Friday, September 28, 2012

Neighbors Cheer Crosswalk Vigilante

Here's a fun story about do-it-yourself urbanism from Pittsburgh's Polish Hill neighborhood. You might not be able to fight city hall, but you can take the law into your own hands:

A crosswalk vigilante has beaten Pittsburgh road crews to the punch - and to the paint - by marking crosswalks at what residents say is a dangerous intersection for pedestrians in the city's Polish Hill neighborhood. The lines were painted about three weeks ago and have drawn rave reviews from residents. One posted this message on a bulletin board at a nearby park: "Dear crosswalk vigilantes: Thank you!. You made my day." City officials, however, aren't thrilled . . . Public Works director Rob Kaczorowski says crews were planning to install larger stop signs paint a crosswalk in a few weeks. The city had previously twice denied requests for crosswalks. Kaczorowski says whoever painted the crosswalks should have waited because they "would be part of the liability if there's an accident there."

All of this does raise the issue about when (or if) the vigilante ethos is appropriate in a modern setting. Of course, if there is such a thing as a "socially constructive" form of urban vigilantism, then the crosswalk marauders seem to embody it: they're supported by a majority of the neighborhood (including the leading citizens); they dealt quickly and effectively with a criminal problem; their reaction was measured (no violence); they left the area in a more stable and orderly condition; and when opposition from the city developed, they disbanded. 

Steve Clowney

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