Roger Marolt: Roger This | AspenTimes.com

Roger Marolt: Roger This

Roger Marolt
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

As with most of Aspen’s current urgent issues, the recent attention being given to the safety of pedestrians crossing Main Street is nothing new. The movement underfoot to keep us on our feet in the crosswalks has been around as far back as I remember which, admittedly, is a shorter throw of the stone each day. Thus, necessarily relying more on research than recollection, I dredged up two letters on this topic from the local papers published nearly 10 years ago:

March 20, 2001

Dear Editor:

Now I understand why the letters to the editor in this town are so stupid. There are apparently quite a few idiots around here. The article yesterday about our beloved city engineer, Nick Ahh … Duh … proves it! This numbskull has been hit by cars three (yes, three!) different times at the intersection of Galena Street and Main Street. Worse still, he admitted it. We are left to guess how many other times this pitiful boob has been run over in other intersections around the world!

You couldn’t find a stray dog that has been hit that many times. They say only monkeys get burned twice. What kind of primate is this goofball that gets whacked three times in the same spot? A better question is this: What kind of projects is he engineering for our city?

Listen here, a stoplight is not going to save this guy. If he can’t figure out how to cross a street safely, then he sure as heck isn’t going to be able to understand how a stoplight works. That will only serve to confuse things for him. He’ll probably get electrocuted somehow trying to figure it out. We, as citizens of Aspen, cannot possibly keep this accursed man out of harm’s way.

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For the cost of that new stoplight, we could hire a personal bodyguard for Mr. Ahh … Duh … and still have a little seed money left for the valley-wide train fund.

Sincerely,

Annelee Stelram

One week later another letter appeared:

March 27, 2001

Dear Editor:

It was certainly terrifying to read the chilling story about our own city engineer who has been hit three different times in that awful intersection of Galena and Main streets. Though harrowing, his plight has given me the courage to tell my own tale. I, too, have been a victim at that very spot on four different occasions. Twice by the same car!

My ribs have been cracked. My toes flattened. My head has been permanently bent out of round. The last time I was struck, an M.G. zoomed by with its right-side rear view mirror striking me just lower than waist high. I will spare you the gory details of the ensuing surgery.

Of the four incidents, three of the drivers never saw me. One had her head bowed in veneration as she approached the church. The next was pointing out to a passenger the widow in the courthouse where Ted Bundy made his infamous leap to freedom. The third was looking sideways at the pretty police cars parked in a row. The only driver to see me yelled, “Here I come you bastard. I’ll get you yet, Mick!” as he hit the gas and swerved right at me. I think he had mistaken me for someone else.

I know many others that could tell equally gruesome stories about Galena and Main. It has gotten so bad that I think you can hardly call yourself a local unless you have been run over at least once in that intersection. The gutters there run red with the blood of many local and visitor pedestrians alike.

I don’t think that a simple stoplight goes far enough to solve this abhorrent problem that threatens the very survival of our citizenry. We need a pedestrian underpass there and we need it now! An artist should be commissioned immediately to show us what a tunnel under the road might look like! We can wait no longer! During each and every day that passes, hundreds will be harmed irreparably.

Thank You,

John Seymor

OK, so the author of those letters was me. I submitted them to the papers on the sly, using made-up identities. Ending up hair down with mouth open in deep, runny doo-doo because of it has since convinced me that that was a bad idea; nevertheless, their inclusion here isn’t purposeless:

First, the illicit letters demonstrate that I have a little bit of hell in me. That qualifies me to play devil’s advocate. Since nobody could reasonably argue that we should be less concerned about pedestrian safety on Main Street, I’ll do it.

Second, the dates of the letters demonstrate that the issue of pedestrian safety on Main Street is an old one. We can learn from our past.

Which brings up the third point: The letters hint at what the ultimate solution has been. Look what we have at Main and Galena today – a trigger-happy traffic light that cycles about every 10 seconds. All of the other traffic lights on Main Street have a similar history of intersection inception.

The initial solution to the problem at each currently signalized intersection on Main Street began the same: more hands-on traffic law enforcement. The problem with this is twofold: People charged with enforcing traffic laws are expensive and they get bored with it. This leads to other “experimental” solutions that replace them, such as orange traffic cones, signs with blinking lights, rock throwing, and other ineffective measures. Finally, after all these prove futile, we erect a stoplight.

Of course, this leads to more noise from squeaky brakes, idling motors, gunning accelerators, and the occasional bending fender or horn blast from an impatient driver, not to mention the added pollution associated with pre-programmed stop-and-go traffic. So, we should be careful what we are wishing for because, in this case, we are asking for another stoplight with lots of hidden costs.

Lastly, the letters point out that, ultimately, it may be best left to us, the pedestrians, to make sure that we are safe when we cross the road. Studies have proven that in the end it is irrelevant who had the right of way after a garbage truck runs over someone in a clearly marked crosswalk. As is usually the case, it comes down to education – physics.

Roger Marolt hopes to continue crossing Main Street without incident. Contact him (not literally, please) at roger@maroltllp.com.

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