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Victim was pedestrian safety advocate

Sat., Nov. 21, 2009, 7:18 p.m.

A Sandpoint man who died after being hit by a pickup Thursday afternoon had been working with an advisory committee to improve pedestrian safety.

Anthony J. Joerger, 46, had worked with Sandpoint’s Pedestrian Advisory Committee for several months, said Mayor Gretchen Hellar, who appointed him on the recommendation of several people.

“I’d see him walking almost everywhere,” Hellar said. “He was an avid walker. He was such a bright, cheery fellow. He was just a joy to be around.”

The advisory committee researched pedestrian safety issues and made recommendations to the City Council. The committee identified sidewalks that posed dangers, including from tripping hazards. It reviewed large developments to recommend pedestrian-safety measures. It also is in the process of creating recommendations for removing obstructions from sidewalks, Hellar said.

Joerger was walking west on busy Fifth Avenue, around 5 p.m. Thursday, when he attempted to cross at the intersection with Cedar Street, the Idaho State Police reported. He was hit by a 1991 Ford F250 driven by Mark H. McElroy, 49, of Athol, who was turning south onto Fifth from Cedar.

McElroy “failed to see a pedestrian in a crosswalk at that intersection,” the ISP said. Joerger, who was thrown into the roadway, died later at Bonner General Hospital. No further information was available Saturday regarding the accident investigation.

Following the death of pedestrian Mark Carter on Fifth Avenue in December 2006, the city installed better signs and lighting at the intersection with Poplar Street, two blocks to the north. Pedestrian safety advocate Molly O’Reilly of Sandpoint said that helps, but that stretch of road is inherently dangerous.

“The two fatalities have been on Fifth Avenue, which is the only five-lane highway in the city. Five lanes are not safe for pedestrians in my opinion,” said O’Reilly, who works with national and statewide pedestrian-safety organizations and is a past chairwoman of the city advisory committee. “Because it’s five lanes, the intersections are very wide and were engineered more for trucks than for people on foot.”

O’Reilly said pedestrian safety depends on everyone. She said cars need to slow down and be more aware, and pedestrians and bicyclists need to use reflective clothing or lights to ensure they can be seen at night.

O’Reilly said she hopes the City Council will ask the pedestrian advisory committee for a recommendation on how to make that intersection safer. “That particular corner, in the direction (Joerger) was going, is one I have had great qualms about for quite a while,” she said.

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