Mark Hayward's City Matters: Crossing guards endure rush hour rudeness
The trickle starts about 6 a.m., a half hour or so after bedside alarms rouse sleepers. They enter their cars, which wash down a quiet residential street, then stream through a crowded city street and eventually flow into a roaring, congested, multi-lane road that gushes cars and buses into the downtown, the Millyard or an interstate entrance ramp.
The intersection is a monster. Queen City Avenue drains most of South Willow Street and its south Manchester neighborhoods. Elm Street traffic comes from the downtown in one direction, Calef Road neighborhoods in the other direction. Traffic counts have nearly 20,000 cars going through the intersection on a given day.
"I've almost been hit crossing my grandson," said Wendy Glidden as she walked to Bakersville one afternoon to pick up the boy. "Cars just fly through, they turn right on red. It's a bad intersection."
Wenzel and Hebert have their system down. They know the 2-minute, 49-second rotation of the traffic light and when the walk light will come on. At that point, they march into traffic with their signs held aloft.
"You let the traffic know you can't move. Does it always work? No," he said. Once the children cross and the walk light turns red, he trudges to his corner. Big trucks and school buses make turns and come close to him.
Just last week, Wenzel said she heard an earful from a driver, stuck in an intersection, as she blocked him during a crossing.
The school-hour speed limit is supposed to be 20 mph, but Hebert has given up on that. While Wenzel spoke recently, a pickup gunned it to get through the intersection as the light turned red. That doesn't even bother the crossing guards.
On afternoons, teachers and City Year volunteers actually stand in the turn lane to prevent the turns.
So what do do? Vincent said you could build a bridge or tunnel for the children, but that will never happen. Why not, then, let the crossing guards write tickets?
Mark Hayward's City Matters appears Thursdays in the New Hampshire Union Leader and on UnionLeader.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.