In Cuenca, being a pedestrian can often mean taking your life into your own hands. Unlike most of North America and Europe, a green pedestrian traffic light is not a guarantee that you’ll safely cross a street at certain intersections in the city. That’s why you’ll often see pedestrians run to cross the streets and or back up two to three times to avoid being run over.
Yesterday for example, at the intersection of Avenida Doce de Abril and Solano, Miriam Otavalo retreated three times because several drivers disregarded her in the crosswalk and turned right on a red light, almost running her over. She says that this is frequent at this intersection and “sometimes I cross running.”
This intersection is one of 7 locations throughout the city of Cuenca that the Mobility Company (EMOV) as identified as extremely dangerous for pedestrian crossings. In fact, to prevent accidents and guarantee the safety of passers-by, last week they placed a “No right turn on red,” sign. But that didn’t help Miriam yesterday.
Many drivers, like Edwin Peñaloza point out that when they learned to drive, ‘[they] were taught that [they] could turn right on a red light.” Placing a new sign to tell them otherwise isn’t going to quickly change their habits.
In fact, this is covered by Article 213 of the Traffic Law Regulation, which states: “On roads regulated by traffic lights, when they indicate a red light, under the strict responsibility of the driver and provided there are no vehicles circulating in the opposite direction, you may turn to the right extreme with the necessary precautions. ”
Carlos Balarezo, Traffic Control manager of the EMOV, said that similar “No turn on red” signs have been placed in two more problem intersections at Avenue Unidad Nacional and Gran Colombia, and avenue Las Americas and Heroes de Verdeloma.
In addition, EMOV has placed “Stop Here” signs—to alert drivers that pedestrians have the priority to cross the streets—in the sectors of the hospital Vicente Corral Moscoso, the University of Azuay, the Salesian Technical Educational Unit and Sacred Hearts Educational Unit.
Balarezo says there are other areas in the city that need to have these types of signs installed and to reinforce the right of pedestrians over drivers. Drivers who do not respect the posted signage will be sanctioned in accordance with the provisions of the Comprehensive Criminal Code, COIP. There are both economic fines and loss of points on the driver’s license for disregarding these warnings.
A dangerous problem
While there are no statistics to determine how many “close calls” pedestrians have had with cars nearly running them down, according to data from EMOV, in 2018 there were 180 accidents involving pedestrians. These accidents involved 195 people, of which 174 were injured and 16 died. According to Balarezo, some of these accidents were the fault of pedestrians who didn’t follow marked signage.