This past Thursday evening I attended the borough assembly meeting and afterwards drove down to McDonald’s for an evening snack. Upon arriving there, I parked my car in the parking lot across the street, walked along the sidewalk and, using the crosswalk (which is partially obliterated due to recent paving), crossed Thorsheim Street to the McDonald’s side.
While I was in the middle of the crosswalk, a car driving from the direction of the Y along Lower Mill Bay Road made a left turn onto Thorsheim Street … and nearly ran me over. While in the crosswalk and seeing what was about to happen, I reacted by instantaneously sprinting (or what passes for sprinting at my age) to the safety of the sidewalk in front of McDonald’s.
When the driver of the car belatedly saw me in the crosswalk, she jammed on the car’s brakes and stopped. She then rolled down her window and apologized. Subsequently we waved at each other and went our respective ways: no harm, no foul.
Later, safely inside McDonald’s with my snack on the table in front of me, I analyzed the events that had just transpired. My first thought was that, since I was coming from a borough assembly meeting (where I had offered my usual kindly, constructive suggestions to the assembly), maybe one of the borough assembly members had deliberately tried to run me down — sort of a belated “assembly member comments” as routinely listed on the agenda at the end of each assembly meeting. But seeing that this was not the case, I considered a simpler, alternative explanation.
I concluded that the primary cause of the incident was simply that the driver did not see me in the crosswalk. Contributing to this was the fact that I was dressed in tan pants and a dark brown shirt, about the same coloring as the average deer, for example. And I was not wearing any reflective clothing. A contributing factor, if not the main one, is the fact that the street lighting at this heavily used intersection appears to be significantly substandard (at least below federal FHWA standards), with areas of the crosswalk in glaring light and contrasting shadow.
And if it had been my day to rejoin my maker? As I’m a senior citizen, I would expect that maybe a few older members of the community might pause in their daily routines for a kind thought in remembrance and then continue on in their respective lives, there being no overall sense of real loss to our community. But suppose that instead, the individual injured or killed were one of the children of our community? These memories tend to stick.
As we are all aware, McDonald’s is close to both our high school and middle school, and frequently there are crackles of clangoring teens and preteens descending upon McDonald’s, jumping over the guard rails and seemingly not paying any real attention to nearby traffic. And if one of these students is killed or becomes severely injured in a pedestrian accident, it can affect our whole community for years.
From such an accident, one of the best outcomes might be that the parents will sue the city or the borough for injuries resulting from inadequate street lighting at this intersection. Subsequently, the city or borough might actually do something to improve the street lighting. It’s just a shame that in Kodiak it first takes somebody to be hurt in order to enact such a change.
As the adage goes, “If it takes an accident to show you that there is a problem, then you are part of the problem.” In the future, I just hope we can do better than to fail to protect our children for the sake of saving a couple of bucks with substandard street lighting.
All of which, of course, is just my opinion.
Jeff Stewart is a retired project manager and former member of the KIBSD Board of Education.