The Dash of Death Promenade extends 32 feet or so from the curb next to The Morning Call's main entrance to the curb by Allentown's Lehigh and Northampton Transportation Authority bus terminal.
People have odd reactions when I step off the curb onto that crosswalk when there are motor vehicles approaching on Sixth Street. "You're very brave," they say, or, more often, "You're out of your mind."
I respond that I can't help it. Having lived in places like Colorado and California, it seems natural to me to assume motorists will stop when they see somebody in a crosswalk. Thus far, knock wood, they all have, as if we were in Denver, although I get a lot of angry honks and cussing.
I do hope that continues (the stopping, not the cussing), because I anticipate a different departure from this mortal coil. I have my heart set on being shot to death by Kevin Kline in a jealous rage. (You'll understand if you recall the diving board scene in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High.")
Meanwhile, other pedestrians meekly stand at the curb, waiting until there is no approaching traffic visible for two blocks.
Believe it or not, I've even seen Allentown police cars — without flashing lights and sirens — refuse to yield to pedestrians in that and other city crosswalks. If police officers do not respect the law, how can they be expected to enforce it, when it comes to crosswalks or anything else?
There was a double whammy in The Morning Call on Monday.
A front-page story was about the lack of crosswalks at a crucial location in an adjoining municipality, South Whitehall Township. It said there are no sidewalks or crosswalks where the four-lane Hamilton Boulevard separates the huge Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom tourist attraction from various other attractions to the south.
Pedestrians have been killed there, the story noted, but there are no funds for crosswalks to protect future pedestrians (not that they'd do any good if the police in South Whitehall don't enforce laws any better than is the case in Allentown).
The story said a new LANTA report by Owen O'Neil, director of planning, outlined ways communities can make streets, etc., safer, and said it's cheaper to do that at the development stage as opposed to trying to fix a problem already in place.
O'Neil was quoted as saying we should not assume everybody is going to drive a car to get to the attractions on the other side of Hamilton. "People are going to want to walk there," he observed.
Also on Monday, Dan Hartzell devoted his Road Warrior column to a question about "yield to pedestrians in crosswalk" signs in the Lower Milford Township village of Limeport. A reader asked why such signs were needed at a location where, unlike Dorney Park, people rarely walk.
Hartzell confirmed there usually are few pedestrians at the intersection of Limeport Pike and Blue Church Road, but sometimes it gets busy, especially when baseball season is in full swing at a popular ballpark.
There already are painted crosswalk delineations at the intersection. The issue is whether the vertical "yield" signs placed in the middle of the street are also necessary.
Hartzell, by the way, has seen me using the crosswalk near our entrance. "You're going to get killed one of these days," he predicted, "but you'll be in the right." That last part, I replied, is what's important.
The "yield" signs for crosswalks, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, are technically designated "Yield to pedestrian channelizing devices."
I'm not sure about "channelizing," but I know the devices are effective. It is obvious vehicles are more likely to stop when those signs are there. That, however, should not be the case, because the law is clear, even if crosswalk lines are not painted on a street.
Section 3542 of the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code is titled "Right of way of pedestrians in crosswalks" and it says this:
"When traffic-control signals are not in place or not in operation, the driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection."
Those last eight words are profound. There does not need to be a vertical "yield" sign and there do not need to be painted lines. If it's an intersection where there's no traffic light or other such signal, it's a crosswalk, in plain English, period.
I can tell you it works smoothly in Denver, Los Angeles, Tucson, Salt Lake City and any other place where the police are competent to enforce the law and motorists are required to be able to read and write. In some Lehigh Valley municipalities, notably Bethlehem, there is relatively good compliance with the crosswalk law by motorists and enforcement of it by police.
In places where they let illiterates drive, such as New York City and Allentown, it will require special efforts by the police to get the message across.
I've been screeching about the crosswalk problem for decades, along with other horrors unique to Allentown, such as double-parking, pointing out that more pedestrians get killed by motor vehicles than there are people killed by rapists, robbers, burglars and carjackers combined.
I'll never tire of pushing that message. In fact, I hope they put it on my tombstone.
Paul Carpenter's commentary appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays