By Will Kay ‘20 || Contributing Writer
A recent article published in LNP discussed the “crisis” of illegal pedestrian crossings across Harrisburg Avenue near the College Row Apartments, citing a host of potential solutions being examined by the College and the City. As a New Yorker who has himself committed the very crossing discussed in this article (I’m unsure of the statute of limitations on such crimes, so let’s see if I get a citation in the mail after this piece is published), I can’t help but chuckle at the silliness of the whole kerfuffle. That said, it seems to be an issue both the College and the City want to rectify. With that, though, I think there is a solution far more simple than those that seem to currently be under consideration: just enforce the traffic regulations on the books.
Pennsylvania law is clear here: Title 75, Chapter 35, Subchapter C, § 3543 states clearly that “[b]etween adjacent intersections in urban districts at which traffic-control signals are in operation pedestrians shall not cross at any place except in a marked crosswalk.” This is precisely the situation we have here, a mid-block crossing where both ends of the block have traffic-control signals (the lights), and currently the law on the books is not being enforced. Simply put, if law enforcement, be it F&M’s Department of Public Safety or Lancaster City Police, were to issue more citations based on this statute, it would disincentivize illegal crossings and likely bring down their frequency, avoiding the safety issue the crossings pose.
I don’t mean to sound like a law-and-order, broken windows conservative, but if the concern is for student and vehicle safety, then enforcement of the laws as they exist in the status quo should be sufficient to quell that concern. I see little need to recruit two different engineering firms and spend Lancaster City taxpayer dollars, to come up with some “innovative solution” when a far simpler one exists.
The LNP piece suggests one solution might be to allow for more time to cross at the crosswalks. While well-intentioned, this is unlikely to solve the problem. The concern isn’t insufficient time to cross, it’s simply that the lights take too long to change (as the LNP piece acknowledges). More time to cross won’t solve that more fundamental problem. And sure, perhaps more regular light changes might help, but it’s also a matter of convenience. Students going from home to class and vice versa are fundamentally concerned with expediency and efficiency. Regardless of improved light changes, the incentive for illegal crossings will remain. Only enforcement of the laws on the books will remove that incentive, as no one, especially broke college kids like us, wants to lose money for a silly illegal pedestrian crossing citation.
I can already hear letters of response or social media/dining hall cajoles about my calling for greater policing of an already over-policed college community. I understand these concerns, and honestly hold them myself. But the fact remains that the other solutions on the table are over-costly, ineffective, and mistargeted. As the College faces a budget crisis and the community looks to keep itself as safe as possible, increased enforcement of laws on the books seems to be the least disruptive of the potential solutions.
Should you disagree, and I am sure that many will, the solution must be a social one. Discourage your friends from making this illegal crossing. Emphasize that they put themselves, drivers, and other pedestrians at risk when they choose to cross that way. Advocate for greater social responsibility amongst your peers. Having made that crossing myself, I am defying my NYC instincts and making the commitment here to not do so again going forward. Maybe then the problem can solve itself before interventions as discussed in this piece become necessary.
Senior Will Kay is a contributing writer, his email is firstname.lastname@example.org.