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Jaywalking Redux

For more shockingly dangerous pedestrian behavior, I present Streetfilms and Mark Gorton.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, October 15th, 2009 at 10:26 am and is filed under Pedestrians, Traffic safety. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

17 Responses to “Jaywalking Redux”

  1. Bossi Says:

    I ended up in court one time when I walked up and over a guy’s hood, seeing as it was in the crosswalk and all. The judge sided with me, with it ultimately being framed in that by his interpretation of pedestrian-centric law: the motorist stopped on the crosswalk struck me. Whether I agree with it or not, I don’t know; but I’ve always been amused by how there are few aspects of civilised life where law and reality are so disparate.

  2. Jonathan Says:

    Peds need to smack more cars who block crosswalks (or walk on their hoods, if you’re up for that…).

    I’ve been embarrassing my wife by doing this for years (smacking cars with my hand, not walking on them). Even did it to a police car trying to make a right on red as I was in the crosswalk. Told him he better turn on the lights and sirens before he tries to run me over.

    The head of Caltrans even mentioned that he does this to. Score!

  3. Jonathan Says:

    …he does this too.

  4. Vagabondblogger Says:

    First, I think the narrator is over the top – traffic happens. People get stuck in crosswalks when they think traffic in front of them will clear up. I think this is more a traffic planning problem, than absolute rudeness. He should visit Cairo if he’s got a problem with traffic, where pedestrians regularly dash out in oncoming traffic, even on highways (looked like he was in NYC.)

    Also, just as I was leaving the UAE they instituted a block system at intersections. Any car caught inside the block (intersection) would be fined. The block was clearance for intersection traffic and pedestrians.

    And, last, after visiting DC, I noticed a timing system on the walk lights, telling pedestrians – “this is how long you have left to cross the street before you get creamed.” It seemed to work pretty efficiently.

  5. Quinn Says:

    Vagabondblogger, give me a break. “Traffic happens?” Drivers only get stuck in crosswalks when they’re trying to make the light and rather than waiting on the other side of the intersection they try their luck and end up looking like fools in the crosswalk.

    As a DCer, the timer on the crosswalks is nice, but drivers seem to ignore it. Just a month or so ago, a jogger was mowed down, in the crosswalk on a “walk” signal by a bus driver making a right turn. I see it all the time as I try to cross streets here…drivers think they can drive/turn faster than the pedestrian in the crosswalk. Its just plain rude. But of course when 3/5 drivers are distracted on their cell phones, what else can you expect?

  6. Peter Smith Says:

    good film! agree — the bullying of walkers/bikers by cars is endemic, and needs to stop. not sure exactly how we get there, but this film is a good start.

  7. Bossi Says:

    @Vagabond-
    A bit off-topic, but I did want to chime in about those countdowns you saw, which bear the technical name of Countdown Pedestrian Signals (CPS). Those countdowns you saw in DC are actually becoming a nationwide trend. Maryland, for example, is rolling them out at all intersections. The caveat is that DC actually operates non-compliant countdowns: they’re supposed to count down only during the flashing don’t walk phase; not during the walk phase. For a variety of reasons, counting down during the walk phase can result in bizarre truncations or extensions… it’s not unusual to see a countdown in DC suddenly jump from 70 seconds to 5 seconds.

    Though back to topic: I wholeheartedly agree. Sure, there are some jerks out there, but I’m a firm believer that by and large people *want* to do the right thing; it’s just that we’re all so readily enticed into doing the wrong thing. I hate blocking crosswalks, but I know I’ve found myself stuck on them a couple times. I try not to occupy an intersection unless I have an open way out, but sometimes I mistake the opening or (admittedly) I might be distracted by something. I might not use mobile phones while driving, but listening to NPR certainly fills my void of distracted driving.

    I also feel that this Streetfilms piece is a bit over the top, and admittedly so was my mentality as I navigated crosswalk back in my university days. Nowadays I try and reserve judgment a bit more. :)

  8. Josh R Says:

    “Traffic happens” is to a great extent a bullshit excuse for bad/inattentive behavior. In heavy traffic conditions I always try to notice the drivers who don’t end up blocking the intersection as well as the ones who do, and believe me there are people who are tuned in and doing it right, they look far enough ahead to see how traffic is flowing, and they choose to not enter the intersection until they’re sure they won’t get caught blocking anybody. Mistakes happen, sure, but most of the crosswalk and intersection blocking I see is drivers who can plainly see that there isn’t enough room on the other side, but they go anyway. Why? Pure cost/benefit calculation. They know they’re not going to get a ticket, because what cop is going to start pulling people over at rush hour and block traffic even more? and they know that nobody else is going to call them on their rudeness, they just get a free pass and don’t have to sit through a light cycle, there’s absolutely no reason not to do it.

