The old man, his back hunched, patiently waited for the pedestrian walk light. Once the cars stopped and the crosswalk light came on, he crossed, cane supporting his wonky hip with each slow step.

In the middle of the crosswalk a vehicle blocked his path. Before he detoured around it, he turned to face the offending vehicle. Glaring at the driver’s eyes he lifted his cane as if to give the hood of the car a resounding thump. The driver’s eyes widened. Point made. Crosswalks are for people not vehicles.

As we also know, the sidewalk is for pedestrians, not parking space. The youngish grandmother strolled up the street pushing a baby carriage. Her daughter’s toddler only a few steps ahead, jumping over cracks while worrying about the big, black ants.

Face shiny with perspiration, grandma stares at the huge, black truck parked on the sidewalk. The baby begins squalling and the toddler pops a thumb into her tired mouth. He’s ready for a meltdown.

Grandmother’s option is to cross the uneven, lumpy grass and thread her way around the shrubs, threading between the multiple cars crammed into the driveway … or go into the street. She lifts the baby carriage over the curb, and hoists the toddler onto one hip. The carriage is within two feet of the double yellow line when a red car flying down the hill thankfully sees them.

South Portland’s Knightville neighborhood. John Ewing photo/Press Herald

It swerves around the unexpected pedestrians. The scared driver is unhappy to see the little family in the street. Once around the truck, grandma lifts the carriage back over the curb onto the sidewalk and sets the fussy toddler down. She wonders if walking on her street has gotten too risky for her to take the children.

South Portland’s pedestrians’ fear of getting run over, or having their kids hit by speeding cars while crossing the street is all too common.

Don’t whack vehicles with your cane and don’t give up walking. Our streets make up our neighborhoods. They are part of our homes. Streets are for everyone, not just for vehicles to get from one point to another as quickly as possible. Speak up and speak out for pedestrian rights and for safe driving. It’s useless to fume in silence, speak up for safe streets. Getting involved in making things better can help us all.

To make our streets safe, pedestrians should cross at the cross walks.

Make your intention to cross clear and try to get eye contact with the driver. Look both ways and watch for turning cars. Use the crosswalk lights. Report crossing lights not working correctly, poorly marked crosswalks or cars not stopping. Teach children how to cross streets correctly; emphasize, no running.

If you have to walk in the street, walk facing traffic. It is extremely difficult for drivers to see pedestrians wearing dark clothing. If people are out walking at night, they should wear bright clothing and preferably some type of reflective clothing or reflective gear (i.e., reflective vest or Maine DOT slap bracelets. Also, carry a flashlight. Cars parked on sidewalks is illegal. Get license plate numbers and report incidents to police. These things can make our streets safer.

Drivers can also act to make our streets safe. The speed limit is the maximum speed considered safe for an area. It is prudent to drive below it in residential areas. It is the law to stop for people entering or in cross walks. Drivers should not be multitasking and distracted while driving.

Be alert and prepared to stop suddenly for children or pets who may dart into a roadway. These things make our streets safer.

Safe streets require pedestrians and drivers to each do their part. Communities working together make the very best places to live.

Jennifer Morris is xxxxx and a South Portland resident. She can be reached at xxxx.

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