15 Nov, 1914
WALK THE STRAIGHT AND NARROW PATH
What are those white lines painted on the street, stretching right across the asphalt, mean? Scores asked the men who were painting, hundreds have looked at them, stopped and wondered. Thousands who walks through the business district of the city have noticed recently at the street intersections of Baltimore Street from the Fallsway to Howard Street, and on Howard from Baltimore Street to Franklin, these heavy white lines on all four sides of the intersecting streets. The lines extend from curb to curb, those on the north and south sides of the street running East and West, and those on the east and west sides of the streets running north and south. One of the lines on each side runs coincident with the building line; the other with the curb between these lines all Baltimoreans who use Shanks’ mare as their mode of traveling must walk in the future. There is to be no “cutting catty corner” at these intersections. Everyone must hew to the line or the policemen stationed at these crossings will know the reason why.
In Cleveland and Detroit.
In other words, Baltimore is about to inaugurate an arrangement in the way of handling the traffic situation that has been in vogue for some time in the number of large cities of the country. Those who have visited Cleveland and Detroit have undergone the experience of being held up by the policeman at the crossing when they attempt to scoot diagonally from one corner of the street to another. They had to go around about way, and perhaps some of them have murmured at what they thought of as a useless and childish procedure. In some of these cities the lines are not used, while in others there is quite an involve system of lines. Which it takes a little time to puzzle out. In all of these cities the adoption of either the line system or that used, for example, in Cleveland, where the police simply directed the way the Pedestrian shall go, has been rewarded with beneficial results in the saving of life and limb. In Baltimore in the last five years the toll of life and limb exacted by streetcars, automobiles and other vehicles has been considerable. Perhaps 50 persons have been killed or died from their injuries. It is doubtful if, in all this list, there can be found a verdict given by a coroner’s jury in which the victim of the accident was not blamed to some extent for carelessness. In every instance it seems to have been a case where the person who was killed steps to directly in the path of the automobile or the trolley car, and that the motorman or the chauffeur had no time to bring his car or automobile to a stop. Often there have been no disinterested witnesses to the accident. The victim’s lips are sealed by death. The person who ran him down naturally testifies in his own defense. With conditions existing as they are in Baltimore today, it is a wonder that more persons are not killed or injured. There are always some few persons so careless and driving automobiles and other vehicles that they are a constant danger to pedestrians. As long as some men will not respect the rights of others and as long as many people are so careless of their own protection, the city must step to the defense of those who either cannot or will not take care of themselves.
The Way It Works
The layout of these lines is regarded as an important step toward the better handling of traffic. City engineer McKay is initiating the innovation. He will shortly write a letter to the board of police commissioners asking them to have the members of the Police Department cooperate with city authorities in seeing that the new plan is carried out. When that system is put in force a person wishing to cross, say from the south west side of Baltimore and Charles streets to the northeast corner of Baltimore and Charles streets, will have to walk east on the south side of Baltimore Street to the southeast corner of the intersecting streets and thence North to his objective point. There may be some persons who object on the grounds that this means a waste of time and energy. Doubtless they will in the future see its good points. When once the traffic patrolman gives the signal for persons moving east and west to move on every vehicle bound North and South must stop. When he gives the sign to those on their way north and south every vehicle moving east and west must stop every person moving along between the lines is absolutely protected. If, though some disobedience of the law of a driver should persist on his way and a person is cut down between the lines, the party guilty of the violation will have practically no defense and will probably have to face a lawsuit for damages. The city engineering department intends to place these lines throughout most of the traffic congested districts. It is only continuation of the policy of the city officials that “life is not cheap.”
The Useful Traffic Squad
It will surprise some to learn that the money required for the protection of people from injury resulted from the traffic reaches into the thousands and the thousands of dollars more will be expended. Even at that the safeguards for the pedestrians will not be enough, and those who of studied the question believe that the time is coming when a special yearly appropriation will be made for this purpose. Until a decade or so ago this city had practically no traffic squad. Indeed when the idea was first breached the proposal met with more or less derision, and those who were appointed to this special work were referred to as members of “the beauty squad.” Baltimoreans have ceased to laugh at that squad. They know the work its members have done in saving aged men and women and children from death in those streets were “big business” and unmindful pleasure hustled and bustle along apparently careless of the rights of others. There are in the city today 39 members of the traffic squad, including three mounted policeman. Of sergeants Barry, and Zimmerman, with deputy Marshal house as the directing head. These men are stationed at all of the principal traffic corners downtown or at what some call the “automobile death traps”. These “traps” are at North and Charles streets, St. Paul and Chase streets and St. Paul Street and Mount Royal Avenue. These patrolman work from 7 o’clock in the morning until 7 o’clock at night. One half of the squad works on Saturday night from seven to 11 o’clock. The officers are not kept on duty on Sundays, except the one man who was stationed at Charles Street and North Avenue. This assignment is taken in turn, which means that each member of the squad has to work approximately one Sunday in every 39.
