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BJF: Tragedy witnessed is reason to slow down, improve safety

Safety on Columbia sidewalks/crosswalks has been in the news for many months, debating and building to action, but not fast enough for some victims like this tragic death of the lady in Billy Joe Fudge's report below. I'm deeply grateful that he made time to put into words what he witnessed. Reading it chills me -- reliving it, putting it on paper, had to have been one of the hardest things he's ever done. Thank you for the blessing, Billy Joe, it may save a life going forward. City resident Mike Bell, traveling Burkesville Street in his motorized wheelchair, was the most recent victim just this month. Thankfully he is alive. He will be able to come home and lead for more action immediately. - Linda Waggener

By Billy Joe Fudge

In 1978 on a workday, I came to a stop on West Fortune Street to let a speeding car in the middle lane of Burkesville Street pass on its way to the Square. A semi-tractor trailer was setting at the crosswalk in the lane nearest to what is now Red Brick Studio.

As the speeding car passed in front of me I saw an elderly lady step from in front of the semi, crossing in the crosswalk toward the Bank of Columbia side of the square.

She took a couple of steps past the semi and looked to her left to see the speeding car approaching the crosswalk. The car was at this point slowing down but I believe the lady was not sure they were going to stop and began to hurriedly step backwards, back in front of the semi.

When the driver of the car saw her backing up, he continued on across the crosswalk without stopping. All in the same motion the semi driver who had seen the lady clear the front of his truck, did not see her step and stagger backwards. I'm sure he was preoccupied with the Square traffic and the car speeding onto the Square in front of him.

The scene plays over and over in my mind many times, especially when I see folks speeding across crosswalks, crossing while people are still in the crosswalks and when people seek to put the responsibility for pedestrian safety in the pedestrian's corner.

The semi knocked the defenseless lady to the blacktop, straddled her with the front wheels and pulled up to her waist with the semi's rear axle tires.

The truck driver was devastated, needless to say, and kept repeating that she had already cleared the path of his truck and begging me to explain to him how this could have happened.

I apologize for the graphic description but this car/truck and pedestrian interaction is often deadly, primarily to the pedestrian, as it was in this case. My prayer during several nights of fitful sleep was and is, that the fall rendered her unconscious prior to having the life pushed from her body by the tons of truck running upon her.

The scene plays over and over in my mind many times, especially when I see what I saw today, Friday the 22nd of September, at the very same crosswalk. A middle-aged lady was waiting on the Bank of Columbia side as I approached in the middle lane. I stopped for her to cross and just as she was about to clear the front of my vehicle a pickup truck with a trailer sped up the lane between me and Red Brick Studio and finally stopped at the yield sign to wait for traffic on the Square to open up for him to proceed. For at least 5 to 6 seconds his truck and trailer blocked the crosswalk as the lady stood in the middle of the cross walk on Burkesville Street in front of my car completely blocked in as a car came off the Square behind her with seeming disregard for her safety.

Citizens of Columbia, Citizens of Adair County, County Judge Executive and Fiscal Court, Mayor and City Council, and Kentucky Department of Transportation, it is just a matter of time before it will happen again!

The scene plays over and over in my mind many times and God forbid that a similar situation would ever have to needlessly play over and over in the mind of another.

There are things we can do which can lessen the chances of this type thing happening again.

Let us not wait until it is too late because, "it is just a matter of time, before it will happen again"!

This story was posted on 2017-09-24 07:36:26
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Alerting motorists to pedestrian crossing: Stop painted on pavement

2017-09-26 - W Court and 1st Street, Greensburg, KY - Photo by Linda Waggener,
Many of Columbia's neighboring cities have innovated to move traffic at higher volume, though at slower speeds, adding cautionary visual cues to alert drivers to watch for pedestrians. In Greensburg, KY, at West Court and 1st Street, a "STOP" sign on the pavement provides an alert for drivers. Granted, this is a city street, which makes it snap to provide the roadway signage, many communities are finding that Kentucky Transportation Cabinet is receptive to ideas to make travel safer for all. The city also has another added protection for pedestrians: On street parking on both sides of the street, adding to the viability of downtown businesses. Most weekdays (this was a Sunday afternoon view) the spaces are filled. We didn't see any vacant buildings along the way. It's a thriving neighborhood. - EW.

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