By Maribeth Crandell
I’m saddened by the death of an 80-year-old woman while crossing the highway in the dark near Freeland last week.
As mobility specialist for Island Transit, I read the national statistics showing a rise in car crashes resulting in the death of a pedestrian or cyclist.
I’ve been commuting by Island Transit for over a decade and I love it. The bus drivers and dispatch staff are friendly and helpful. I’ve saved a lot of money over the years. I see a lot of friends on the bus and it reduces my carbon footprint. I get my daily exercise walking to the bus stop.
However, I’m aware of the risk of walking on the shoulder of the road, especially during these dark months.
That’s why I started the Can U C Me Campaign.
Last November, I was on the bus giving away bright reflective vests and wrist bands to commuters. I often stop at bus stops to explain to people how to push the red button on the post when they see the bus coming so the light will flash. In winter a lot of people wear dark colors. If you’re wearing dark colors and standing in the dark, or have a dark background behind you, the bus driver may not see you and pass you by. You may have to wait for an hour for the next bus. Or a distracted motorist may swerve over the white line and approach you at 40 or 50 mph.
It’s the responsibility of the motorist to drive safely and of smart pedestrians and cyclists to do everything they can to be visible. If you don’t have a bright reflective vest, a small flashlight in a coat pocket can make all the difference.
The law requires a white headlight and red reflector on the back for bikes.
Just because you can see the cars coming, doesn’t mean they can see you. They may be changing the channel on their radio, reaching for their coffee, tending to a child in the backseat, talking on the phone, dozing off, or under the influence.
If you’re walking along the side of the road and you see an approaching car edging toward the fog line, wave your arms, shine your light, make yourself known.
Most drivers move over and the sound of them driving on the rumble strip in the middle of the road is reassuring. But that only happens if they know you’re there.
Be safe. Be seen.
• Maribeth Crandell is the mobility specialist for Island Transit.