Walk This Way 

New ordinance protects pedestrians at crosswalks.

Crossing busy Memphis streets can feel a little like a game of Frogger, even when a crosswalk is available.

But a new city ordinance that goes into effect on September 18th might give pedestrians a little relief. The ordinance, which was passed unanimously by the city council early this month, requires motorists to slow down and come to a complete stop when approaching a crosswalk where a pedestrian is crossing.

The ordinance only applies at crosswalks that aren't at stoplights. Those who don't comply will be fined $50. Memphis city councilman Lee Harris proposed the ordinance.

"I live on Mud Island, and I feel endangered all the time," Harris said. "I jog and I walk. I have to cross the street to get back and forth between the neighborhood and Greenbelt Park. I've come close to being hit."

University of Memphis student Nick Hicks said he was almost hit one day on a crosswalk on Central Avenue as he was headed to class.

"Some car was going way too fast, and I had my iPod on," Hicks said. "I looked both ways, but by the time I looked again, he was almost there. My heart was racing. I think people should pay more attention to pedestrians crossing."

An ordinance that required motorists to slow down when approaching pedestrians on crosswalks was already in place prior to Harris' proposal. However, the new ordinance requires that motorists come to a complete stop when approaching walkers.

Despite the change, it may be difficult to catch drivers who don't comply with the new ordinance if there's no one monitoring areas with crosswalks.

"Unless they're going to have cameras there to show what happened like they do at stoplights, how are they going to prove that a person didn't stop?" said U of M student Jaunette Mays. "No one's going to worry about it if they don't have cameras. They're going to brush it off and keep going. If they're going to implement that [ordinance], they need to have a little bit of force behind it other than a $50 fine. They need to heighten it if they want to put fear in somebody."

According to Transportation for America, Memphis is ranked seventh on the list of the 10 most dangerous metro areas for pedestrian safety.

"There are lots of pedestrian accidents in the city of Memphis," Harris said. "We're ranked pretty low on the national assessments of livability, because we're anti-pedestrian and anti-bicycle. Memphians are obsessed with cars. I'm obsessed with making sure that pedestrians are safe and that the city is livable."

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