Traffic safety halting issue

By Ryn Gargulinski: QCS

A Tucumcari woman was driving down Route 66 when she was sideswiped by a car that sped off, leaving her the victim of a hit and run. There was so much debris after a Third Street accident the street department had to come clean it up. A light pole on South First was rammed and knocked down by a truck.

These are just three recent traffic accidents that dapple Tucumcari Police reports daily. Larger communities, like Clovis, have it even more dangerous. Recent police reports include a 71-year-old woman who was walking home with dinner only to be struck and killed by a police car, and a van backing out of a driveway that ran over – and killed – a 20-month-old boy.

Add these to the few near misses by motorists noted by A.S. Horner folks earlier this year during the First Street construction project, and it becomes apparent traffic safety needs to be examined. Local residents aren’t the only ones concerned.

A new Web site was recently launched to address those concerns. Accessible at www.activelivingresources.org, the site was put together to assist community members who want to make their neighborhoods more walkable and bicycle-friendly, according to a release from the Active Living Resource Center. Another site that also offers safety and community tips is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s at www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

If Tucumcari motorists are so dangerous to fellow drivers and lamp posts, just imagine the damage they can cause to a pedestrian or cyclist.

“We’re blocked from walking or biking because we don’t feel safe doing it,” explains the Active Living Web site.

”What we need are neighborhoods and communities where we feel safe during that walk or bike ride,” the site continued. “Unfortunately, most of us live in places that weren’t designed to make bicycling and walking easy, safe, or convenient.”

Although sidewalks are somewhat prevalent in Tucumcari, curb cuts are not, often making a stroll, especially for elderly or disabled people, more of a chore than a pleasure.

The National Highway site also notes about 800 kids between the ages of 5 and 18 were killed nationwide during the 1998-99 school year during normal school transportation hours while on foot, bicycle, school bus or passenger car. “Students are at much greater risk traveling to and from school than at any other time in their school day,” the site said.

A walking safely tip from the Active Living site asks residents to assess the number of interconnected sidewalks and convenient crosswalks available in the community and, if they are not sufficient, to bring them to the attention of state or local officials.

And although bicyclists are legally designated to ride on the road and share all the same rules as motorists, it is often unappealing – or even dangerous. “Cyclists generally take less of their right to the road than the law allows them,” according to a Silver City bicycle Web site. Traffic regulations state cyclists are allowed to ride two abreast, use left-turn lanes, and move left in the lane if something is blocking their path, the site said, adding “road rage” from impatient or aggressive drivers adds to the list of bicycle hazards.

“There are no cities in New Mexico that have qualified as bicycle-friendly communities,” said Tom Trowbridge, president of New Mexico Alternative Transit in a meeting with Silver City officials to encourage their town to be the first.

In addition to meeting with public officials, the Active Living site urges area residents to encourage the public works department to include bicycle lanes in its standard arterial street plans, so they become included when streets are built or improved.
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Bicycle safety

Always wear a helmet.
Obey all traffic controls.
Ride your bicycle near the right-hand edge of the road.
Never carry another person on your bicycle.
Always use hand signals when turning or stopping.
Look out for cars at cross streets, driveways and parking places.
Be careful when checking traffic and don’t swerve when looking over your shoulder.
Give pedestrians the right of way.
Always ride carefully.

Source: http://bicycling.511.org
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Walking safety

Contact the mayor or city commissioner and ask for a walkable community program.
Ask local police to increase enforcement of speed limits in neighborhoods.
Join a citizen’s committee.
Survey the walking routes and contact the Department of Public Works if sidewalks, signals and signs need to be improved.

Source: www.nhtsa.dot.gov
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Learn more:

www.nhtsa.dot.gov – includes checklists for pedestrian safety, especially for children and older adults

www.activelivingresources.org – includes ideas to improve traffic safety
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State contacts:

Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator
Tim Rogers, N.M. Department of Transportation
827-0050 or tim.rogers@state.nm.us

Enhancements Coordinator
Kathy Arellanes, Transportation Planner
New Mexico Highway &Transportation Department
827-5516 or kathy.arellanes@nmshtd.state.nm.us