'The light is red! This is how people get killed," a woman shouts at a young teenage girl who has entered the intersection on Jaffa Road at the old Shaare Zedek junction despite the red light signaling for pedestrians to wait. The woman has reason to yell as this intersection just west of the Mahaneh Yehuda market has become one of Jerusalem's most dangerous intersections for pedestrians in the past two years. Last week, it was the site of a devastating accident that left Hebrew University Prof. Aviezer Ravitzky with massive head injuries. The details surrounding the accident of the noted philosopher and winner of the Israel Prize are still under investigation, but it is known that Ravitzky was struck by a bus as he attempted to cross Jaffa Road at the junction. Almost a year ago, Israel Broadcasting Association employee Moshe Rosendorn was killed after being hit by a bus at the same spot. And according to Danny Benichou, chief of the Police Accident Department, there were 10 major accidents involving pedestrians last year at the intersection and at least two major accidents this year. Why the intersection is so dangerous is a complicated study of human behavior and traffic patterns, but almost everyone agrees that the addition of a bus lane nearly two years ago has created significant confusion for pedestrians. As it stands now there are four lanes for traffic on Jaffa Road with a median in the middle allowing for two traffic lanes on the north side of the street and two traffic lanes on the south side of the street. The two lanes on the north side of the street are for cars traveling west. The problem arises with two lanes created for buses on the south side of the street. Unlike the lanes for the cars, in which both lanes travel in the same direction, the bus lanes allow for buses to travel both east and west. This situation, experts agree, confuses pedestrians. Pedestrians crossing the bus lanes from the south side will first look left, and not grasp that they need to also look to the right before looking left again when they get to the second set of lanes with cars; alternatively, some pedestrians will see three lanes of traffic heading west and, not realizing that one lane has traffic coming from the other direction, will fail to look that way at all. Employees at Best Car Rental directly in front of the intersection have seen numerous accidents in the past years occur precisely because of this confusion. Shachar Avder, an employee with the company, estimates he has witnessed close to six accidents in the past two years between buses and pedestrians. "People don't understand that they need to look in both directions when they are crossing. They look over the median and see cars coming from the right, so they only look to the left to see the buses and forget to look to the right." Yossi Kroizer, also an employee with the rental company, witnessed Ravitzky's accident and theorizes that he might have committed that exact mistake as he was a hit by a bus coming from the right. Aware of the situation, transportation and city officials have gone to some pains to warn pedestrians and make the traffic patterns clear. An onsite evaluation revealed no fewer than six relatively large yellow signs posted at the intersection warning pedestrians that traffic flows in both directions. Local residents confirmed that all of the signs were present before last week's accident. In addition, the intersection is staggered with fences so that pedestrians cannot walk straight through both sets of traffic. They have to walk in a zig-zag motion through the median, forcing them to slow down before entering a second set of traffic lanes. Such engineering measures have worked in other problematic intersections, says Dr. Dan Link, Head of the Infrastructure and Traffic Safety Unit with the National Road Safety Authority. Link, however discounts the signs as a way for the city to protect itself without providing any real preventive measures. "Any normal person who does not think about traffic engineering all day will see the signs the first time they enter the intersection and then never notice them again," Link suggests as a reason why signs don't offer much protection to pedestrians. Although he suggested the creation of underpasses or bridges as a way of directing pedestrian traffic around the streets, he noted that these solutions also contain significant disadvantages such as cost, the potential for underpasses to become hotspots for crime and, most importantly, the tendency of pedestrians to ignore them and use the streets anyway. Dr. Herschel Katz, a traffic consultant and a volunteer with the road safety organization Metuna, explained that any new traffic arrangement requires an adjustment for pedestrians, noting that the bus lane was only created about two years ago. "Anytime you make a change, no matter what it is, there will be more accidents initially," Katz says. Nevertheless, he points out some potential risks in the intersection that could be remedied with small adaptations. Most notable is the tendency of pedestrians to look past the crosswalk lights in the median to those on the far side of the street and erroneously follow the signs for the next set of lanes, rather than the ones they are currently crossing, Katz explains. Putting covers around the lights or angling them in a different way so that only the people crossing the intended intersection can see them would alleviate the problem, he says. Furthermore, he notes that certain intersections use the addition of sound to supplement the crosswalk lights to ensure that sight-impaired persons can cross the streets. Such accompaniment could help out average pedestrians as well, he said. Link, however, believes that the only significant way to decrease the danger to pedestrians at the intersection is to divide the two bus lanes with a median, essentially creating two roadways and forcing the city to widen the roads and shorten the sidewalks. "The municipality has to do whatever is necessary and put a median in the middle of the bus lane. They have been doing things in the right direction, but they have hesitated before doing the big things," he says. In response to questions about the dangers at the intersection, a spokesperson for the municipality said that the city had already addressed the issues with "traffic lights, safety fences, lighting and signs" and that it was waiting for the outcome of the police investigation into the Ravitzky accident before proceeding with any new initiatives. All of these safety measures, however, cannot stop either pedestrians or drivers who behave carelessly or with blatant disregard for the law. Currently the driver of the Egged bus that hit Ravitzky is under house arrest, which, according to Benichou, is not standard police procedure. Fredi Herskovici, the chief traffic investigator for Egged, explained that the driver, who has no previous violations, was under house arrest for allegedly tampering with the black box (a recording device) in the bus, and not because he had been found at fault for the accident. Nevertheless, "it takes two to tango," points out Katz as over 10 pedestrians were observed entering and crossing the intersection against the light within a span of 15 minutes. Link acknowledges that pedestrians crossing at intersections at the wrong time often prove a problem for bus drivers. According to Herskovici, drivers were sent a letter last December advising them to be particularly careful when driving through the Jaffa-Shaare Zedek intersection. In addition, Egged operates three unmarked cars with hidden video cameras to document the behavior of its drivers and fired one driver this past June who was caught driving irresponsibly at the junction, he says. "Maybe it's a matter of punishing the pedestrians or explaining to them that it is dangerous," he says. The police have tried to do just that and last year alone issued 350 tickets to pedestrians for jaywalking in comparison to the 45 tickets given to drivers for failing to stop at a red light at that intersection, Benichou says. The problem, however, is emblematic of the general attitude of pedestrians toward the roads. Ro'i Krispin works at a gas station near the junction and has witnessed three major accidents. Krispin blames the pedestrians. "People are always walking into the streets when there are red lights," he says. Benichou agrees, noting that while stepped-up enforcement had made a difference, serious education will be required to fix the problem. "It's a cultural thing and it's hard for the police to fight that," he says. The problem at the intersection only stands to get worse with the expected addition of the light rail system, which will also travel in the bus lanes. Link, however, does not believe the bus lanes are the root of the problem and says that their existence encourages the use of public transportation, freeing up Jerusalem's already overcrowded roads. "The pedestrians have to do their part, and the city needs to block their way and give them alternatives," he says. "Nothing will ever be watertight." That point was made clear as the teenage girl ignored the warnings shouted to her by the woman about the red lights and continued crossing the street, dodging traffic as she went.

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