Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Fatuous Observations on Cars vs Pedestrians

I am a frequent pedestrian, but I drive a car often too and I have seen exhibitions of bad behavior from both walkers and drivers. If there were a war between pedestrians and drivers, I would definitely side with the pedestrians, but I thought I would share these observations.
Pedestrians and drivers both carry a set of responsibilities.
Pedestrians: you can not just stride into the street without looking and expect cars to yield to you. Yes, cars are supposed to yield to you, but give drivers the chance of seeing you. As a driver, I don't like having to slam on my brakes and risk getting rear-ended. Also, unless you are elderly or disabled, once you are in the crosswalk, step smartly. Crossing the street is not a leisure activity. It is not a Sunday stroll. It is not the time to shamble, to dawdle, to pause to answer your cell phone.
When you are crossing the street at a traffic light, it is your responsibility to obey traffic signals. When the light for traffic traveling in the same direction as you is green, you may cross. Often, I'll be sitting at a light, with a pedestrian standing at the corner, and the minute my light turns green, they decide to cross in front of me. This is inconsiderate. By the time you've strolled, dawdled and shambled across the street, the light is red again, and we must wait. Being a pedestrian doesn't mean you are exempt from having to wait your turn. Also, if you are out at night, be aware that you are possibly invisible to drivers. It isn't just the darkness, but sometimes the glare from oncoming cars' headlights prevents us from seeing you.
I once almost hit someone—it was dark, and I was driving on 9th street at the intersection with Market. I had the green light. A man dressed all in black stepped in front of me. I slammed on my brakes to avoid hitting him and he had the nerve to give me a dirty look. Dude—you were invisible and disobeying traffic signals. You put yourself in danger and you also put me in danger of getting hit by another car.
Drivers: You are controlling a machine that weighs thousands of pounds. For God's sake, be alert! As my driver's ed teacher used to say, “Look at the big picture.” If you see that cars in the oncoming lane have stopped for a pedestrian, you have to stop too. If you see a pedestrian standing patiently at a crosswalk, waiting for someone to let her cross, stop! If you are at an intersection, and are making a turn, and there's a pedestrian in the crosswalk, it doesn't matter that you have the green light, the pedestrian has the right of way. Because she has a green light too. Repeat after me: The pedestrian has the right of way. THE PEDESTRIAN HAS THE RIGHT OF WAY!!!!
If you think it's funny to rev your engine, or otherwise feint with your car to intimidate pedestrians, then you are an ASSHOLE. No exceptions.
I commute home from work by foot, a distance of 1.5 miles. I am also a runner. Here is a sample of some of the driving assholery I've had to deal with. I was walking down Roosevelt Brown Boulevard and crossed a small side street, in the crosswalk. (King St? Grove St.?) A driver on R. Brown Blvd wanted to turn onto the side street while I was crossing it. He screamed out of his window, “Get your ass out of the road!” He's lucky I didn't have a brick, or a baseball bat, because I would have put it right through his fat face.
Another time, I was out for a run, on Rialto St, a quiet side street in Belmont. I was about to cross Altavista Ave, when a large pick up truck stopped at the stop sign. Apparently he resented having to wait the whole two seconds it took me to run across the street because he revved his engine and then deliberately let his car roll toward me when I was in front of him. Nice going, asshole. I bet you feel real powerful and important now.
Irresponsible pedestrians deserve to have drivers roll their eyes at them and make fun of them to the other occupants of their cars. They do not deserve to be run over by cars. Drivers who are all, “Me and my car rule the road and we don't stop for nobody” deserve to be dragged by their thumbs behind a speeding SUV.
Pedestrians, please realize that traveling by foot does not give you some sort of God-given privilege to step into the street whenever it is your whim to do so. Drivers, please realize that in a battle of might between a car and a pedestrian, the car will always win. You do not want to hit someone. Imagine the psychological trauma that any reasonably sensitive person would experience, if he ran someone over with his car. Please, watch for people who are trying to cross and give them a chance to do so.


  1. I was once crossing Hinton as I was walking down Avon street. I was in the intersection when a woman came barreling down Hinton in a large SUV (she had been at least as far away as the other side of the Rialto intersection when I stepped into the street), talking on her cellphone, and looking down Avon (away from town). She actually brushed up against me in her rolling stop and had the gall to look offended when I started drumming my fists on her hood and yelling, "PAY ATTENTION!"

  2. Don't even get me started on drivers with cell phones.
    Thanks for stopping by my site.
    Yay! Let the pedestrian vs car horror stories begin!

  3. HEAR, HEAR! thanks for telling pedestrians to be responsible, too. I frankly, when I'm walking, feel better letting cars go ahead of me, because it seems to me, if you're in a car, you are in more of a hurry than me, who is walking. I don't mind letting cars go. I don't want to compete. I HATE when pedestrians lollygag across the road esp at night, as you say, and in dark clothing. I usually find drivers pretty considerate of me when I'm walking - except I do wonder about those people who see, my two year old, and my big pregnant self IN THE CROSSWALK near downtown and don't stop - THAT really pisses me off.

  4. Yeah, well, I drive, too. My biggest complaints are folks who run across 29 between Best Buy and Hydraulic, wearing black after dark. And folks who jaywalk when sun glare is at its worst.

    I've had many more close calls as a pedestrian, though, and it really irritates me. I haven't seen a revenue/safety day lately where the cops sit downtown and write tickets for drivers who don't yield right of way. I like those days.

  5. Last summer, my daughters and I were walking out of a grocery store, when a pick up truck carrying an older couple nearly ran us over as we cross from the store to the parking lot. As it was a hot day, the truck's windows were down, so I yelled very loudly, "Thanks for stopping for us!" The drivers looked quite surprised, but not as surprised as my children were.