By Kaischa Smith
If you’re going to get hit by a car, Traverse City is the place to have it happen. Not that I recommend it. Direct experience says it’s terrifying, excruciating and altogether life-changing.
It’s been one year since I was hit by the driver of a car while using the Grandview Parkway crosswalk at Elmwood Avenue. At the time, crosswalk lights weren’t installed; crossing safely required hyper-awareness, precision and considerate human behavior. Unfortunately, when humans — not robots — cruise in 4,000 pound bullets, there’s little room for error or someone “just having a bad day.” We’re not talking the lapse of judgment where you eat past-expiration yogurt and feel life coming to an end in the bathroom later. No, this misjudgment is literally life-threatening.
Such was the case in my crash. I was waiting and vigilant but unable to see the small Audi behind a stopped truck. The Audi driver was unprepared to stop behind the truck, and in a lapse of judgement, he swerved into the empty lane and struck me at 35 mph. That’s real life humanity.
Circling back to Traverse City being the place to get hit by a car… Although I’m unfortunate to experience this tragedy, I feel profoundly fortunate to be alive. I owe life and limb to the grade A care I’ve received from first responders, medical and health professionals and others in our community. It sounds cliché, but it takes a village to care for a person who has experienced serious trauma. Traverse City is that caring village.
But, wait. Why must tragedy strike before we encounter this level of care? We can do better, Traverse City. We need to proactively demonstrate grade A care in our everyday choices as we share time and space with one another. We can show care by being aware of others. We can show care by honoring the shared responsibility we have as users of our public streets. And even when inconvenient, we can show care by taking a deep breath and slowing down. This is on us all whether we’re driving, walking or biking. We aren’t cars and bikes. We’re humans, and the reality is that humans make mistakes and have moods. Odds are we’re going to encounter at least a couple who aren’t on their “A-game.” What do we do about that?
We then show care by advocating and building safer infrastructure that protects against the predictable whims of humanity. Kudos to the Michigan Department of Transportation for installing the crosswalk signals on Grandview rather than revoking the crosswalks altogether. Kudos to the City of Traverse City for its continued work toward safer infrastructure. These are first steps. Critical projects are ahead on Division Street, Munson Avenue, Garfield Avenue and countless smaller streets. They need safety, not warp-speed, as the priority.
I urge everyone to lean in and advocate safety by design. Caring for our fellow humans isn’t always convenient. It isn’t always warm and fuzzy. But it is always necessary.
About the author: Kaischa Smith is a TCAPS elementary school teacher and advocate with Norte’s Neighborhood Pro Walk/ Pro Bike team. She lives in Traverse City.
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