A few weeks ago I drove over the Pike on Walnut Street into Newtonville, traveling at less than 20 miles per hour and aiming for a vacant parking space on the corner right in front of the bank. I slowed to a near crawl, quickly scanned the intersection as I came through and, just out of the corner of my eye as I crossed the crosswalk, I saw movement.
As I parked a police officer pulled up. I’d been in the wrong, driving through a crosswalk as a person crossed.
But to be honest, I never saw her. She wore a full-length black coat and there is no crossing light. Yes, there’s a streetlight just above the intersection (as the police officer pointed out) but it doesn’t do much to illuminate the road beyond a small patch.
The same thing happened again a few weeks later at the same intersection, only this time without the police officer. I came up on the intersection, a car was turning left from the opposite side blocking my view and only when my wife yelled did I see the person on the other side of the street. But my stopping only created more problems, since the person taking the left could not move, the pedestrian didn’t cross because of cards on both side of the crosswalk and I was paralyzed by the law. I finally moved through to try to open things up.
This isn’t the first time I missed (or nearly missed) people crossing on crosswalks at night. Many of our crosswalks don’t have crossing lights and are dimly lit. To make matters worse, as New Englanders, we tend to wear dark clothing.
Compare this to how I usually see cyclists on the road at night, fully lit with multiple head and tail lights along with bright reflective clothing.
Still, I find I don’t have this same problem while driving through Watertown or Cambridge where the lights, to my eyes, seem brighter. The brighter lights from above also seem to cancel out the bright headlights from in front of me that also seem to keep me from seeing pedestrians clearly.
So my question is: is the problem the drivers or the streetlights? Do we need to put in more lighting to keep people safe?