Crosswalk rules aren’t just courtesy

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It’s cold. It’s snowy. As a driver, these things are annoying enough.

But pedestrians face even greater risks, especially when trying to cross icy streets, so it’s a good time of year to review crosswalk laws. When they’re ignored, it can make for a very bad day like one in November 2008, when James Lewin was leaving the Candlelight Walk.

He was pushing his newborn granddaughter in a stroller across the intersection of Prince and Church streets when a truck turned the corner and came right at him. According to his family, he shoved the stroller so hard that the rubber grip ripped off the handle, but he wasn’t able to get himself out of harm’s way.

His injuries included head trauma, a cut carotid artery, six fractured ribs and a broken nose. After rehabilitation at Craig Hospital, he was finally well enough to return home to Durango in May 2009.

State and city laws require drivers to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk. Pedestrians have the right of way if they’re already in the crosswalk when the car gets to it, but they have to wait for traffic to clear before stepping off the curb.

“You have to enter the crosswalk without creating a hazard for the motorist or yourself,” said Charlie Blosten, the city’s director of public works. “And you should make eye contact with the motorist.”

And while pedestrians appreciate the thoughtfulness of drivers who stop for them while they’re waiting on the curb, they might also be a little hesitant to step off in that situation. If the driver behind or next to the one who stopped doesn’t follow suit, it could be another bad day.

“Regardless of who has the right of way, never assume cars are going to yield,” said Cmdr. Trent Cooper of the Littleton Police Department. “Always use caution and look for traffic before entering the crosswalk, even if you have the light or the right of way. Also, as a pedestrian, always assume you are invisible.”

Bicyclists who ride on the sidewalk are considered pedestrians and have to follow the same rules as pedestrians. Those riding in the street are required to follow the same rules of the road as motorists.

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