Tuesday, April 27, 2010


I was born in Kansas, so I guess technically I have always been a Jayhawker.  But, gentle readers, I have never, at any time, been a jaywalker. (Seriously, even before kids.) I guess it is the Capricorn in me. I could be the lone survivor of a nuclear holocaust and I would be surveying the post-apocalyptic landscape with the traffic signals. It is just who I am. 

So it is with a heavy heart that I report to you that myself and my youngest, while following the law to its very letter, were nearly hit by an SUV last week. I wish I could say that this was a first, or even rare, occurrence. But I can only say that is was, to date, our closest call. I have been lamenting the people who bully through the intersections, vehicular-ly saunter into crosswalks, and turn right into pedestrians crossing at corners for at least two years. It is the combined horror over the nearness of the hit and also my recent impetus to be change, and all that jazz, that I am determining to do something about the situation. A few summers ago my friend had some great suggestions and I want to piggyback off of them and build some momentum for safer streets.

And this is where I would like your feedback. I am going to open this up to replies; I want to get an active document going. Since this bad boy has yet to go viral almost everyone who reads this knows me and lives in my town. I want to know what you think would help keep our kids (and their beloved mothers) safer on our streets. What would you like to see changed? What are your ideas for enforcement? And in the event you live elsewhere, I would love to hear what has worked in your community. I am going to prepare a list of demands/ suggestions, get some signatures, and then I will take it to a city hall meeting. And if you come too, I will buy you a drink after. We can get rowdy and cross against signals!
Here is a super rough draft that is awaiting your genius suggestions:

1. Safety campaign. It is time for a multi-facted, multimedia awareness campaign that increases public knowledge of pedestrian laws. Due to the rapid influx of new residents each year, this needs to be an ongoing effort. Ideas include posters, Lawrence Journal World ads, USD 497 district-wide education of students on pedestrian safety, and inclusion of Lawrence laws in the KU freshman student orientation.

2. Enforcement. A steady and consistent presence of law enforcement all around the city but with specific attention to the areas with highest violations (e.g. downtown and around schools). How can we make officers more visible in this time of budget shortfalls? Can we get the Lawrence Police Dept. to place an emphasis on this problem?

3. Staff. Towards consistent and continued attention to this issue, we request a staff person at the city offices or Lawrence Police Dept. to serve as as the point person to receive suggestions and complaints, and to serve as a liaison between the city and the citizens on this problem.
We feel that this collective action is necessary, as indicated by the recent number of fatalities and serious injury pedestrian accidents. We also feel that this action is in keeping with the vision of the Lawrence. Enhanced pedestrian safety encourages a greener, safer, and healthier community for all of us.

Several million of our signatures here (pay no attention to the fact that is many times our actual population)

So those are just a few ideas. I am eager to hear from everyone and get this fleshed out a bit more. Once I have incorporated your suggestions and made final revisions I will get the document out to you.

FYI-DC has a program called StreetSmart. It is worth checking out. They have some good ideas; however, I found their fear factor a bit off-putting. But if you liked those Volkswagen commercials where the passengers got into an accident out of nowhere, you are going to LOVE the picture and footage on this site of the stroller pushing mama getting hit by a car: http://www.bestreetsmart.net/getinvolved.php

Thanks everyone.  I really look forward to getting your thoughts and suggestions. Walk on sisters!


  1. To be honest, there's not a lot of input I could even possibly give here, except to say that I don't think problems are necessarily solved by more law enforcement. Perhaps being the change doesn't particularly mean forcing others to do what you want them to do, but for you to be more aware and a shining example? I don't know. That was just my thought when I read this.

    Your rough draft proposal, though, is very well written and clearly took a lot of contemplation and thought. Great job with that.

    In any case, I'm SO glad you opened your comments. It's kind of a scary thing to do, especially when you're writing about things that other people are passionate about - in opposing ways. But it's a good thing. Communication. Collaboration. All that stuff - it definitely leads to growth.


  2. Wow. Not what I expected. Had my cousin and her child come so close to harm I think my response would have been a bit different (that's right folks: she's my cousin -- ouch.) In any case, I was being aware; in fact, I'm closer to hyper-aware paranoid when walking the streets. Unfortunately, no amount of awareness will save you from a reckless, law-breaking driver. Certainly it's hard to be a shining example from the grill of a vehicle!

    You call it 'forcing others to do what I want' and I call it simply asking that others obey the law with an expectation it will be enforced. Ta-may-to Tah-mah-to.

