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Council Passes Pedestrian Safety Resolution, Promises Action

Efforts to improve pedestrian safety in Newport are underway after two people were killed in crosswalks in January.

The scene of a fatal pedestrian accident in Newport in January.
The scene of a fatal pedestrian accident in Newport in January.

The Newport City Council last week approved a resolution that marks a new citywide effort to improve pedestrian safety after two people were killed in crosswalks in two separate January incidents.

The council passed an amended form of a resolution that calls upon the city manager and police department to review existing pedestrian safety and crosswalk laws and consider ways to improve how crossings in Newport can be better marked.

And since the ordinance was first drafted, city officials have had meetings with the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission and taken other measures to take immediate action to improve pedestrian safety.

“Things are in the works,” said City Councilwoman Naomi L. Neville as the resolution was introduced. “We’re not taking this lightly.”

Changes to the ordinance incorporated three suggestions from Chuck Filippo on behalf of the bike and pedestrian commission that would incorporate a citizen survey to identify all locations where pedestrians the most vulnerable and measures to make pedestrians more visible to drivers. One system he referenced has had success on Main Street in Wakefield, where pedestrians can use orange flags stored in bins on each side of the street to wave and draw drivers’ eyes before entering the crosswalk.

Another adjustment changed the wording of a part of the ordinance that calls upon the Newport Police Department to “strictly” enforce distracted driving laws, especially texting while driving.

Filippo said the wording might “preclude other techniques for dealing with distracted driving” and though he agreed that texting is “of particular concern,” it would be better to recommend that staff, police and the commission review local laws to consider best practices. Things like high visibility crosswalk paints can affect distracted driving in addition to enforcement of existing laws, he said.

Councilman Justin S. McLaughlin said the state as a whole needs to redouble its efforts to address pedestrian safety and increase the burden on drivers to heed more while behind the wheel.

He pledged to bring back a resolution in the future to call upon the General Assembly to consider toughening the law, recalling a time in 1964 when he was in California and was startled to find that cars there would stop when you put your foot into the crosswalk.

“I didn’t know what happened,” he said. “I was used to wandering in and out of cars in Boston. I’m appalled our state law doesn’t create that burden on traffic.”

In Newport, a pedestrian will be standing halfway through a crosswalk waiting for cars to stop driving through often enough. McLaughlin said the problem is often speed. Recently, while walking to the beach, he had to wait for “15 to 20 cars before someone bothered to stop.”

He was standing right at the edge of the road at a marked crosswalk.

“People driving in Newport have gotten too cavalier,” he said. “Go down Broadway any day of the week and watch pedestrians maneuver to get around. We need to strictly enforce that law and other laws to ensure we don’t have more repetitions of this kind of event.”

Larry Gotch February 17, 2014 at 12:17 PM
Here I go again.............Cross walk or not............If you do not walk into traffic............you have a 100% chance of not being hit by a car.
Jack February 17, 2014 at 02:33 PM
Once again our Council passes a totally useless ordinance.....you really think the NPD and City Manager needs this to do their jobs.....does the council think they were ignoring this problem since the first loss of life ??? It would be great if every city employee just did their own job and nothing more the city would be better off. Look at the great job Public Works did on the last snow storm and without a council resolution
PG February 17, 2014 at 02:48 PM
You're not technically wrong in terms of the laws of physics, but since your world where no one ever has to cross a street doesn't exist, the rest of us deal with reality - where sometimes we have to cross the street. This isn't about distracted pedestrians and jaywalkers, which I despise as well. I've ranted about them here in other situations. It is its own epidemic. It IS about just how challenging in can simply be to use a crosswalk in this town. If drivers are moving at speeds appropriate to an area with so many crosswalks they would easily see people in or looking to use the crosswalk and slow and/or stop appropriately. But many don't; anyone who has tried to use a crosswalk around here is fully aware of that fact, just like it's extremely obvious people don't observe the speed limits in the areas of the crosswalks in question. Jaywalkers do occasionally get tagged by police around here, and I think the resolution to have the police enforce the laws already on the books for motorists as well is spot on. A little watching and enforcement at the crosswalks as well as tagging some of the egregious speeders in the area will have the desired effect of a little more respect for those who have the right of way at crosswalks (the pedestrian) and generate a little much needed revenue as well.
Tom February 17, 2014 at 03:28 PM
I have a novel idea. Stop and look both ways before crossing.
Jack February 17, 2014 at 04:48 PM
To continue the big problem with the crosswalk at the Casino is the tree that was used to tie the yellow tape around after the accident (see pix)......go and stand at the curb by the crosswalk and you are hidden by that tree for all south bound drivers.......this would be a great spot to try the orange flag set up like Wakefield has, at least here the flags have a chance to survive the petty thefts
George Costanza February 17, 2014 at 06:52 PM
I think we should make all automobiles illegal in Newport. Considering that 50% of drivers are drunk, and the other half are too lazy or stupid to drive the speed limit/drive without texting. It would be a major improvement. Horse and buggys for all!
Chmn February 17, 2014 at 08:23 PM
The most dangerous traffic "spot" in Newport is at the rotary at Connell highway. Recently reconfigured as a modern roundabout, it has a fatal flaw that has existed for decades. Specifically, it has driveways right on the circle that is against all national safety designs. Traffic entering the rotary from the Base must yield to those in the circle. All traffic entering and exiting the circle do so at a low angle so traffic merges smoothly and accidents minimized. However, there are numerous accidents and near accidents involving cars driving into the Shell station perpendicular to cars entering to the west. The result is a "traffic sucker punch". That Shell station driveway should be eliminated as well as others that are inherently dangerous. Anyone who has been involved in an accident there should get a good lawyer to sue the Shell station, the RIDOT, and the City of Newport for negligence. (I've been thinking of writing about this for more than 20 years)
George Costanza February 17, 2014 at 09:42 PM
Chmn: I agree with your point about the rotary and am impressed with your apparent knowledge of national safety designs. I think all those changes should be made, but the most dangerous spot in Newport is the turn at the end of Bellevue ave which has seen many fatalities. Also, leaving Newport, East and West Main Roads are very dangerous due to the close proximity of the power lines and lack of medians. NIMBY folk prevent unsafe situations from being made safer

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