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Feedback - 07-10-13 

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New Yorkers and choice

I take issue with one of the more outrageous claims made in Ken Maher's letter blaming Democrats in the state legislature for the defeat of the Women's Equality Act (Feedback, July 3). Maher claims the bill died because New York voters did not support the provision in the WEA dealing with abortion, and Republican senators understood that and voted accordingly.

That's a supersized whopper. In fact, a Quinnipiac University poll conducted in June showed that close to 70 percent of New York State voters supported that provision.

As Bruce Gyory pointed out recently in City & State, "Over the past three decades, when you distill the polling data, the pro-life share of the New York State electorate has dwindled from roughly 40 percent to about a 25 percent share."

As they head into next year's election, all this should be disquieting news for the Republicans in the State Senate, a k a the ones who were actually responsible for killing the WEA. A prescient observer recently summed up the Republican senators' predicament this way: "If a candidate threatens women's choices, the female body has ways to shut that down." It's called voting.


Stephens is a member of the Finger Lakes WEA Regional Committee.

Crossing guards

A recent letter brought up the issue of pedestrian right-of-way in a crosswalk ("Crosswalk Dangers," Feedback). Here's the law when crossing a street or highway, according to

"(a) When traffic-control signals are not in place or not in operation the driver of a vehicle shall yield the right of way, slowing down or stopping if need be to so yield, to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk on the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling, except that any pedestrian crossing a roadway at a point where a pedestrian tunnel or overpass has been provided shall yield the right of way to all vehicles.

"(b) No pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impractical for the driver to yield.

"(c) Whenever any vehicle is stopped at a marked crosswalk or at any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection to permit a pedestrian to cross the roadway, the driver of any other vehicle approaching from the rear shall not overtake and pass such stopped vehicle."

Part (b) poses a question as to what constitutes "suddenly" stepping out into traffic. I've never assumed that this law means one can simply stroll out into busy traffic and expect all the cars to come screeching to a stop (and I'm not accusing the letter writer of doing that). The law seems to suggest some judgment is expected on the part of the pedestrian regarding how close oncoming cars are and how "impractical" it may be for them to stop.

No one in a car wants to hit a pedestrian. Both parties need to exercise caution and courtesy.


I work with people who are blind or visually impaired, instructing them on safe travel skills (using the long cane, taking buses, crossing streets), and I have seen my share of bad drivers, distracted drivers, and drivers who just don't seem to care that there are pedestrians around them.

When I am teaching my clients about safe street crossings, I say the same thing: "As a pedestrian, you generally have the right of way. As a blind pedestrian, you almost have more right of way, but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't be smart about it. Crossing at a controlled intersection is the safest way to go, because drivers are, more likely than not, going to stop for a stop sign or a red light. Crossing in the middle of the intersection, even with a crosswalk where the state law dictates that the drivers stop is putting yourself in danger because really, the only thing that is making them stop is YOU."

I had a totally blind client in the village of Brockport who wanted to cross over Main Street at a mid-block crosswalk, and I strongly recommended against it, for the reasons listed above. But I don't think she quite got it until we were in my car, after our lesson, when I stopped at one of those crosswalks to let a pedestrian cross, and almost got struck by a driver in a car coming up fast behind me, who wasn't paying attention.

These mid-block crosswalks are all over the area – I can think of ones in Fairport, Pittsford, Brockport, Canandaigua – and all of the ones I am thinking of are no more than 50 yards away from a controlled intersection. Yes, it's the law for drivers to stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk, but we all know that doesn't mean that it will happen.

My suggestion is that rather than standing your ground, to be smart about it, walk a little further, and get to where you need to go, rather than take a ride in an ambulance.


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