    It is incredibly interesting that my first-ever commenter hit so near and dear to my mission and vision. I re-read my "Manifesto" post and had a personal reckoning. Universe, the lesson was duly noted!

  3. Open for all comments! I must apologize for my learning curve. I did not fully understand my comments setting or that I had comments awaiting moderation. I received several emails from people who had trouble posting a comment. Please try again, everything should be functioning just fine now.

  4. My goodness, I didn't mean to upset you at all! And I don't downplay - whatsoever - the scare you had. It was just a tiny perspective. I'm a bit of a lofty idealist when it comes to the idea of "less is more" in government (and, in effect, law enforcement). It's my personal belief (and by no means the RIGHT one ... it's just one thought) the less fear that is propagated, the less people will behave in fear-driven manners, thus the more conscious people will become. You know what I mean?

    And by NO MEANS was I saying you weren't aware. I was just saying that "being the change," TO ME (and that doesn't have to mean TO YOU) means to behave in a way that I would wish for others to behave. So, in effect, if I don't want other people to tell me what I HAVE to do, I don't tell other people what they have to do. If I wish for others to be understanding, I will be understanding. It's not inflammatory, or a judgment against you. It's just the way I interpret that idea. You're welcome to your own interpretation, and I have no issues with that at all.

    Again, I didn't mean to upset you at all or make you feel like I had untoward intentions. I'm sorry if you felt hurt by my perspective. I'll make sure, from now on, to only post comments if they're not contrary. :)

  5. I for one couldn't agree more with your post! As a resident of very neighborhood in which you and your little one were almost hit, I know that this is an ongoing and very serious problem. I think your suggestions/rough draft were right on and will support in every way possible.

    As for your first commenter, I think that kind of mentality really reflects WHY this is a problem. Yes, this is about personal responsibility, but that goes for EVERYONE not just those that are being victimized or compromised. Laws are in place for the safety of the masses, and expecting them to be enforced is hardly a bullying tactic. Come on!

    Rock on lady - let's keep our streets safe. Literally!

  6. Hey Leslie. It is helpful that you provided some context. I love me some big government. JK, But seriously, I DO welcome all posts. Even contrary and dissenting. I may call you out as my blood relation and realiate against each point, but I never claimed to have nailed this Gandhi thing.

    Hey Anonymous or person who has no sign in id- Thanks for the comments. It turns out I also welcome agreement! And if I am going to out my cousin I must also admit that I suspect this is one of my good friends. Okay, full disclosure out of the way.

    I loved your point about personal responsibility for everyone. I failed to communicate in the rough draft that I want the public education/outreach piece to also be geared towards pedestrians. I know that many jayhawkers are jaywalkers and the education needs to swing both ways towards the goal of safer streets. That is one piece that the DC campaign addresses really effectively and that I will make more prominent in my proposal to city commission.

  7. As a former resident of Lawrence I emphatically agree with this post--and I think most Lawrence residents would as well. The ONLY traffic-related law being enforced downtown is parking violations. It is frustrating to know that 10 times out of 10 a citizen will get a ticket for not putting money in the parking meter, but 0 out of 10 times would that same citizen get a consequence if speeding through a crosswalk or treating red lights like yield signs. I think what Lesa is calling for is not MORE law enforcement to protect the citizens of Lawrence, but simply for enforcement PERIOD.

  8. Small Government SteveMay 2, 2010 at 11:57 AM

    I think anyone who truly believes that "less is more" in both goverment and law enforcement would want to have the current laws enforced that are already on the book. I say this as a STRONG small government believer myself. Our country hsa the habit of randomly making new laws and not enforcing the ones we currently have. This is clearly a case where basic safety laws are currently in place yet not enforced. It is the responsiblity of local law enforcement and individuals living in a community to ensure basic common sense traffic laws are obeyed. Simply put, if you run a red light or blow through a stop sign--you need to get a ticket. This ticket is not "big brother" dictating your life, but it is punishment for breaking a law that was designed to keep people from becoming hood ornaments.

  9. Hey Small Government Steve. I don't know who you are but I like your style. Even though I suspect we would agree on little else, I hope you will come back and I hope you will not mind if I spice up my request to the City Commission with the about to be plagiarized phrase, "keeping people from becoming hood ornaments." I honestly had no idea this could be about small vs. large government so I must thank my first commenter for taking this in an interesting new direction and one that it will behoove me to consider before I address the commission.

