Walking in the Street


There are a variety of safe ways to cross the street as a pedestrian. It is perfectly fine to stay on the sidewalk until a signal or driver grants you permission to cross. I prefer to cross more boldly. A friend summarized it well on my Facebook today:

Jaywalking is okay, but pedestrians are in charge of their own safety. If a driver sees a jaywalker step into the street as they approach, they should keep a steady pace, or slow down, but not stop. Most likely the pedestrian is going to walk behind the car.

These are great rules. I would add the following:

  • The central rule of jaywalking is to know where the cars are and not get hit.
  • Pedestrians should time their crossing to not make cars slow down.
  • There’s only a problem if either pedestrian or car gets too close to each other, such that the other has to stop or change direction abruptly to stay safe.
  • At crosswalks where there’s no walk signal, pedestrians have the right of way and cars need to stop. If pedestrians don’t assert themselves in this context, they are abdicating their power to cars.
  • It’s safe to start crossing a crosswalk if on the other side of the street a car is still passing; they’ll be gone when the pedestrian gets there.
  • If there are too many pedestrians close to the street for a driver to stop quickly if they need to, the car is going to fast.

When there is a tragic collision with a pedestrian, I tend to default to holding the more powerful party, the driver, responsible. Our culture does not tend to create safe environments for pedestrians, nor does it regularly remind drivers that they are using dangerous machinery. A lot of people have no choice but to make driving an irreplaceable and mindless part of their day. I’ll post tomorrow about some ways to bring more equality to the choice of which method of transportation to use.

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