Editorial: Pedestrians' lives matter

Posted

A police officer driving down Chestnut Street at about 9:30 Saturday night noticed an elderly woman walking in the street. The officer stopped and offered the woman a ride, getting her safely where she needed to go.

A man in Coventry a couple days later wasn’t so fortunate. Matthew O’Gara was walking on Arnold Road in that town just before 12:30 a.m. Monday when he was hit by a snow plow. Mr. O’Gara, 19, was pronounced dead at Kent Hospital in Warwick later that night.

While the stories have very different endings, they both have the same beginning. In both cases, a pedestrian walking around town after dark was forced to do so in the street, rather than in the safety of a sidewalk, because no one had cleared the sidewalk of snow.

All around Bristol, pedestrians are still walking around in the street nearly a week after the blizzard that dumped about a foot of snow on the region. While roads are routinely cleared for cars within hours of the end of a storm, strangely, pedestrians are not granted the same courtesy. Instead, they are left to take their caches in the streets, dodging cars the drivers of which may not be able to see them around large piles of snow.

Residents are often guilty of the same short-sightedness. They routinely clear their driveways to allow cars to move freely, but fail to do the same with their sidewalks.

And, yes, they are their sidewalks. The town is responsible for ensuring the roads are safe for travel, but the government can’t be everywhere. Residents and business owners are responsible for clearing the sidewalks — in many cities and towns, by law — in front of their homes or businesses.

While shoveling snow is a chore no one enjoys, it is a necessary evil. We don’t think twice about making driveways and parking lots safer for drivers. We must do the same for pedestrians. So the next time to flakes fly, remember not to clear just your driveway, but your sidewalk as well.

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Mike Rego

Mike Rego has worked at East Bay Newspapers since 2001, helping the company launch The Westport Shorelines. He soon after became a Sports Editor, spending the next 10-plus years in that role before taking over as editor of The East Providence Post in February of 2012. To contact Mike to submit information, suggest story ideas or photo opportunities, etc., email mrego@eastbaynewspapers.com.