  10. Here is a comment that one of my friends sent to my email:

    "This is in responce to your last post.
    In Andy's mom's old neighborhood there was a child that was killed while riding his bike. The neighborhood all had bumperstickers that said "Slow down for Sam" Maybe we can start a bumpersticker campaign. Thanks for all your post, I have enjoyed reading them. I wish I had somthing witty to reply. They are all so well writen."

    I didn't add the last few lines, for real! So after reading this and reflecting on "Be the Change" a plan started to take shape. I am getting extremely excited. Look out for an all out campaign sisters! There is a logo, facebook page, bumper sticker, multi-media blitz coming your way.

    I am going to return this blog to business as usual (read: my ceaseless musings)and when I get my final proposal and other media going I will put a link here on the blog and also email everyone. Thanks for all the good thoughts you have given me on the blog, via email and in person.

  11. Hmmm...when I read this I remembered a similar experience (there were many but one stands out...) where my two boys and I were almost run down in a cross walk. After shoving the kiddos out of the way, I vaguely remember banging on the hood of his car and yelling some colorful obscenities. Rage. OK, so I did not model good behavior for my children but it was SO close and SO wrong.
    I didn't hear you asking for bigger government or trying to "force" anyone to do anything. Yes, we have laws about these things...they should be enforced. But if there were not any laws addressing this issue would that mean that it would suddenly be OK to pretend you are the semi-truck in a game of Frogger? (yep...just dated myself. I am old.) My point is there is a matter of common decency, respect, awareness, and responsibility missing here. I also disagree with the above suggested definition of "Be the change" (or actually how it is applied is this situation.) You are right, Leslie. One can only be accountable for their own actions. I can act in the way that I hope others will act and treat people as I want to be treated...the whole golden rule thing. I can be dissapointed when that does not work out for me or I can shrug it off. But it is not "forcing anyone to do what I want them to do" when I expect that they follow the basic laws of safety, both legally and those of common sense.

    Rock on, Lesa and count me in. Oh, and I LOVE that you used the word "behoove"

  12. I just moved from DC to Lawrence. The Street Smart campaign was, as you alluded to earlier, more about fear-mongering than increasing awareness. The slogans they came up were actually divisive rather than unifying...I'm not a big believer in PR for pedestrian safety after that campaign. I think we should be focusing on the actual infrastructure. In several European countries, pedestrian crosswalk signals have their own "turn" when all of the stop lights are red. Drivers can't turn right on a red. In effect, they put the highest priority on pedestrian safety and force drivers to wait for 15 seconds. We should take additional steps here in Lawrence to slow drivers down...driving personal vehicles should never be the most convenient form of transportation in the first place.
    That's my vote. Great ideas above by the way.

  13. Steve,
    Thanks for you comments. I totally agree with you about infrastructure. I shied away from "shooting for the moon" due to budget issues and also since this town has been non-supportive of major changes around driving. There have been lots of issues with bike lanes and HUGE negative response to a request to close off street traffic and reconfigure the area as a pedestrian mall. My husband is helping me come up with some ideas for a campaign that is not obnoxious or fearful but positive in nature. I would really love it if I could meet up with you and get more ideas. I am interested to hear more about the lights idea, maybe there is no harm in asking for the moon? Also I want to know if you think any pieces of the DC campaign are worth looking into. Thank you so much, I really appreciate the help.

  14. Sure! I think a pilot program would be a great way to start...maybe advocate for this phased walking signal at one busy traffic intersection (like Iowa & 23rd)...or a place with more pedestrians crossing over. Then find a way to fund the pilot traffic signals through non-gov't funds. I'd love to participate in any group meetings to talk ideas over.

  15. Yay! I gave your wife the details on the meet up. If anyone else is interested in coming please email me sister1@gmail.com I am really excited, this taking on a lot more structure and detail due to the collective effort. Thank you!

  16. wanted to have more to report when updating on our pedestrian safety campaign but things are pretty slow going so I am going to go ahead and give the breathless masses the skinny.

    I was able to meet last week with David Woosley, the head of the Lawrence Traffic Safety Commission. Mr. Woosely was incredibly helpful in giving me some very clear direction in the Now What/What Next department. I am going to meet with an as yet undetermined person from the Lawrence Police Dept and then again with the city commission. The lags are a bit frustrating but the city and the LPD have been WONDERFUL in helping me get in touch with the right person, set up meetings etc.

    Thank you so much for all of your continued interest and active support!


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