By: Sara Buscher

Published in: The Burlington Free Press, April 24, 2008

South Burlington—They say they don’t want to see it happen again.

Residents of the Grand Way Commons Senior Housing complex watched as 60-year-old Kenny Lafoe was taken by ambulance to the hospital last week after being struck by a car while walking in a crosswalk on Farrell Street.

Police said the driver, Robert Correll, 36, of Colchester did not see Lafoe until the man had been struck.

The angle of the sun at about 7 a.m. that day created the “horrible set of circumstances” that followed, leaving Lafoe recovering in the hospital, South Burlington Police Chief Trevor Whipple said.

Whipple said the two officers who responded to the scene had difficulty navigating the street to reach the victim, and determined the blinding sunlight to be a contributing cause of the accident. According to the officers, Carroll had not violated a law that warranted a ticket, and speed was not a contributing factor to the accident.

Residents of Grand Way Commons say they’re not surprised by the incident, based on their own experiences crossing the busy street. They’ve decided to take matters into their own hands before someone else gets hurt.

Beverly Savoy and several of her neighbors are picketing from the sidewalk outside their home this week, with brightly colored signs reading “Please don’t speed!” and “SLOW DOWN!”

“We had a feeling something was going to happen,” Savoy said Tuesday afternoon as she flagged passing cars with a hand-lettered sign that read “Slow down, this is our neighborhood.”

Most drivers did slow down, and many smiled. Some ignored Savoy’s sign.

Savoy said she crosses the street regularly to go to the pharmacy, and plans to stand outside with her sign morning and evening until drivers get the message.

“Kenny was going for his morning coffee,” she said.

Farrell Street winds its way for a half-mile between the traffic light on Shelburne Road to another light at the Swift Street intersection, passing Grand Way Commons, Eastwood Commons condominiums and O’Dell Apartments along the way.

The Farrell Street development is one of the highest-density areas in the city, and a large number of seniors and residents with mobility challenges who might take longer to cross the street live there.

Seven crosswalks are marked with fluorescent yellow “pedestrian crossing” signs along the street, but the crosswalks’ painted lines and heavily worn rust-colored pavers are barely discernible from the surrounding pavement.

The location of the crosswalk residents frequently use might also be part of the problem, Whipple said.

Crosswalks are typically located at the end of a block for safety reasons. The crossing where the accident occurred was installed mid-block so residents wouldn’t have to walk all the way to the Shelburne Road intersection and back to reach the shops located directly across the street from their homes.

Savoy speculated that the group’s daylong efforts had made a difference, as a white pickup stopped to wait for two young mothers pushing infants in strollers to cross.

If the drivers haven’t noticed the pickets, city officials have.

City Manager Chuck Hafter said police issued nine tickets to drivers for crosswalk violations Friday, and the Public Works Department will take additional measures to improve safety for pedestrians in the area, including placing reflective signs in the middle of the crosswalk to make it more visible.

“Midblock crossings are not safe,” and the city will continue to monitor the situation, Hafter said.

Until Thursday’s incident, Whipple said Farrell Street had not been brought to the attention of police as a special problem. He said some drivers do speed through the area, as they do on all other city streets. Police are also aware of some residents’ concern that the T-shaped intersection where Farrell Street passes Eastwood Drive might warrant a three-way stop sign.