Anyone who comes through Boulder is sure to notice the city’s unique traffic hierarchy.
In most cities, roaring buses, grumbling trucks and sleek cars reign over the roadway. In Boulder, it is the pedestrians who rule the roost.
They come from every corner, crossing in various directions, confidently and carelessly striding across the street with latte in hand or headphones in their ears.
In 2005, 142 motor vehicle accidents in Boulder involved pedestrians and/or bicyclists. The number may seem high, but it is down from the 187 pedestrian-related accidents in 2004 and the 217 in 2002. The decrease may be a reflection of the CU Police Department and the City of Boulder’s efforts to improve pedestrian safety in Boulder.
CUPD Lt. Brad Wiesley explained current plans.
“We’re working on a plan for a long-range pedestrian and bicycle safety program. (The program) will probably start either later this spring or this summer,” Wiesley said. “We’re going to be doing advertising and additional reminders, reinforcement for all the different things that cause pedestrian hazards.”
Even though pedestrian-related accidents may be decreasing, such accidents still occur. CUPD said the current age of electronics to be a contributing factor for the high rate of people who are hit by cars.
“People without iPods and cell phones, or back in the day when nobody had them, you could hear cars coming better because you didn’t have something plugged into one or both ears,” Wiesley said.
The transportation tradition of patiently waiting vehicles and numerous street-crossing students proves a successful system — most of the time. The problem is the occasions when the pedestrian-vehicle relationship just doesn’t function quite right.
One effort to help this relationship is GO Boulder, a plan created by the City of Boulder to make transportation safer and more efficient.
Marni Ratzel is the bicycle/pedestrian transportation planner for GO Boulder
“GO Boulder is a city program with a mission to make it easier to get around town. We promote and encourage transportation options, particularly biking, walking and transit. We strive to achieve the goals and objectives of the city’s Transportation Master Plan,” she said.
The TMP, originally adopted in 1989, is Boulder’s long-term strategy regarding transport and access around the city. The plan provides safe and opportune transportation in Boulder and safeguards the environment through minimization of noise, pollution and congestion.
The pedestrian is at the center of the TMP. By 2025, the plan calls for the development of a system built around mobility by foot as the primary mode of travel.
Lt. Wiesley acknowledged the uniqueness in Boulder’s pedestrian culture.
“I travel quite a bit and I think that motorists in Boulder are much more in tune with pedestrians and their right of way than people in a lot of other cities,” Wiesley said. “I get the impression that there are some places where they act completely different toward pedestrians. Where if you walk out at a crosswalk, right away you would probably get run over.”
However, Wiesley said Boulder’s pedestrian-friendliness does not mean just because a car is supposed to stop it always will.
“While we don’t look to blame anybody, pedestrians, even if they’re right crossing at a cross walk, if they get hit by a car, it is not going to be a good experience,” he said. “So it’s always better to look both ways and if you see a car coming, start paying attention, let them have the right of way and then cross.”
Boulder’s comfortable relationship between patrons and vehicles gives some students big confidence when walking around town.
Michael Marcotte, a junior economics major, agreed there is a feeling of power that coincides with pedestrians in Boulder.
“I absolutely feel comfortable walking to campus, typically wearing an iPod,” he said.
That confidence may lead pedestrians to neglect taking the rules of the road seriously.
“I use the crosswalks, but I don’t wait for the little ‘walky’ guy (at the traffic light). I just go whenever there’s an opening, so I guess I don’t really follow the rules,” Marcotte said.
Wiesley said how important it is for students to be aware of their surroundings.
When it comes to man versus car, Lt. Wiesley said, “Regardless of who’s right and who’s wrong, the pedestrian is always going to lose.”
Contact Campus Press Staff Writer Elizabeth Cuje at email@example.com