See.Safe.Smart: We cross first, then cars

What’s one of the most difficult and unsafe intersections to cross when walking in New Ulm? If you ask students or adults in our community, you’ll often hear the same answer: Garden and Center Street. I’ve even heard from school children who tell me they’ve been late for class because it took so long to safely cross the street.

This particular intersection is one of the reasons why the Heart of New Ulm Project’s (HONU) Safe Routes to School Action Team chose this month’s SEE.SAFE.SMART. campaign message, which is “We cross FIRST, then cars.” In various surveys of New Ulm parents, crossing intersections was listed as a top barrier as to why they don’t allow their children to walk to school.

It’s important for us all to remember that some children have no choice other than to walk to school, no matter if it’s raining, snowing or a beautiful weather day. That’s why the photo shoot for this month’s campaign message was done during inclement weather (and when I say inclement weather, I mean a literal downpour)!

Depending on where you live in town, if you walk to St. Paul’s or the middle school campus, you have to cross at the Garden and Center intersection. Many people don’t have the option to go to the stoplight at Payne and Center, where it’s safer to cross, at least without playing Frogger or going a block out of the way to cross. Ask yourself, how many children will go out of their way to be safe? We all know kids generally take the path of least resistance, which mean shortcuts!

“We are so grateful that we live in a community and on a street that allows our kids to safely walk to school,” said Audra Shaneman of the HONU Leadership Team. “We know not every child gets that experience growing up — it’s a slice of Americana that we feel is preserved in New Ulm. We’ve also experienced in New Ulm an increasing sense of responsibility for the safety of others. For example, it’s wonderful to see the new pedestrian crossing that was installed on Garden Street near the New Ulm Recreation Center.”

Indeed, in our tight-knit community, we take great pride in our community, festivals, taking care of others and watching out for our neighbors. We need to now add this to our pride list: Watching out for people who are walking by giving them the right of way at all intersections. This includes intersections that are both marked and unmarked.

Heed the diagonal pattern crosswalk warning at Center and State St.

While our SEE.SAFE.SMART. campaign is focused on helping children walk or bike safely to and from school, we must also remember to watch out for adults who walk or bike to work. This brings us to another problem intersection that has been discussed in recent months — the Center and State Street intersection. Due to lack of parking at their facility, employees who work in the Brown County Probation Department building must park their cars along State Street across Center Street in front of the old school. Unfortunately, there have been some near misses between people walking and cars, simply because drivers weren’t paying attention and didn’t yield the right of way.

To help attract drivers’ attention at that location, there is a diagonal pattern painted on the crosswalks as you approach the intersection. This is meant to remind drivers earlier to look for people on foot who are waiting to cross and stop for them so they can cross safely.

“No matter our mode of transportation, all any of us want is to arrive at our destination safely,” said Julie Hull, assistant principal at Jefferson Elementary School and member of the Safe Routes to School Action Team. “For our kids, walking to and from school is one way we can promote a healthy lifestyle. Wherever you are in New Ulm, please watch carefully for people who are walking and give them the right of way.”