By Gordon Davis
Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) is an engineering college here in Worcester. It is known worldwide for its engineering programs and graduates.
WPI has an urban campus (Institute Road) with public streets. Like many cities in the USA, the drivers in Worcester drive aggressively and arrogantly. Some drivers just go too fast for our streets.
In Worcester there is about one incident a week where a motorist strikes a pedestrian. Half of the incidents are hit and runs. Some result in the pedestrian’s death.
Last week a driver struck an older person on Shrewsbury Street. A long-time resident of Worcester said in a letter to the local newspaper that she was afraid to cross the streets of Worcester as some drivers go “50, 60 or 70” miles per hour.
My wife and I were almost struck by a speeding car as we entered the cross walk at the Marine Corp. League.
The cross walk signal was blinking bright yellow. It seemed that the motorist sped up!
It is my opinion that when a motorist strikes a pedestrian, he should receive an automatic $500 fine – regardless of fault. This would help remind motorists they MUST, in all cases, yield to pedestrians – or stop for pedestrians in some situations.
This issue of pedestrians and public safety is a serious one. People are dying. It should not be a political football. The crosswalk signals being requested by WPI should be built. These are public streets for which the City and the Worcester City Council are responsible.
Is money a higher priority than public safety and our lives?
Worcester City Councilor Michael T. Gaffney, like many others, seems to think so. We have a situation where Councilor Gaffney will delay or not expedite a public safety issue that has come before the Worcester City Council because he wants WPI to pay for all the crosswalk signals.
Some people seem to believe that pedestrians have no rights – except to get out of the way of a speeding vehicle!
I was told that a few folks were angry that I criticized the Majority Leader of the Massachusetts State Senate, Harriet Chandler, for her proposed bill to fine pedestrians who jaywalked. They were especially irked by my suggestion that motorists be automatically fined for striking pedestrians.
A pedestrian, when struck by a car, does not harm the motorist. The pedestrian never gets up and runs away from the scene of the accident.
Councilor Gaffney has previously made statements contrary to public safety. At a mayoral debate he stated that when a motorist strikes a pedestrian, the motorist suffers emotional anguish. He said nothing about the pedestrian’s pain and suffering!
So, as stated above, we have a situation where Councilor Gaffney will delay or not expedite a public safety issue because he wants WPI to pay for it. WPI already makes payment to the City of Worcester in lieu of taxes (PILOT). If Gaffney believes that WPI should pay more in PILOT to the City of Worcester then that can be negotiated. However, to hold as hostage or leverage an issue of public safety such as cross walk signals makes no sense and is playing roulette with our lives.
A reasonable person could conclude that Gaffney is using this issue to further his rumored career move to the State Senate. If so, shame on him for endangering the lives of Worcester residents and the public.
A reasonable person would install the cross walk signals now and negotiate a possible increase of WPI’s payment in lieu of taxes later.
Unfortunately, I do not know of many people who think Councilor Gaffney is a reasonable person.