Join 3,556 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


In Defense of Jaywalking
November 10, 2009 8:32 PM   Subscribe

Interesting article at Slate, In Defense of Jaywalking, where the author describes how the media and others often slant coverage of pedestrian vs auto accidents--examples include San Francisco Chronicle, Boston Globe , and New York Post columns. Police, who are typically car-bound, are often biased in favor of other drivers. Not unexpectedly the Federal Highway Administration has curious language regarding walkers--"Still, almost no one can avoid occasional pedestrian status". Even the term jaywalking is commonly misused. Solutions? More money towards safer walking (including a reversal of funding policies that favor cars), better places to walk, pedestrian-friendly engineering, lower urban speed limits, harsher penalties for drivers that violate pedestrian's rights, and critical reading of the often selective and sensationalized media coverage of traffic crashes.
posted by aerotive (100 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
As a regular pedestrian, I feel for my brothers of the sidewalk. In fact, I just got home walking from the store. As I was crossing the crosswalk during my designated time slot, an impatient truck that was trying to turn right honked at me several times. YOU ARE IN A TRUCK, YOU CAN GET WHERE YOU NEED FASTER THAN I CAN.
posted by Taft at 8:40 PM on November 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


I've had this bumper sticker for years: "I'm A Pedestrian & I VOTE!"
I don't know where to stick it. I don't own a car and it'd look stupid on a bike.
posted by Floydd at 8:40 PM on November 10, 2009 [11 favorites]


I'm both a pedestrian and a driver, and I hate hate hate jaywalking and love the crosswalks. In my state, it's required by law that drivers stop for people in crosswalks. Consequently I approach them slowly and always wait for the pedestrians. When I'm a pedestrian, I expect the same.

When people start jaywalking in the city - big tourist weekends mostly - is when it gets dangerous. If I'm driving, I find people walking out unexpectedly between cars, midblock, all over the place - and I'm not as alert to them, because they're out of place. And if I'm walking, I find that fed-up drivers who have been abruptly stop-and-starting for blocks because of the oblivious pedestrians become more rattled and less attentive at the actual crosswalks.

The whole ebb and flow works best when the crosswalks are used, and when drivers have to stop and that's enforced.
posted by Miko at 8:49 PM on November 10, 2009 [6 favorites]


Wait -- you're telling me that an article in Slate takes a relatively uncontroversial topic, camps out a weird contrarian position for no discernible reason, then baits people on the Internet into arguing with it?

Impossible.
posted by verb at 8:54 PM on November 10, 2009 [12 favorites]


When I'm driving I hate jaywalkers, when I'm walking I jaywalk.

I'm a walking driving hypocrite
posted by kylej at 8:56 PM on November 10, 2009 [13 favorites]


I recently moved downtown and have walked more in downtown areas in the past month and a half than I probably have in the past 10 years.

The first few days, I would stand there at an intersection where the few cars would go when the light changed and then there'd be no other cars. But I'd wait like a good law abiding citizen even though other pedestrians would be crossing.

My reluctance to flaunt the little red hand was because 20 years ago I was on Mill Avenue in Tempe Arizona on a Thursday night and I was in a similar situation. No other cars, we crossed at a crosswalk. At the other side there were Tempe cops waiting in a sting for us. I got a ticket for a "pedestrian red light violation". Like a dumbass I didn't pay the $150 ticket and it ended up going up to $400 and I had a warrant out for my arrest. I finally paid it and got straight with the Tempe Police.

The other part of me was the laws that were drilled into my head when I was learning to drive. Pedestrians have the right of way. Every intersection -- marked or unmarked -- can be used as a crosswalk and pedestrians have the right of way. Car drivers rarely respect this, but the law is the law motherfuckers.

So now, I'll cross when it is safe. (But I'll look to see if there's any cops waiting to bust me.) I don't cross in the middle of the street for the most part. If I do get hit by a car I hope even if I'm killed, the driver is cited for failing to yield the right of way to a pedestrian.

