2015-02-12 / Opinion

Can We Change a Culture?


With a multitude of pedestrians negotiating the snow-covered streets, we remind motorists to drive slowly and be mindful of walkers trying to traverse our roads. For those who zip down the main thoroughfares of Broadway, Bellevue Avenue, Memorial Boulevard and America’s Cup Avenue, this may seem like we’re asking for a culture change.

The roadways at this time of year are a wash of gray and white, crosswalk paint almost invisible. The status of our crosswalks has come into sharper focus this winter as one snowstorm after another has blurred many with a nasty combination of sand, salt and frozen slush.

Most could use a fresh coat of paint, but repainting worn crosswalks will have to wait for better weather.

So, that leaves it up to motorists to be vigilant. Rhode Island law puts the onus on drivers to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks, but the law also says it’s up to pedestrians to use crosswalks wisely, giving oncoming motorists a reasonable amount of time to stop.

Last winter, the city strategically placed numerous pedestrian sidewalk crossing signs on faded walkways. Where are they now? With the exception of one on Bellevue Avenue across from the International Tennis Hall of Fame, they seem to have disappeared. Our questions as to where they are and who is responsible for putting them out go unanswered, despite calls to the city.

With more snow forecast, and sidewalks still clogged with snow and ice in many spots, both motorists and pedestrians navigating our streets must exercise more caution than ever. In regard to last week’s editorial about curtailing excessive alcohol consumption during the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, we are encouraged by the dialogue on Facebook that our words spurred.

In little more than a month we will reap the benefits of the parade committee’s year-long efforts. Let’s not spoil it.

For the city, it’s a big day, a beautiful tradition. It’s a day when we are all Irish, at least for a moment, and regardless of how algid and raw the weather may be, we celebrate our Gaelic heritage.

But being Irish for a day should not be confused with having a license to drink with abandon, to urinate in public, or otherwise behave in socially unacceptable ways. The parade celebrates the vibrant contributions of the Irish community over the past 200 years.

It is not about people coming to Newport for a daylong “drunkfest,” blithely carrying open containers of alcohol along the parade route. Nor is it about parade participants having to be removed from the line of march for drinking.

We confess that in recent years we have sometimes felt so frustrated with behavior at the parade that we wished the entire Newport Police Department was on duty lining the parade route.

That, of course, can’t and won’t happen.

So that leaves it up to the rest of the adult parade-goers to behave like grown-ups on March 14. That would be a strong first step toward changing the culture of this otherwise wonderful event.

Return to top