed limit where this happened is 35 mph. Local news erroneously reported the limit being higher.
The pedestrian was struck between Kernan, a two-lane residential street, and Acadian Thruway, a four-lane arterial with higher speed limits than Florida. This leads to the second problem - jaywalking is rampant around here. I’ve seen people too lazy to walk to the intersection, instead choosing to weave through a line of stopped cars three cars back from the intersection. That’s roughly 30 feet of walking saved. The marker in the photo above is about where the person was hit. He was crossing the street from the south side of Florida Blvd. (north is up in the image), trying to get to Exxon. It’s clear that the pedestrian was crossing in the middle of the block even though a crosswalk was just 100 feet away.
The third problem, the car was going way too fast. The news reported that it was a police officer in an unmarked car, but it isn’t clear why he was speeding because he wasn’t responding to a call. I’m sure it’s relevant that it was an officer because he should have known better. But I’ve been driving around this area a couple nights a week for several weeks and I can say that speeders are everywhere on this side of town. Let’s be clear here. I drive a WRX, usually like I stole it. Even I think people are driving too fast.
There are also plenty of people driving other things on these streets. In the hour before the accident, I spotted two different guys on dirt bikes on these four-lane roads. One of them was trying to do wheelies in the middle of Acadian Thruway. When I drove through one of the local parks, a bunch of girls were practicing their cheerleading routine in the middle of the road. Ladies, there’s a nice grassy area just on the other side of that curb. If you moved over there, you wouldn’t have to stop your routine to let me through.
On a previous evening I spotted a kid riding a horse in the street. It was a residential street, but it was only a block from the main thoroughfare. I’ve ridden horses. I know that sometimes they decide to bolt and when they do, it’s hard to get them to stop (that’s another story for another day). It’s not a big leap to imagine a skittish horse running into traffic. Years ago I told my daughter we couldn’t have a horse because we don’t live on a farm. Apparently, a residential back yard is sufficient. Sorry, sweetheart. You still can’t have a horse.
Before this gets blow up as the latest police killing of a black man, I just want Oppo to know that there’s a whole bunch of crazy stuff happening in the streets on the north side of Baton Rouge. I’m not surprised at all that someone was hit by a car, whether it was an officer or not.