When I'm driving in downtown pedestrian dense areas, I'll assume the pedestrians near the corner will cross in front of me and be ready to stop.
posted by birdherder at 8:58 PM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is a really good post, thanks. That "funding policies" link is worth a close look for anyone who cares about this.
posted by mediareport at 8:59 PM on November 10, 2009


and I'm not as alert to them, because they're out of place

For me, they only seem out of place and dangerous out of the city when it's rare. In cities, you've got people all over the place, bikes all over, and everyone is on the lookout. I'm pretty much okay with jaywalkers, and also am one. I hardly ever drive around here though, I usually jaywalk and take public transit, so that's probably colored me a little.
posted by floam at 9:00 PM on November 10, 2009


The whole ebb and flow works best when the crosswalks are used, and when drivers have to stop and that's enforced.

I am *this* close to carrying pebbles in my pocket to throw at cars that ignore a crosswalk at a nearby street I cross all the time.
posted by mediareport at 9:00 PM on November 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yes, those people who cross the street nowhere near a crosswalk, and stand on the middle line in defiance while waiting for cars to pass, they have the moral high ground, as do all the people who cross at intersections, not on the crosswalk, but between cars stopped at the light. Oh, and let's not forget the people who fear the flow of traffic, but not left turners with an arrow.
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 9:01 PM on November 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


cops waiting in a sting for us. I got a ticket for a "pedestrian red light violation".

Holy crap… what is the thinking behind that? Sounds like a good way to scare shoppers, tourists out of where they should probably want people.
posted by floam at 9:03 PM on November 10, 2009


In the city, where I live (Denver: Everycity USA), there are the occasional drunks who cross the street without looking to the left or right. But we usually see them. I have heard from a friend talking to a bum (sorry, not feeling P.C. right now) that they say it's better to be hit in a crosswalk because you can get legal damages.

What pisses me off is the suburbs (into which I venture every year or two). There is nowhere for a regular person, on foot, to walk! Malls for cars only. I feel like I'm on another planet, trying to actually walk from one mall to another, across a street whose signage and traffic lights indicate that the planners never thought that a human being might actually want to walk somewhere. To a regular city guy, who drives, bicycles, walks, and takes the bus, the suburbs are an alien and unfriendly environment.
posted by kozad at 9:06 PM on November 10, 2009 [6 favorites]


I recently moved to NYC from a west coast city and positively adore the culture of jaywalking here. Admittedly, I'm a non-driver, so I don't have a direct sense of the frustration involved in having to pay more attention to one's environment while driving. However, (and again, this is as a non-driver) I really appreciate the sense that the smaller streets here absolutely belong to people on foot instead of drivers, and the way I feel, at least in a small way, more mentally active while walking around — instead of only paying attention to the traffic lights and the glowing orange hand, I'm watching those things and the actual state of traffic and what the other pedestrians around me are doing, and the better I am at observing and acting on observations, the faster I get places.

There's a lot to be annoyed about here (I sort of feel like 3/4ths of the people who fall in love with this place are coming from regions where there simply aren't functional cities, and as such don't have a point of reference), but the jaywalking thing, like, uh, rocks.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 9:10 PM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Slate also recently ran a really interesting article on whether or not bicyclists should always obey stop signs. ("vehicularists" vs "faciliators") Gave me a new perspective on things.
posted by jcruelty at 9:21 PM on November 10, 2009


NYC needs its jaywalkers, they slow down traffic, and that's a good thing in a city filled with wall-to-wall parallel parking. Having to always wonder if a person, animal, or object is going to pop out between cars keeps most drivers pretty cautious about their speed and touchy on the brake. Considering how many hundreds, if not thousands of people occupy a block at any given time, that's an incredibly important state to be in.

I get really angry when I see a car blow down a residential street at a speed that guarantees they'd have no chance to stop if they had to. Because one of these days, they're going to have to.
posted by hermitosis at 9:26 PM on November 10, 2009 [5 favorites]


Incidentally, I'll bet you anything that most of the New Yorkers who complain about cyclists ignoring traffic laws will totally jet diagonally across an intersection or cross the street mid-block if the way is safe and clear (as it very often is). I also bet that they will deny this vociferously for argument's sake.
posted by hermitosis at 9:29 PM on November 10, 2009 [6 favorites]


I was walking in Lancaster, PA a couple years ago while waiting for my friend to get her nails done before a wedding. I had to get out of the nail place at the strip mall since it smelled like cancer and took a walk along the road. It was one of those suburban roads that isn't a highway but might as well be, with sidewalks that appear and disappear for no reason at all.

