By Nick Nunn, Staff Writer
The Madison City Council discussed the topic of crosswalk safety with the Madison Police Chief Bill Ashburn during their Sept. 13 work session.
Chief Ashburn stated during the meeting that crosswalk safety is “one of our biggest topics” and that the responsibility for that safety is shared between the drivers and the pedestrians.
“We do what we can to make [crosswalks] as safe as possible,” said Ashburn, but noted that pedestrians must take it upon themselves to make sure drivers see them enter the crosswalks.
“You have the right of way, but you’re going to lose,” stated Ashburn, referring to pedestrians that don’t take the necessary precautions.
Pedestrians also rely on drivers to make good decisions, but, because of the human element, there is still the possibility for drivers to make mistakes while driving.
“I don’t know how to take that factor out of it,” said Ashburn, who then said that, since the police department has only two deputies on duty at night, they cannot devote manpower to sit and monitor the crossings constantly.
City Manager David Nunn added that “as long as cars and people are on the same plane, they are going to be interacting.”
Council Member Michael Naples stated that “speed and the sightlines are the two things we have to address” and suggested that some of the parking spots near crosswalks downtown should be given up for better visibility.
Mayor Bruce Gilbert inquired into the origin of the crosswalk on Main Street near the Chop House, asking whether or not the crosswalk is “just in the wrong place” to begin with.
Nunn stated that, as of now, he is completing plans to submit to the Department of Transportation, who will then come in and look at different safety packages for the crosswalks.
Eric Joyce, citizen of Madison, asked Chief Ashburn if the police department is doing all it can to enforce crosswalk and speeding violations in downtown Madison.
“I never see [speed guns] being used,” stated Joyce regarding speed limit enforcement downtown.
“They’re absolutely being used,” responded Ashburn, who said that the police department is writing “tenfold” the number of warnings they were writing before, and that the reason more of those warnings aren’t tickets is because drivers must exceed the speed limit by more than 10 miles per hour in order to receive a citation.
“They need to be afraid that they’re going to receive a citation,” said Joyce, who then stated that he “bristle[s]” at the suggestion that pedestrians have the responsibility in the crosswalks and that they need to be protected if they are “too stupid to protect themselves.”
The Madison City Council also voted to approve the extension of the city’s refinancing of Town Park. The original term expired in September, and the extension is for approximately six months, which will allow the city enough time to explore the best method for refinancing the park.