Refused by His City, Man Jailed for Painting a Crosswalk

muncie.jpg
Whitney Stump’s homemade crosswalk, as seen on Google Maps

Whitney Stump was tired of drivers ignoring stop signs at an intersection in his Muncie, Indiana neighborhood. After futile attempts to get the city to install crosswalks, Stump took matters into his own hands and painted one in at the corner of Dicks and North streets. Then he got arrested.

WRTV in Indianapolis reports:

Stump, a 27-year-old Ball State University graduate student and father,
says he was arrested in July on a charge of criminal mischief for
creating the crosswalk at the intersection of Dicks and North streets.
A police officer then warned him after he went back to touch up the
paint in August, and the county prosecutor decided to charge him again.

"If they’re not going to provide a safe environment for me and my community, then I believe I have a moral obligation," Stump told 6News’ Ray Cortopassi on Wednesday.

Stump said he first asked the city to do the job, thinking crosswalks would get drivers’ attentions and make them aware they needed to slow down.

"I called the street and sign department probably a half-dozen times in the course of six months (to) a year," he said.

The city of Muncie says the intersection in question doesn’t meet the criteria for crosswalk installation because it isn’t near a school.

Stump missed a court date after he was charged the second time, which led to a 10-hour jail stint. But he says he plans to paint in additional crosswalks at the other three spokes of Dicks and North.

  • Whitney Stump, the Rosa Parks of the Livable Streets Movement…

  • ddartley

    Right on, Whitney Stump.

    I also like the fact that his name sounds like some 19th Century folk hero or something.

    To continue Aaron N’s comment above, I see his action as very much like a peaceful, nonviolent, “direct action.”

    I say that to contrast it with other such illegal road alterations that have been posted here and hotly discussed (such as ropes lying in the road), which, compared to this, are more like *violent* action. I’m talking about things placed in the road with no warning to drivers of their presence, that could alter the course of a moving car. As much as I hate motorists who speed, throwing a moving car off course by surprise is much more dangerous than plain old speeding by motorists.

    Whitney Stump has not done that; he’s broken the law nonviolently and admirably.

  • Stump Supporter

    That actually is a decent paint job. While I know this is way off topic, this reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where Kramer adopted a mile of highway and painted over the white lines to make extra-wide lanes.

    Now if he could only get enough asphalt to make a speed bump.

    Kudos to Stump for taking matters into his own hands.

  • Jonathan

    I love it. Best Streetsblog post all week. But why stop at crosswalks (pun intended)? I think he should work next on putting one of those lane-width white-striped medians down, like they have on Vanderbilt Ave in Prospect Heights. That would slow down Muncie drivers.

  • Charlie D.

    At minimum, shouldn’t the city have put down a stop line by the stop sign?

  • Jeremy H.

    The city says the intersection needs a school nearby to consider crosswalk paint? So, only children attending school deserve a safe crossing? Give me a break! Every city street is a right of all, not just motorists. >_

  • Vroomfondel

    Jeremy H,
    I think the reasoning of the city is that only children attending school need crosswalks because everybody else is either driving or being driven.

  • The really ludicrous thing with the city’s rule is that once children cross the street “NEAR” the school, they do have to get all the way home…

    How on earth could this man be seen as anything but a neighbourhood hero?

  • Andy B from Jersey

    What?!?!

    They have “Street View” in Muncie Indiana but most of the 5 Boroughs and all of densely populated northern NJ doesn’t?

  • vnm

    Way to go Whitney Stump! I admire his courage.

  • joe

    Have you guys been to the rest of America? Even in larger cities like Denver (where I lived for 8 years), civic policy operates on the assumption that simply no one walks. At least Muncie appears to have sidewalks, which can’t be said for lots and lots of places. Anyway, Muncie’s stance on this is pretty standard, right? I’m not sure why this is gaining national attention, but I’m sure there are a thousand such stories from throughout the country to be up-in-arms about.

  • frank

    Actually, he was jailed for missing his court date, not for the criminal mischief charge. While the charges may be a bit excessive, so is the headline… No need to spin it.

  • jack

    How does one walk? Even in the St Louis Science Center, employees uses Segways to travel between offices.

  • Gretel

    Abbey Road, anyone?

    Whitney Stump: Come to Brooklyn! Your services are needed! What a gift for your community and that is an amazing paint job.

    I used to live by an intersection in Dallas that looked exactly like this. Rolling stops were the norm, and crossing the street was treacherous and amounted to a game of “dodging the Suburban”. I don’t see what the problem is with reminding motorists that they should at the very least be aware of pedestrians. I wonder how people on his block reacted.

  • Ace

    I feel encouraged to create a street sign along the lines of

    “No vehicle exceeding 60 inches in height may park within 25 feet of corner”

    I am not sure of my measurements but I was nearly done in last night in Brooklyn because I could not see oncoming traffic through an SUV parked near the corner. I would think a line on the sign would let drivers know if their vehicle made the limit.

