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South Eyes

Awhile back, I wrote two columns about the lack of signs telling motorists to stop for pedestrians at crosswalks in downtown Thomson. Mayor Kenneth Usry came to me after that and said there are two signs he'd like to get rid of if he could. He said they are ugly.

Ugly? They're street signs, for crying out loud. If they had peeling paint, rust or frizzy hair, they could be considered ugly. But looking good is not their purpose. There are several faux-brick crosswalks downtown, and I assume they were put there to serve a function and not just look good.

Maybe instead of "stop for pedestrians on crosswalk," there should be signs that say "crosswalks are for decorative purposes only, not to be used by pedestrians." But I understand, we're trying to revitalize downtown, and that means make it more appealing.

Local businesses, rightfully so, are trying to encourage more visitors and customers downtown, and the city is trying to encourage new businesses to set up shop. It all works together. If street signs will hinder the beauty of our downtown, then maybe we could have more law enforcement of stopping for pedestrians at crosswalks -- and/or ticket motorists who drive too fast for conditions. If people felt safe to walk around downtown, well, then people would come and walk around downtown.

The issue resurfaced recently because of three things. First, I was again out trying to cross Main Street several times in one week. Experience taught me not to try Mayor Usry's suggestion -- "just step out there and they'll have to stop." Second, I witnessed a mother with three young children waiting at the crosswalk in front of the theater. She tightly gripped each child's arm, holding them as close to her as possible. I was tempted to ask what she thought about "just step out there and they'll have to stop." But I didn't, because she probably would've had a few choice words that weren't good for her young children's ears to hear.

Third, I recently accompanied my co-worker, Billy Hobbs, to cover an accident where two pedestrians were hit by a car and seriously injured. Thankfully, they were not killed. The sad thing is, they were not even using a crosswalk, although one is very close to the location of the accident. And because it isn't in downtown where officials are worried about aesthetics, but around the Cherokee neighborhood, there happen to be signs at that crosswalk.

So, this column is a plea: (1) to pedestrians -- please cross the road in appropriate places, wear bright and reflective clothing, watch for cars and use common sense. (2) to motorists -- please drive the appropriate speed, be aware of your surroundings and be courteous. (3) to local officials -- the safety and well-being of your citizens should be your number one priority. Please don't forget.

Web posted on Thursday, January 14, 2010

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