I had walked maybe 10 minutes around looking for someplace to go read or hang out. Two people stopped for me asking if I was okay or if my car had broken down. This was both sad and nice. Sad that no clean cut middle class looking guy would ever walk around there, and if he did it was because he was in trouble, nice since two people actually stopped to help a stranger.

While we often say that "Everyone is a pedestrian", that's not always true. I know enough people that get in their car in the garage and then drive to their garage at work and no where during the rest of the day do they walk on "public property".

In San Francisco, people actually park on the sidewalks at night when they "can't find parking", and you actually have to call the DPT to get them ticketed.

In a sane society, this would be akin to parking on someone else's lawn without permission.
If I had a couch or a huge box full of stuff I couldn't find a storage unit for and I put it on the sidewalk for safekeeping, the city would come and take it away and likely fine me.

If I do the same thing with my car, blocking the sidewalk, everyone shrugs and continues driving on.

weird.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 9:36 PM on November 10, 2009


Incidentally, I'll bet you anything that most of the New Yorkers who complain about cyclists ignoring traffic laws will totally jet diagonally across an intersection

Hello! I am a New Yorker who occasionally complains about cyclists ignoring traffic laws, and I often jet diagonally across streets when the way is obviously safe and clear.

Cyclists frighten me when they behave in ways that are totally unpredictable, i.e. going the wrong way or disobeying red lights in busy intersections. I wish the city was more committed to bike travel; I think it would go a long way towards incorporating cyclists into the rhythms and patterns of traffic.
posted by lalex at 9:45 PM on November 10, 2009


In my experience, even pedestrian-friendly cities like Boston and Cambridge have very inconsistent pedestrian signals. Some intersections have buttons that do nothing, while others never give pedestrians the go-ahead unless a button is pressed. Sometimes the transition to a steady don't walk signal means the light is about to turn red, and sometimes it means that there's ten more seconds of green. A lot of times a don't walk signal coincides with a green light in the same direction and little turning traffic. This all conditions pedestrians to ignore the signals. This means that on rare occasions when pedestrian signals are useful (don't walk across Boylston when the cars have a protected left turn from Mass Ave) they're routinely ignored, adding to traffic congestion (protected left cycles are short) and general driver frustration with pedestrians.
posted by komilnefopa at 9:49 PM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


cops waiting in a sting for us. I got a ticket for a "pedestrian red light violation".

Holy crap… what is the thinking behind that? Sounds like a good way to scare shoppers, tourists out of where they should probably want people.
posted by floam at 9:03 PM


Nope. ASU students wanting to get their drink on. It was at night in the entertainment district. Yes, drunk jaywalkers do get hit and this might be their way of "making the streets safer" but if that were the case, they shouldn't be busting sober people walking *to* the bar, but go after the drunks stumbling out of the bar.
posted by birdherder at 10:09 PM on November 10, 2009


Miko: "When people start jaywalking in the city - big tourist weekends mostly - is when it gets dangerous. If I'm driving, I find people walking out unexpectedly between cars, midblock, all over the place - and I'm not as alert to them, because they're out of place. And if I'm walking, I find that fed-up drivers who have been abruptly stop-and-starting for blocks because of the oblivious pedestrians become more rattled and less attentive at the actual crosswalks. "

I think anyone who's been surprised while driving will shift into a more-vigilant mode, at least for a few minutes. I can't imagine that drivers who've been annoyed at jaywalkers will be more likely to blow through regular crosswalks, unless they're trying to run over people as revenge. And I'd like to think better of people than that.
posted by alexei at 10:14 PM on November 10, 2009


One of my pet peeves is that some people think they can't die in a crosswalk.

I don't mind an occasional jaywalker. They know they are in the wrong, and they are watching out, and they hustle.