Many Warning Signs
More policeman for this work are needed and needed badly, officials say, but as there is no money appropriated the next best step is taken. Signs have been printed warning automobiles and others what they must do in order to conform to the traffic laws. Signs are fixed at dangerous places where it is impossible, because of lack of numbers, to station a patrolman. The signs cost eight dollars apiece, but they last many years. The patrolman must be paid $20 a week. Therefore, the signs are much more economical, though perhaps not so powerful in the way of restraint as the policeman. To further the “safety first” Crusade, the officials of the United railways have placed posters in the trolley cars requesting passengers not only to be careful while getting on or off the cars, but also warning them of the need of being watchful while crossing or walking in the street. The automobile club of Marilyn now keeps on the streets and automobile caring large signs on its side warning pedestrians of the necessity of watching out for automobiles and other vehicles. This is sent out the only through the city, the automobile thus constituting a running lesson of advice.
Moving – Picture Lessons
Deputy Marshal House, who is intensely interested in the “safety first” movement, is greatly pleased with the results that have followed one method of campaigning in this matter. There are 200 moving picture houses in Baltimore. In these houses at least once a week warnings tell of the dangers that are to be met with in the city from moving vehicles. They urge the readers to “stop, look and listen” before attempting to cross a street. They tell children of the dangers of stealing rides on the back a wagons, cars, etc. And these lessons produce an impression. The police are always on the lookout to detect those who violate the traffic laws. In stables all over town the traffic rules are posted. Thousands of little pamphlets, published at the city’s expense, containing the traffic rules and the penalties for violating them have been issued to chauffeurs, automobile owners and drivers. In the case of minor violations of the law by drivers of wagons, the rule that is generally followed is to take the name of the driver, if it is his first defense, and the name of his employer. The employer is then notified that his employee as disregarded the law and he is asked to advise his men not to repeat the offense. If the offense is committed again the violators arrested and fined.
To “Park” Vehicles
Deputy Marshal House is striving to get the owners of the various business houses and big office buildings interested in a new plan of his. He wants them to purchase signs, to be used in front of their buildings, telling automobile list and drivers to “park” their vehicles within certain lines to be marked off in front of the buildings. This is to keep the entrances to the buildings clear. There is one good thing that the deputy marshal believes will result from such a plan, and that is the expediting of the collection of the males. Because of the congestion in front of mailboxes the post office employees have often been delayed a minute or more a box in the taking up of such mail. This means lost time and inconvenience to the businessmen and others in getting their mail. The popularity of roller-skating brought about by the increase of smooth payments has given a new problem for the police to solve. Regulations had to be made and enforced, giving the children the right to use certain streets at certain hours for their fun. Some of the too – fond skaters had to be protected against automobiles and vice versa automobile us had to be protected against heedless skaters.
May Restore the Whistles
In the downtown section the traffic police for a long time he used the whistle system in the directing of traffic. One blow of the whistle meant the movement of traffic North and South; two blasts met the movement of traffic East and West. This system was discontinued, traffic being direct it now by the waiving of the hand. Part of the present system, according to Deputy Marshal House, has proved unsatisfactory and he has brought before the board of police commissioners a proposal to bring back the whistles again. It is said that many drivers, especially Negroes, who sometimes drive along half asleep, fail to notice the wave of the officer’s hand, and much confusion has resulted. The sharp whistle keeps a man awake and alert, and wakes up the sleeping or the stupid. There are f new traffic problems arising every day as the city grows. It is a big thing, the protection of the people – a job well worth what it costs. Over in Northeast Baltimore and down in the crowded sections of East Baltimore, hundreds of people have been injured more or less seriously, and some have lost their lives because the streets were not better guarded. Especially is where need for the protection of children and elderly persons, and down there, where they never have had any officers to look after pedestrians and hold teams and motorcars in check, traffic police are needed. It’s a big problem, one that Baltimore has handled pretty well, with its limited force, in the past few years, but it’s planning to manage by a better and more comprehensive system in the future.
Donations help with web hosting, stamps and materials and the cost of keeping the website online. Thank you so much for helping BCPH.
Copies of: Your Baltimore Police Department Class Photo, Pictures of our Officers, Vehicles, Equipment, Newspaper Articles relating to our department and or officers, Old Departmental Newsletters, Lookouts, Wanted Posters, and or Brochures. Information on Deceased Officers and anything that may help Preserve the History and Proud Traditions of this agency. Please contact Retired Detective Kenny Driscoll.
How to Dispose of Old Police Items
Please contact Det. Ret. Kenny Driscoll if you have any pictures of you or your family members and wish them remembered here on this tribute site to Honor the fine men and women who have served with Honor and Distinction at the Baltimore Police Department.
Copyright © 2002 Baltimore City Police History - Ret Det Kenny Driscoll