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Watch out for those crosswalks

Traveling down Division Street through Gresham has become a seesaw of open road with 45-mph speed zones that suddenly switches to a narrow, divided road with encroaching sidewalks and sudden crosswalks.

This complete change is brought to light when drivers crest the hill just east of downtown Gresham and go hurtling down toward the new crosswalk for the Gresham-Fairview Trail between 201st and 181st avenues. There may be flashing lights and concrete signs that a crosswalk is ahead, but many drivers aren't ready to slam on their brakes as they speed down that hill.

Gresham handled a similar problem differently on Powell Boulevard, where a concrete bridge was built over a much more benign thoroughfare. Yes, drivers speed along Powell as well. However, there isn't as much of a hill, and the landscape is pretty open.

Of course, the cost of building bridges over every major street for the Gresham-Fairview Trail is prohibitive for the city.

So Division gets a flashing light and a painted crosswalk.

It is true that drivers on Division have to be alert for pedestrians and bicycles crossing willy-nilly against traffic. There is a lack of regular crosswalks, so people could be excused for darting across because they didn't want to walk an extra quarter mile to the nearest crosswalk.

Navigating Division can raise anyone's blood pressure, whether they are on foot, bicycle or in a vehicle.

Now, however, drivers have to be more aware of the flashing light on a crosswalk and be prepared to stop.

Crosswalk awareness

The number of crosswalks has been increasing over the last few years in Gresham, with new crossings along Powell in downtown Gresham and along Division near Gresham Station. Some of them have lights, some don't.

It is up to drivers to be aware of pedestrians and to watch for crosswalks that are in use. The real problem for drivers is other drivers who aren't paying attention. Stopping for a pedestrian can lead to a rear-end accident, incidents that the paper has heard about many times in the past few years.

Drivers need to watch for pedestrians, but they also have to be aware of the traffic alongside and behind them. Pedestrians need to be aware that one stopped car doesn't ensure your safety. It's best to make sure both lanes of traffic have stopped before entering the street.

Drivers need to recognize that a vehicle either in front of or next to them has slowed for a reason. Don't assume the other driver is turning or is confused. If there is a pedestrian crossing nearby, that is probably why they are stopped, and it's up to you to stop, thus protecting other drivers and pedestrians.

With driving distractions seemingly increasing every day for drivers and pedestrians alike, it's imperative that people concentrate on what they are doing, whether it be driving down a busy street or crossing in a crosswalk.