Pedestrians Unite!

Okay, so I'm a pedestrian. I walk far more than I drive. I used to be like everyone else: driving to every destination farther than two blocks away. Now, I try my best to walk everywhere, in every kind of weather, for any kind of occasion. I've learned quite a few tricks to realize this ambition. Another benefit is that after about six months of walking 40+ miles per week, I have some crazy endurance in other activities. The shoe bills are starting to become apparent, though.

The biggest problem, though, is non-pedestrians. I've known since I was about 15-years old, that this town is the home of a quaint mix of super-old people, over-committed soccer moms, and hormone-enraged teenagers. These groups rarely spend time together. They don't have a common dialogue or frame of reference. However, for a brief period of time every evening, they all have to share the road. Needless to say, this doesn't always create the safest environment for people who aren't safely wrapped in 2000 pounds of steel alloys and high-density polymers.

I've come within a few inches of being flattened three times. Two of those times, it was only my awareness and cat-like reflexes that saved me from a trip to the hospital. The first time it was at night, and I was crossing a side street, so it was more an issue of the guy in the pickup not using his turn signal (it would have been hard to see me). The other two times were in broad daylight at signaled intersections, and I had a walk signal. Both of those times, the drivers were talking on their cell phones. I'm just glad their conversations weren't inconvenienced by proper awareness of 6'2" objects on the road surface.

While having my immediate health threatened is somewhat disconcerting, it's not infuriating like all the overly-polite people.


So, this part of my entry is an open letter to the "polite" drivers out there:

Here's the deal: I'm 100x more aware of my surroundings than you are. I have 10x the acceleration curve that your car does. I can go from my maximum speed to a full stop in about 1/20th the distance you can. I can leap across a 4-lane highway like a gazelle in about four steps. Quit stopping for me when you have the right-of-way!

You are a very considerate person, and you're in the top 10% of safe drivers. I respect that. But, I don't know you from the other 90% of inept operators. If there's no marked crosswalk, you don't have a stop or yield sign, and I happen to be approaching the curb, just keep driving.

To clarify, you're approaching an intersection and decelerating with no traffic signal or sign. Everyone else in your situation is making a turn without using a turn signal. Then, you come along and destroy my lack of faith in your ability to make observations about your environment. Who are you? Why are you being nice?

Crap, you're a nice person! Now, I'm obliged to jog across the intersection, so I don't keep you from reaching your destination on time.

So seriously, just quit stopping for me. Knock it off. Drive right through.


That being said, this is for the rest of you (who apparently just got your operator's license last week):

The pair of solid white lines on the road around intersections are off-limits to stationary vehicles. You can't stop or pause when any part of your vehicle is within the crosswalks.

That gets to my next point: stop leading turns! Why is this acceptable behavior? You can't stop your vehicle in an intersection (including the crosswalks). Most people who lead right-hand turns are actually running the light. People who lead left-hand turns are breaking the no-stopping-in-intersections rule, and they're not getting through the turn any faster. In fact, I can make a left-hand turn through denser traffic than you can because I don't have to make it across oncoming traffic accelerating from a dead stop. Let's not mention the fact that you're potentially blocking emergency vehicles. And, if you drive like that, you want to be on the good side of the people who drive emergency vehicles, because you're going to need their services eventually.

If there are no crosswalk lines on the road, but there is a stop or yield sign, you have to stop behind the sign telling you to stop. I know it's not always easy to see around the corner when you make a proper stop, but you've rolled through the sign if you're in front of it. Believe it or not, there are reasons outside of your comprehension for the placement of traffic signs. For one, if there's a sidewalk, the signs are positioned so you don't obstruct pedestrians.

User your turn signals! Turn signals aren't just for other drivers. If you're making a turn without signaling, and I happen to be crossing the road onto which you're turning, you might be confused as to why a tall, healthy-looking dude is walking so slow. Furthermore, if I'm crossing on the far side of the intersection, you just lost like a 1000 karma points for making me wait for no good reason.

Don't act nice and wave me across, then peel out like I just made you late to the birth of your first child. I've filled my quota for interacting with bipolar people long ago.

Get off the cell phone. I realize it's not illegal (yet) to talk on your phone and drive. But, seriously, that has to be a law to make you stop? People should just realize they're way more likely to kill some people, and decide on their own that they'd rather not commit vehicular manslaughter that day. It should fall under the same category of malfeasance as randomly discharging a firearm in the middle of town. Furthermore, if you text or make outgoing calls while driving, I might be significantly less inclined to give you shelter in my well-stocked, fortified house after the zombie apocalypse and/or robot uprising. The reduced gene pool will have a better chance to succeed without you.


If you ride a bike to get around, here's the rules most of you don't know:

Bikes under pedal power are not allowed on normal sidewalks. You can push a bike on a sidewalk. Most towns, these days, have designated sidewalks that are designed for bikes (marked with signs, and possibly symbols painted on the pavement). If you don't like riding on the street, you're going to have to go out of your way to use these sidewalks. The really great towns have bike lanes on most of the major roads.

If you want to break the rules and ride on a normal sidewalk, don't get frustrated getting around pedestrians walking in the middle of the sidewalk. You're the interloper. You have to yield to everyone.

Seriously, you need to get comfortable sharing the road. Bikes don't have to ride on shoulders or in gutters. They are a valid user of the road with all the rights and responsibilities of a full-sized automobile. By law, a bicycle takes up the full width of the lane in which they are traveling. You also have to come to complete stops at traffic signals and signs (behind the crosswalks), signal your turns, and travel on the right-hand side of the road, just like cars.

Granted, you're not always going to go as fast as cars, so you're also considered a slow-moving vehicle (like a piece of farm equipment). Cars can pass you safely if the adjacent lane is clear of traffic. You have no obligation to move off of the primary road surface (even though, you're totally allowed to do so). That's not a license to ride in the left-hand edge of the lane, or ride double-file with your buddies. I'm just trying to help you understand that your place is not on the sidewalk. You belong on the road.


If you walk for a lot of your transportation, I have some simple tips for you:

Turn signals are so sporadically used, you can't trust a single person to use them correctly. Just assume everyone is going to drive right into you without seeing you 10 feet in front of them. This tactic has saved me more times than you would believe.

Don't immediately cross the street if a nice driver is waving you across. Check all the other ways a second car can jump out of nowhere and run you over. Commercial driving instructors tell their students to never wave someone across because of that very reason.


Now, get out there and wear out some shoes!