Let’s face it -- for all of the encouraging signs in our city, Macon-Bibb is not pedestrian or bicycle friendly. That fact was made clear yet again in the death of 62-year-old Velma Jackson as she crossed Pio Nono Avenue. While the distances between crosswalks can be measured in miles, the distance we can cover in our bicycle lanes can be measured in feet.
It seems to walk or bike in Macon-Bibb is a risky proposition, and we are not unique. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 17 percent of all road deaths involve pedestrians and cyclists.
What can be done? Recommendations can be made, but our roads are what they are and the primary fix no safety committee can implement.
There was a time when beginning drivers were drilled with the mantra of “defensive driving” and “expect the unexpected.” Between carrying on phone conversations and texting, distracted driving is ever present. Pedestrians have to practice defensive walking, particularly when crossing a highway, and that’s exactly what Pio Nono is. There is no safe island or median. Pedestrians are just as likely to get struck in the center turning lane (the halfway point) as anywhere else on the street because drivers are not paying attention.
Pedestrians have to do their part, too. Wearing dark colored clothing is not a wise fashion statement when walking at night. For cyclists, the only escape, many times, is the ditch on the side of the road to keep from being road kill.
In 2014, 182 people lost their lives while walking in Georgia. Between January 2014 and March 2015, 10 pedestrians were struck by vehicles and killed in Macon. It is hard to carefully cross a four-lane road, but walkers shouldn’t put themselves in the position where they can be hit. They have to be aware of their surroundings. Just like there are distracted drivers, there are distracted walkers, too.