Thousands of pedestrians will cross Front Street this summer to make their way to work, their favorite downtown shop or restaurant.
They have a trio of choices to cross northern Michigan’s most valuable roadway. They can cross at traditional street corners with stop lights and crossing devices. They can walk in brick-lined, mid-block crosswalks without the assistance of crossing lights. Or, they can jaywalk.
The options are much dicier for those trying to get across U.S. 31/Grandview Parkway on foot, especially the further north you go in the hotel- and restaurant-lined area known to long-time residents as the Miracle Mile. I always watch in shock when I see people -- mostly tourists completely unfamiliar with the deadly danger they are confronting --crossing five lanes of NASCAR-like traffic to get to and from hotels and restaurants. Usually the only safe option to navigate safely across the highway on foot is to go over it by the elevated pedestrian bridge near the state park. Otherwise you have to make a life or death choice: either walk long distances to the bridge or intersection with stoplight and crosswalk, or throw fate to the wind and dodge high-speed traffic while hoping you don’t get crushed.
The latter is a terrifying choice. It's one people make every day, occasionally with devastating results.
Richard Lee Carson, 69, was walking across U.S. 31 and Four Mile Road with a friend Oct. 11 when he stepped in front of a pickup and lost his life. If that’s not enough tragedy for you, consider that six years earlier, a 6-year-old boy from Greece, Konstantinos Pantelys Kotsores, was struck and killed by a semitrailer crossing the same intersection with his family.
These incidents present serious questions. Is the community doing enough to protect pedestrians, whether they be tourists or locals? Traverse City Tourism Director Brad Van Dommelen said one long-term answer for the U.S. 31 corridor is a bypass that will get a big chunk of traffic off the stretch of 31.