With more students and exercisers out on the streets, police offer pedestrians safety tips

Some streets in northeast Johnson County, like this stretch of West 61st Terrace in Fairway, don’t have sidewalks.

School is back in session, and the end-of-summer weather makes for optimal conditions for students and parents walking to and from school.

In some residential parts of northeast Johnson County, like in Mission Hills, old Leawood and Prairie Village, pedestrians may find themselves walking on streets without sidewalks. So, here’s a reminder from local law enforcement officers about how to walk safely, starting with the first one: On streets without sidewalks, pedestrians should walk on the left side of the road, against traffic.

Sgt. Luke Roth with the Prairie Village Police Department, which also covers Mission Hills as part of its jurisdiction, noted that each city in northeast Johnson County may have its own unique set of codes related to safe walking. But in general, the main rules governing pedestrians in Prairie Village and Mission Hills are:

  • Pedestrians must walk on a sidewalk if there is one available
  • If there is no sidewalk available, pedestrians should walk on the left-hand side of the road, as near as possible to the edge of the roadway and facing oncoming traffic

“You’re supposed to walk on the left-hand side, as far to the shoulder as possible, if there is no sidewalk available,” Roth said. “It allows the walker to be able to have that visual of what’s coming towards them, what’s ahead of them. That way, you’re not walking with your back to the traffic and creating an unsafe environment at this point.”

When Tracy Kaufman goes on her daily walk in Old Leawood, her path often takes her on streets without sidewalks. So, she walks on the left side of the road, against traffic.

But she’s noticed many pedestrians walking on the right side, with traffic, and it’s caused her some alarm.

“I’m concerned because oftentimes people either are wearing earbuds, like I do, or they’re in a group or maybe they’re pushing a stroller or walking a pet, and all those things can be distractions,” Kaufman said. “I’m concerned that they’re not going to realize there’s a vehicle behind them and they’re going to make a sudden move, and then we’re going to have an accident.”

Nearly 23 of 114.5 miles of streets in Prairie Village, or 20 percent of streets, are without sidewalks, according to Prairie Village city staff.

Roth said it’s also a good idea to pay attention to surroundings: Don’t focus too closely on your phone, don’t have music so loud that you can’t hear traffic coming.

When Prairie Village police officers come across pedestrians in Mission Hills, they will offer free reflective vests to them, Roth added.

Kaufman added that as a motorist driving around her home near 95th and Mission, she frequently encounters pedestrians on the right side of the road who may not see her vehicle approaching from behind.

“I’ve had to be very, very cautious so that I don’t hit someone,” she said. “We have a lot of walkers in the neighborhood. I just get very concerned that something’s going to happen.”

Sgt. David Winders, traffic unit supervisor with the Leawood Police Department, said pedestrians in Leawood must also walk as far to the left side of the road as possible. Motorists also must keep an eye out for pedestrians and find safe areas to pass them.

“There needs to be an expectation, not only for the operators of the vehicles but for the pedestrians themselves,” Winders said. “It makes the travel a lot safer for the pedestrians and the motorists to know what to expect from each other.”