First off, let me just say I am a pedestrian. My apartment is not easily metro accessible, so I choose to walk 40 minutes to work every day. In those 40 minutes I go through two traffic circles and numerous major intersections. I also see at least one near pedestrian-bicyclist-driver accident PER DAY, which, in almost all cases could have been avoided. Normally I would chalk this up to my particularly busy commuter route. However, today I saw THIS. Jesus. We have a problem.
I support recent efforts by the police to ticket jaywalking pedestrians at major intersections, such as 14th and U street. Nobody is in such a hurry that they have to jaywalk, or too tired to walk to an actual intersection. As an equal opportunity employer, I am also in favor of police ticketing cars that don’t yield to pedestrians as well as bicyclists that seem to ignore traffic rules altogether. All I ask is that these laws are enforced fairly. We don’t need another racket.
However, in addition to throwing my support behind ticketing, I wanted to give 5 tips to help my fellow ipod-wearing, croissant-snacking, oblivious pedestrians of the world avoid injury, or worse. They are as follows…
- Make eye contact with drivers on the street. The simplest of rules, but so few do it. Drivers may not see you when they pull out of a driveway or turn, so don’t just walk out. Even if you have the right of way, make sure your presence is personally acknowledged.
- Recognize the limitations of headphones. Pedestrians: cutting off your sense of sound severly limits your perception. Even though you can see the world, you are very handicapped in reacting to it. Going into a coma because you got too into the chorus of “Don’t Stop Believin” would be exceptionally sad. On multiple levels.
- If the red hand is solid, there is a reason for it. The scene plays out like this: the hand is solid red but pedestrians see no cars. They then observe that the hand is red for the other direction too and start getting confused. One idiot just starts crossing and everyone lemmings. Then about halfway across, they see a car zooming to try to make the left hand turn arrow, which it now cannot make because it is thwarted by the walking zombie herd. Driver dies a bit inside.
- Do not jump the gun on the traffic signal. Just don’t. It’s a negligible amount of time to wait and so many cars get trapped in the intersection because pedestrians walk on yellow (14th and K?) . Let’s be honest, your morning routine of reading your email, sighing and getting up to get a cup of coffee can wait one second to prevent chaos.
- Resist the traffic circle temptation. In a traffic circle pedestrians are confronted with short distances to cross, long wait times, and no assurances that cars will even take their circle exit. Many combat this by “guessing” which exit cars are going to take and racing across. Never works. I would say 50% of near collisions I see happen this way. Just be PATIENT.
So pedestrians, I adore you, but be cautious. We have a lot more to lose in this game than the car, and need to get our act together accordingly.