I write as a new resident to the Bemidji community about an incident concerning me about pedestrians who choose to use non-traffic-control crosswalks in the downtown areas as they go to and from their work destinations. On Sept. 3 I was crossing on the west side of the Minnesota Avenue/Fifth Street intersection going in the direction of the First National Bank at about 4:30 p.m.
I was halfway through the crosswalk when a vehicle came from the south, making a left turn onto Fifth Street. You could tell this driver was not going to stop, I stopped, and the driver came within four inches from me as they continued on. Did this surprise me? No, because it really is about the fourth time that this has happened to me at that intersection.
ln speaking to numerous Bemidji residents about this unsettling display of driver behavior and lack of abiding the law, I am dismayed knowing it could lead to harm and death.
I debated about writing this letter, but felt the need to do so, because of the seriousness and realization that that intersection is extremely dangerous. It is an accident waiting to happen.
On Paul Bunyan Drive there are fluorescent green and white uprights that inform drivers of the pedestrian right away when in the crosswalk. My hunch is this was put there for a reason. These uprights can help deter dangerous driving behavior and that is a good thing.
But, in the end we as drivers need to give the right of way to pedestrians in crosswalks -- there is no negotiating this. ln an instant life and families can be changed forever due to an unfortunate accident.
The Bemidji downtown is a quiet gem that sparkles as people visit it. Let's keep this downtown full of mixture with pedestrians, vehicles and bicyclists. A simple request is to beware of pedestrians as we use the crosswalks; even more so with fall and winter ahead.
State law says, "Rights in absence of signal.
"(a) Where traffic-control signals are not in place or in operation, the driver of a vehicle shall stop to yield the right of way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a marked crosswalk or at an intersection with no marked crosswalk. The driver must remain stopped until the pedestrian has passed the lane in which the vehicle is stopped."