  • Christine Berthet

    ddartley

    There is nothing violent or illegal in rope speed bumps in Mexico: they are installed by government with nice signs warning of speed bumps. It is a good way ( maybe the only way)to make a speed bump on a dirt road , which is the case in many villages of Yucatan. It is also a very green way to do it : it was installed in a biosphere where everything is carefully environmentally friendly.

    It is time to go visit the world and learn to do simple things again. The ingenuity of Stump is admirable and the fact he’d be arrested for doing a right thing that can save lives shows where our culture has gone .

    we need to create a stump day where all of us go and paint the neck downs etc we have been waiting for

    Stump is the man …

  • Rich Wilson

    He needs to open up a PayPal donation site for supplies. I’d send him $5 in a second.

  • James W. in Santa Barbara CA

    Thank you Whitney Stump!

  • Lauri

    Thank you Ace. (#15)

  • rhubarbpie

    Yes, it’s true that he was jailed for missing a court date, as a previous commentator notes.

    But there’s a huge amount of judgment involved when a prosector decides 1) whether to go ahead with a charge like this and 2) whether to JAIL someone for missing a court date on a charge like this.

    It sure sounds like a classic case of the overzealous prosecutor at work here, and one with lousy judgment as well. Mr. Stump would not be in jail if it weren’t for painting the crosswalk, so the headline seems pretty fair to me.

    Back in the good old days here in New York City, cops used to ticket do-gooders for things like 1) taking photos of deteriorating conditions in subway stations and even, God forbid, 2) taking a paint brush to a graffiti-marred station in their neighborhood.

    I don’t think there were arrests in those cases, but often law enforcement personnel and prosecutors think that they must challenge anyone who is making a statement out of the norm about government mismanagement. The Muncie case seems similar.

  • Bravo Mr. Stump. Bravo! This is the type of Civic Disobediance the country needs. Granted, we cannot let the public run amok and decide single handedly what should be done, however, Stumps action created a “temporary” fix to a permanant problem and should creat the rukas it has. Now its out there and visible.

    Bravo Mr. Stump!

    P.S. I’m empowered and I thank you.

  • rhubarbpie

    A quick search shows that the Delaware County prosecutor, Mark McKinney, defended his action by saying that painting a crosswalk wherever you want is dangerous. He defends himself by citing the need for “foot-traffic studies” and other steps before a crosswalk is approved. His response doesn’t pass the laugh test in my book, but then I’m not his audience.

    (See http://www.theindychannel.com/news/15190982/detail.html)

    A couple of other thoughts: One motivation for going after Stump is the fear of liability for the city or county if, for instance, a person walking across the crosswalk is hit and the crosswalk hasn’t been maintained. Stump himself may face a liability claim, though he probably doesn’t care, assuming he even has thought about it.

    I note this not as a defense of the ticket or the prosecution, but this is definitely the kind of thing bureaucrats think about and we should remember that, even when they are doing block-headed things.

    Beyond that, the vast majority of prosecutors will go ahead with many cases because of their need to maintain a good relationship with the police. Again, this is not to defend McKinney, whose judgment seems suspect, but to think about why this case has gotten so far.

    Stump defends himself on the non-appearance charge by saying he didn’t know he’d been charged a second time, which sounds plausible. (This should serve as a cautionary tale to anyone who urges that people who have suspended licenses be automatically arrested and jailed – sometimes it does turn out that notices do not get sent out, go to wrong addresses, etc.)

  • Jonathan

    Thanks, rhu, for the explications. Very helpful.

  • That’s actually not a bad job, the crosswalk’s actually bigger than the sidewalk it extends. Actually, it inspires me to do it in my Richmond Hill intersection. The NYCDOT said they’ll do my crosswalks in Spring 2007, yes 2007. My ass they did.

  • Congratulations for taking matters in your hands and creating a safe environment. Government agencies are only willing to do so much. As for the arrest, please continue to paint the other cross walks. You will eventually win the legal battles and the City will have to pay the expenses. Be nice to the city though. It is ultimately your tax money.

  • Cross this

    What an idiot. He really thinks painting a crosswalk is going to get people to stop? Of course the town doesn’t want an illegal crosswalk there.

  • BC

    Ever heard of looking both ways before you cross the street? There seems to be an assumption here that Stump was in the right. Maybe the City didn’t respond to his request because the intersection actually doesn’t need a crosswalk. Just a thought…

  • Just a condescending thought, maybe, BC.

    If you think that a stop sign that’s regularly ignored isn’t a problem, then you probably won’t find many people to agree with you here. Maybe his actions weren’t the most effective way to deal with the problem, but the problem was there.

  • Kate

    A lack of sidewalks, cleared streets, crosswalks, or safe places for people to walk – this is Muncie. Good for someone taking a stand!

  • M

    Ahh, Muncie.

    I’m so glad I left. How close does an intersection have to be to a school to get a crosswalk? Ball State’s campus is less than a quarter of a mile from this intersection.

    Unfortunately the street I live on in Denver doesn’t even have and I’m two blocks from DU’s campus. I think I’m going to have to do a little crosswalk painting too.

  • We need more people taking charge like Stump. Give ’em hell Stump.