I can't stand complacent ambling inattentive crosswalkers. Mid block crosswalks are death traps. There is nothing protective about paint on the street that will save you from a car.

Also, people shouldn't act like they own the road, whether they are walking, driving or biking. I own the road.
posted by SLC Mom at 10:25 PM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Jaywalking is easy if you think of it as a video game.
posted by twoleftfeet at 10:27 PM on November 10, 2009


I'm just baffled by the idea that the dangerous people are the jaywalkers rather than the drivers. It seems obvious to me that in order for jaywalking to be dangerous, there have to be cars. In a world without jaywalking, there would still be traffic fatalities; in a world with jaywalking but no cars, traffic fatalities would be staggeringly rare.
posted by baf at 10:33 PM on November 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


great post, thanks!

one of my favorite little things about having moved to Switzerland is pedestrian priority. Crosswalks are essentially sacred, to the extent that on my first visit here I thought a friend of mine had some sort of hitherto unspoken death-wish jumping out into the street without looking, to the extent I've actually seen motorists brake to the point of skidding and apologize profusely through the window when they suddenly notice someone standing in the wings. There are exceptions, of course – watch out for low-riders with ground-effect lighting on their way to the clubs, same as in the States – but overall it's quite refreshing. You get used to it quickly – when visiting America I draw at least one honk crossing the street before I realize that on average motorists there either aren't paying attention, don't particularly care not to hit me, or believe that right of way is the simple sum of mass and impatience.

I think part of it's cultural – driving is clearly a privilege and not a right in Switzerland, and this is underlined by the costs of licensing, purchasing and operating a car – but a large part is definitely a feature of the built environment. Streets generally narrow near crosswalks, so people wanting to cross are clearly visible well before they do. Traffic lighting reinforces this – crosswalks generally go green before parallel traffic lights, and there is almost always a flashing yellow light to remind motorists turning right that pedestrians have right of way.

(The trams are a different story. Cross in front of them, and you get about a half second of angry bell followed by an ambulance ride.)
posted by Vetinari at 10:49 PM on November 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


I always find it interesting the faith that my fellow walkers put in the crosswalk lights, or more accurately, that the drivers will obey the lights.

When I'm on foot with other people waiting for the little green man to come up, I'm amazed at how everyone stares at the little green man and obeys him.

Me, I wait for the green man, AND THEN LOOK AT THE TRAFFIC. No way am I crossing unless I've seen the front row of cars stop for their red light.

Sure, sometimes I have to do a little "Yes, I am going to cross" dance on the curb while I'm ensuring the cars have stopped, but its better than trusting everyone else to obey the lights.

(And all that said - when its safe to cross in my estimation, then I cross, little red man be damned).

Take care of yourself and trust no driver.
posted by jjderooy at 11:06 PM on November 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


I ride my bike to work 5 days a week to dowtown San Francisco. I have come to this conclusion: Pedestrians, drivers and cyclists are all equally retarded.
posted by runcibleshaw at 11:11 PM on November 10, 2009 [5 favorites]


I'm just baffled by the idea that the dangerous people are the jaywalkers rather than the drivers. It seems obvious to me that in order for jaywalking to be dangerous, there have to be cars. In a world without jaywalking, there would still be traffic fatalities; in a world with jaywalking but no cars, traffic fatalities would be staggeringly rare.

Also a good defense of arson. In order for arsonists to be dangerous, there have to be flammable dwellings. In a world without arsonists, there would still be deadly house fires; in a world with arsonists but no flammable dwellings, deadly house fires would be staggeringly rare.

I'm not equating jaywalkers to arsonists here... just colorfully pointing out that a necessary condition is not a causal condition. I really like jaywalking, actually. As long as I'm not driving. When I'm the one driving, that's when I equate jaywalking to arson.
posted by painquale at 11:18 PM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


in a world with jaywalking but no cars, traffic fatalities would be staggeringly rare.