    I’ve also smacked cars turning in front of me in crosswalks, although so far I’ve resisted the strong urge to strike them with my key ring as they pass.

  9. Rich Wilson Says:

    I used to have a walk home past an upscale apartment complex egress onto a busy 4 lane street. The arterial had a controlled signal, but cars always stopped in the cross walk, well past the detector. You’d think they’d learn, but they didn’t. They’d end up waiting until a 2nd car pulled up behind them. I used to take great pleasure in telling them that if they didn’t break the law and stop with their rear wheels over the stop line, they’d get the light. At which point they’d sheepishly back up. I was temped to do the hood walk, but never had the guts. Might be a dangerous proposition in some places.

  10. townmouse Says:

    Some of those cars look way too big for hood-walking, tempting as it might be…

    I quite like the way he’s framing it as ‘rudeness’ rather than primarily dangerous behaviour. So much of the stress of traffic interactions comes from the feeling not so much that we’ve just almost been killed, but that someone has not shown us any respect or kindness. I did glare at some poor woman caught in a crossing like that the other day and she looked so sheepish that I wished I hadn’t been so rude after all. A wry smile, or a shrug can go so much further than a scowl or a slap on the bumper.

  11. Thomas Kent Says:

    An alternative to “hood walking” is to open the rear door, scoot on through, open the other rear door and walk off. LEAVING BOTH DOORS OPEN!
    After the driver has to get out to close his rear doors a few times, he (or she) just might get the hint!

  12. Quinn Says:

    @Thomas Kent – that is brilliant. LOL x a million.

  13. Eileen Says:

    I hate countdown signals. DC law is very clear: a pedestrian who begins crossing with a “walk” signal has the right of way until they get across the street or to a “safety island” and a driver who fails to give right of way has committed a crime punishable by 30 days in jail, a $500 fine, and/or community service; there also is a civil fine and, unfortunately, that is pretty much the only enforcement. Countdown signals do nothing other than to leave drivers with a misimpression that pedestrians have some duty to clear the intersection in a specific amount of time. We don’t, and there is way too much emphasis in this country on protecting pedestrians by burdening our right to walk further and further, rather than concentrating on enforcement of the law against the criminals who break it.

    Those signals also are irritating because their timing rarely has anything to do with safety — at one intersection here, the signal on the west side of the street switches to don’t walk 22 seconds before the signal on the east side does yet, oddly, the road is the same width on both sides. Why does it do this? Most likely because some traffic engineer decided it was appropriate to burden pedestrian rights so that more drivers can turn right (it’s one way, so no right turn on the east side of the street). I’ve complained multiple times, and the pedestrian coordinator has inquired as well, and no change in this for almost 3 years now. (It’s not the only intersection where this is true; it’s just the one that annoys me the most.)

    And, if a driver is blocking the crosswalk, I am not particularly careful about how I carry my groceries. I don’t intentionally hit the car, but you know, the law requires me to stay in crosswalk and if I only have so much space…well, things sometimes happen. Loudly enough that it hopefully gets the drivers attention, but not to do actual damage.

  14. Vagabondblogger Says:

    To everyone who thinks I was trying to make excuses when I said “traffic happens”, I’m a big believer in public transportation. If I’m in NYC or DC, I will walk, or take the subway. I’ve lived overseas for 12 (going on 13) years now, in 3 different cities, and as a pedestrian have learned that my life is my responsibility. Blocking the intersection is probably low on my list of offenses.

    As for the DC timers – that was the first time I had ever seen them.

  15. doctorjay Says:

    I slapped the hood of a car in Times Square that forced its way into a cross-walk. He almost hit me so I smacked his hood. He put the car in park, jumped out and yelled at me, furious. “I’ll cut you!” he sceamed.

    The other pedestrians just looked at him as he started coming after me. But then the light went green and he was blocking traffic through the intersection. Cabbies were honking and yelling and he climbed back in his car. Idiot.

  16. Scott Says:

    “People get stuck in crosswalks when they think traffic in front of them will clear up.”

    No, they get stuck in crosswalks when they either don’t pay attention or are too selfish to care about other road users. It’s pretty simple: don’t enter the intersection if you can’t exit it.

  17. Eileen Says:

    Obstructing a crosswalk may simply “inconvenience” most pedestrians, but it makes the life of anyone who needs to use the curb cut on either side (people in wheelchairs, people with small children in strollers), or who has difficulty walking, even more difficult and unsafe. If I were going to criticize the video for anything, it would be to say that it would be more effective if it showed how the drivers’ behavior can endanger someone who needs a clear route across the crosswalk.

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Traffic Tom Vanderbilt

How We Drive is the companion blog to Tom Vanderbilt’s New York Times bestselling book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), published by Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S. and Canada, Penguin in the U.K, and in languages other than English by a number of other fine publishers worldwide.

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