Squeaky Pedestrian Gets Results
To Paint or Not to Paint;
Crosswalks Get Facelift
With 2 Councilors' Help
By Edward Shanahan
A long-time and regular walker in the city, I have been increasingly irked (I can think of a stronger term) in recent months by the failure of the city crews to repaint faded and all but invisible pedestrian crosswalks.
This poses a danger to me as I attempt to traverse busy streets and is risky for drivers who are new to town and don’t realize where the crosswalks are.
I’ve posted photos and written an article about the problem on this downstreet.net web site and heard promises from the city that with a transfer of funds in May to the Department of Public Works budget that the problem would be taken care of.
And some painting was done, but very little in comparison to the number of formerly striped crosswalks in the city,
So I sat at my computer on July 30 and drafted a letters to be sent to all nine city councilors in order to share my concern with them. I dropped the letters in the box at the Florence Post Office on Tuesday, July 31.
And, voila, late Wednesday morning, Aug. 1 Ward 7 Councilor Ray LaBarge left a message on our answering machine stating he received the letter and was working on the issue.
A subsequent conversation with him revealed he had talked to the mayor, and said that she agreed the crosswalks were a problem and that it would be addressed. As occurs in any encounter with Councilor Labarge, we had some discussion about a range of other matters , including his personal contribution of $5,000 for the repair of the fountain in the center of Florence. I thanked him for his interest in the crosswalk problem.
On Thursday morning Ward 6 Councilor Marianne LaBarge checked in and she expressed support for my position and said she had sent messages of similar concern to Councilor at large James Dostal, chairman of the Council’s Public Safety Committee, and Ward 4 Councilor David Narkewicz, chairmanof the Transportation and Parking Commission. (I had previously interviewed Councilor Narkewicz and had talked about the safety issues associated with unmarked crosswalks. He too was sympathetic but pointed out that a shortage of funds prevented the past practice of twice-a-year painting, and even now once-a-year marking was not assured).
And then Friday morning on my way to the Recycling Center on Locust Street, I was stunned and pleased to travel through some half dozen freshly painted intersections and crosswalks between the Civic Center and Berkshire Terrace..
Mission accomplished. At least for downtown Florence.
But one imagines that there are other crosswalks needing attention in neighborhoods throughout the city.
Maybe the seven other councilors who did not respond to my personal letter are working on getting crosswalks in those other neighborhoods painted, recognizing that if you are a resident of Florence the LaBarges will get the job done for you and promptly too.
Of course, Ward 5 Councilor David Murphy can claim a large slice of Florence in his ward, but perhaps he’s got his hands full with other matters and was too busy to respond in this instance.
I sent along an e-mail note to Marianne LaBarge as well as a thank you letter to Ned Huntley, director of the DPW.
For the record here is a text of the letter I sent to our elected councilors:
July 30, 2007
For those of us who do a good deal of walking, especially around Florence, crosswalks are very much a public safety issue. The faded and degraded paint on our crosswalks is critically dangerous for pedestrians.
Some of the crosswalks in Florence that connect to the bike trail have been painted this year. But the majority of have not, unlike the situation downtown where the city moved, after much prodding and a special financial transfer of $15,000, to refresh the painted stripes there as well as along Elm and Prospect streets.
The excuse that there is no money in the budget for crosswalk painting is understandable, but I’m not sure defensible given its importance as a matter of the public’s safety and well being.
There is sufficient money to start up in the name of public safety a new city ambulance service, buying equipment and paying personnel to staff it, but no money- the piddling amount it would take – to make sure absolutely all crosswalks in the city are adequately identified and painted for the benefit of drivers and pedestrians.
Decent city services involve paying attention to the little things, not just the big ticket items. So take a look around and consider how vulnerable you would feel if you had to negotiate the two busy crosswalks on Main Street in Florence in front of the Florence Savings Bank and at Friendly’s and worry that someone did not realize you were in a dedicated yet all but invisible crosswalk.
It would be tragic for you as well as for the unsuspecting driver responsible for taking your life. And these are just two of the many crosswalks around the city left virtually unmarked
It used to be part of the city councilor’s unstated job description to raise issues and initiate action to remedy deficiencies in city services when required. It is not enough to leave all of these matters to the discretion of the mayor’s office and the city departments nominally responsible for taking action to correct problems. You have a responsibility , too.
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