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May 23, 1996

That narrow, two-lane stretch of 15th street between Fir avenue and Wakefield Road on the city's west side carries a heavy load of traffic. The new middle school is located there, so dozens of parents pick up and deliver students each morning and afternoon along that route when school is in session. Light industries, retail shops and residences are located on it. It is the main artery for north-south traffic in that part of the city.

Many of the vehicles making up that traffic are rather heavy trucks and school buses, in addition to the normal flow of pickups, vans and automobiles. Unfortunately, there are no sidewalks on either side of the street, so pedestrians, including many youngsters trudging to and from the middle school, choose to walk on the roadway rather than plow through the grassy areas and bar ditches lining the way. Quite a few joggers and power walkers also like that street even though the slightly hilly terrain and the generally uneven surface make it difficult to traverse.

All of these very obvious observations are offered merely to underscore a comment you've read here before: Pedestrians are supposed to walk FACING traffic for their own safety. If you're a walker or jogger proceeding down the street the wrong way (with your backside toward the traffic coming from behind you), don't count on motorists seeing you in time to slow down, or even pull over into the, wrong lane of traffic to avoid hitting you.

This of course applies to all streets, but 15th between Fir and Wakefield should be a primary concern area because of the number of children involved. The danger is compounded in the pre-dawn and late evening hours when visibility is poor. It is a small miracle that some youngsters or oldsters have not yet been accidentally hoisted onto the bumper and hood of a truck or car because the victims were not walking FACING traffic. This advice is free so take it for what it's worth. But I hope The Journal never has to run a story about a pedestrian being run over on 15th street, or anyplace else, for the reason outlined above.

While we're reviewing this matter of concern, let's also call attention to the motorists who zip through school zones in all parts of the city without regard to the speed limits posted there. If you read the weekly stories in this paper about the cases heard in Judge Jack Dorl's city police court, you're aware of the number who are nabbed for that very violation. Trouble is, I have a feeling that many more speeders get away with it because police officers cannot spend all of their time patrolling the school zones. The possibility of a truly tragic accident exists if motorists don't temper their tendency to drive at illegal speeds in the areas where our precious young people are afoot. Schools are out for the summer now, but the problem won't go away just because of that. Another term will be starting in August. In the meantime, hundreds of children will be bicycling, running and walking on city streets this summer, right along with the usual cars, pickups, RV's and other vehicles. Now's the time for all of us to train ourselves to think about this. Don't depend on children to move out of the way. Give them a break and use the brake pedal on your vehicle when passing through school zones or wherever you see youngsters moving about.

And I feel compelled to mention one more time that U-turns in the middle of the block are illegal period. They are also very dangerous. One lady nearly had a collision downtown last Monday because a pickup in front of her unexpectedly executed a "U". No accident occurred, but she rolled down her window and advised the other driver that such turns are illegal in Perry. His response: "If you're not a cop, mind your own business." Great attitude, wouldn't you say?