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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


Getting things done

I’m uncertain who’s responsible for it, but I thank whoever is.  As I made my way through the intersection at 37thand Grand Avenue on the last day of school, I was pleased with the extra margin of safety and order afforded by the relatively new traffic light there.

Way back in 2007, I applauded the residents, parents and safety-minded individuals who successfully championed a traffic light near the school zone at Fifth and Freya.  Beginning with a City Council presentation, that advocacy group got their message to and through the necessary channels, eventually accomplishing their goal.  Drivers and pedestrians are much safer at that location as a result of their effort.

About that same time, six years ago, a reader expressed safety concerns at the Grand Avenue location.  I concurred with their thoughts, since the intersection of those heavily travelled streets not only occurs on a curve, but the adjacent businesses and elementary school add activity and distraction.  So back then, I suggested that someone follow the tactics used by the Fifth and Freya group on behalf of the Grand intersection.

As noted, I’m unaware who got the ball rolling and eventually brought this change to fruition, but I’m thankful that they did.  The moral of these stories is that with enough patience and persistence, citizens can improve the well-being of other citizens by recognizing needs of common good and campaigning for them. 

Thankfully, Jefferson Elementary is currently relocating to the west, away from the busy intersection, assuring that the massive, twice-daily, student drop-off/pickup ritual will now happen at a calmer spot.  But still, children walking from east of Grand Avenue must cross the intersection, so the full service (with left-turn arrows and pedestrian buttons) traffic control system is a welcome addition there.

Reader C.B. recently noted an example of drivers uniting in a cause for common good.  He wrote, “…you mentioned drivers who speed up through yellow lights and this reminded me of a friend from New York City who said that traffic moves more efficiently there because 20 million people have agreed among themselves that they will stop for yellow lights.  When the light does change to green they are able to enter the intersection without the worry that they will be t-boned by someone trying to beat the light. Those few saved seconds add up to better traffic flow.”

I believe that with education, promotion and again, persistence, such cooperative efforts can be powerfully effective.  Just as drivers, collectively nationwide, have almost universally “bought in” to seat belt use, the New York effort seems viable.  Not only will those drivers enhance safety there if they reform, but they’ll eliminate the need for red-light cameras.

These reforms work best when there is universal compliance, but sadly, there will always be scofflaws.  Nevertheless, campaigns aimed toward the betterment of safety and traffic flow are effective, and the more who comply, the merrier.  Each new participant in any sanctioned safety effort will benefit everyone.

I haven’t published this safety effort until now, because I thought I was the lone participant.  Now, I’ve learned that at least reader B.L. is on my side. 

Each time I return to Spokane, I precede my turn up Hatch Road from U.S. Highway 195 northbound with a signal and courtesy move to the shoulder so I can slow enough to make the turn without upsetting traffic flow behind me.

B.L. has enlightened me that this courtesy may be waning, but she does it too.  She wrote, “In the ‘old days,’ when about to turn right off the main road, country folk moved to the side of the road or onto the shoulder to allow those driving by to continue, so as not to disrupt the flow of traffic and allow them to maintain their rate of speed.  We youngsters who moved out there then, followed suit.  Almost no one does this anymore, even when there are shoulders available the width of a car.  The drivers slow at times, almost to a stop, in the middle of a 55 mph highway, in order to turn.”

Come on, let’s all perform that courtesy for the common good.

Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at