In the crosswalk, in the crosshairs

Nothing I've written in more than two years of filling a third of this page has garnered as much response as my column last year about how dangerous for pedestrians certain intersections in Lower Queen Anne are.

In particular, I mentioned the corner of First and Roy and the corner of Roy and Queen Anne Ave. N.

Just last week this newspaper printed an anguished letter from a woman noting that a friend's dog was struck in a Queen Anne crosswalk by a female driver who slowed, after running over the pooch, and then sped away.

The saddest thing about this city of ours, in its present incarnation, is the lack of action taken to protect its citizens from uncivil, rogue behavior.

A hip-hop promoter is allowed to continue bringing thugs to our streets, despite complaints here and in one daily paper, until one man is beaten to death and another is shot and put into a wheelchair. Only one of the victims lived in our neighborhood. It is my guess that neither of the violent perps, still at large, lived here.

The city dragged its feet until blood was shed.

After my column about Queen Anne/Roy, a reader forwarded it to a city bureau, along with her own concerns. She wrote to this newspaper to report that the city functionary she talked to was sympathetic. But nothing was done. And if anything, the two corners I traverse every day have gotten worse.

Three Saturdays ago, after an early dinner in the neighborhood (spending our pennies where we all live), three of us were strolling slowly back to my apartment to crack open a bottle of red vino. No drinking and driving for us.

We waited on the south corner of Queen Anne Avenue, in front of Caffé Ladro, until we got a walk signal. We then made eye contact with a young, hyper-looking, razor-cut young white man in the SUV (of course) sitting there, so that our existence, and our right-of-way, somehow burrowed into the gristle under his pasty skin. He smirked and drove forward. If we hadn't stepped back out of the street, and the crosswalk, we would have been run over.

I haven't been in a fistfight since 1994. I'm older, hopefully wiser, and nothing much is ever gained by streetfighting unless you wish to be battered and then maybe arrested.

But something snapped. I slammed the side of Skippy's over-sized vehicle with the palm of my hand - only because I didn't have a baseball bat. It was extremely gratifying to hear the simultaneous slap of another palm: my middle-age poet friend, someone I have never seen raise a finger to anyone in 15 years, had smacked the car, too.

Our boy pulled over, and he, a similarly dazed-looking blond man and the two blond slatterns riding with them screamed something vulgar. My friends and I begged the four-some to exit the vehicle and engage in a little postprandial discussion.

The cowards sped away.

Not all the drivers are young and white. I have almost been killed by middle-aged drivers of every hue and gender. Most in SUVS, many on cellphones as they ran their red lights.

I am convinced that this city will do nothing about these perilous intersections until at least two unknown Queen Anners are murdered, while crossing with the light, by some putz who probably won't be a Lower Queen Anne resident and will probably be either drunk or on a cellphone.

Retribution and enforcement of traffic laws might come about more quickly if our pudgy old mayor or, even better, that corporate benefactor Paul Allen happens to get run over. But neither of them looks like they've been walking much lately, if you go by their pictures in the paper. They look more likely to be struck in a restaurant by a dessert cart.

But the city is enforcing some rules and regulations hyper-efficiently.

Just after we three innocents were almost flattened, we saw, less than a block away, the meter police, a constant presence in our neighborhood, ticketing people for parking in the wrong zone or at a meter where funding has dried up. If our city worried as much about the safety of its older citizens, its poorer, car-less citizens, or even those of us who walk because we love our neighborhood and like the health benefits of perambulating around our otherwise relatively safe streets, as it does about our parking habits (well, yours - I don't own a car), Lower Queen Anne would be a much nicer, safer place to be on foot.

Why do the police come out after certain athletic and musical events at Key Arena and ticket pedestrians for jaywalking?

Why aren't these same patrolmen - and the overzealous meter maids out late into the night to harass parking citizens - protecting us in our crosswalks? Especially since most of us wait patiently until we get the walk signal and then are almost killed anyway.

I'd like to see a citizen ape that popular old Charles Bronson movie of the mid-'70s; you remember, "Death Wish," the one where Mr. Bronson, playing an outraged citizen at the mercy of muggers in the then- superviolent New York City, started taking the law into his own hands.

Just the other day, at the corner of Queen Anne Ave. N. and Mercer, I saw a businessman who owns property in the neighborhood slapping the fender of a car trying to run over him while turning right on red in broad daylight. The pedestrian signal said walk, of course.

The driver that time looked to be exiting his vehicle. I found myself running toward the scene, in support of a conservative capitalist for the first time in recent memory.

The driver - as most of them do when confronted with the idea of actually being aggressive out from behind the wheel of their ridiculously oversized, gas-eating, unnecessary suburban assault vehicles - sped away.

If you live in this neighborhood and you care anything about the old, the slow, the lame, the halt, the poor and the health-conscious who walk instead of adding vehicular pollution to our already globally warming skies, call the city and complain.

And if you see some jerk almost run over a fellow citizen, run to help.

At least get the license plate number.

What good is a pretty street if you can't even cross it with the light?

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