It'd probably be coincident with paved roads. Don't underestimate the danger of being trampled by horses.
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 11:21 PM on November 10, 2009


Move along, nothing to see here.
posted by Rat Spatula at 11:41 PM on November 10, 2009


I'm just baffled by the idea that the dangerous people are the jaywalkers rather than the drivers. It seems obvious to me that in order for jaywalking to be dangerous, there have to be cars.

There's no such thing as jaywalking here in the UK. Motorists (of whom I am one) are expected to drive with sufficient care and attention and to give due consideration to the needs of other people using the road. That includes other motorists and pedestrians.

That means driving at such a speed and with enough attention as to be reasonably able to anticipate stuff, given the conditions under which you're driving. So if you hit someone who someone steps out into the road on a busy shopping street, you won't necessarily be prosecuted -- but you'd better not be going too fast/talking on your mobile phone/fiddling with your mp3 player, etc.

All of which seems perfectly reasonable to me, both as a motorist and as a pedestrian.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:50 PM on November 10, 2009 [5 favorites]


I was amused the time I got semi-hit by the dude who decided to make a turn off of a side street without checking first to make sure that there wasn't a pedestrian immediately in front of him. I mean, he was probably going about .5 miles per hour before I smacked the hood of the car (with my hand), but really. From a full stop to hitting a pedestrian crossing a side street two feet in front of your car is a pretty awesome lack of pedestrian awareness.
posted by that girl at 12:21 AM on November 11, 2009


There's no such thing as jaywalking here in the UK.

Quite. Nor is there in many other countries and not just socialist Europe. The only place that it is totally unreasonable to expect someone to cross the road is on a motorway [roughly equivalent to an interstate].

Slate's article would only be seen as contrarian in the pathologically pro-car US.
posted by rhymer at 12:24 AM on November 11, 2009 [5 favorites]


I need to get some magnetic 'stickers' that say "I AM A JERK WHO LIKES TO STOP MY CAR IN THE MIDDLE OF INTERSECTIONS" to slap on the cars I have to navigate around if I want to cross on the crosswalk when the light is green and the little AOL guy is lit up.
posted by aubilenon at 12:25 AM on November 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


My problem is with the people who don't seem to care if they are about to be roadkill. If you are going to cross a road in an unmarked location... MOVE IT..

The middle of a block is not your personal daydream place...
posted by MrLint at 12:26 AM on November 11, 2009


"From a full stop to hitting a pedestrian crossing a side street two feet in front of your car is a pretty awesome lack of pedestrian awareness."

Twice I've nearly been hit while using the crosswalk, by cars that were stopped before I even stepped onto the street. They're usually so engrossed with their phones or whatever that they don't even notice people are crossing in front of them, and then they start up without looking. Then there's the cars that blindly turn and expect you to get out of the way.

I've noticed that the respect you get from drivers has a lot to do with how old and/or infirm you are. When I was a kid no car ever stopped and let me cross the street, ever. Now as an adult I find that cars often do stop, but they can start up unpredictably or sometimes through intersections without warning. But when I'm with my senior citizen, walker-using father, it's like we're royalty or something. Even though we're going really slowly, everyone gives us priority and waits for us to cross and the whole situation feels much safer. So drivers can be polite sometimes.
posted by Kevin Street at 1:23 AM on November 11, 2009


I had a fun time trying to explain to explain to my European girlfriend why we couldn't just walk from the mall to the other mall next door, and that the only reasonable course of action was to get back in the car and drive there. She didn't believe me until we actually tried walking, and it was clearly not the proper use of that particular landscape. Plus going around the outside of the mall on foot is the stupidest, most boring walk ever invented.
posted by creasy boy at 1:39 AM on November 11, 2009


Vehicular traffic is an abberation. Private car ownership is a privilege, not a right. Why they presume ready access to 30% of the built environment is one of the great sleepwalked decisions of our civilisation, and with peak oil peaking, one of our dumbest collective default decisions.

A programme that began in the Netherlands and is being trialled around Europe removes the distinction between pavement(/sidewalk) and road and creates mixed-use space. The idea is that it wakes drivers from the autonomous 'driving mentality' they enter when the car is adopted as an extension of the nervous system, and creates safer spaces by forcing drivers to think about their use of space, speeds, and relationship to the environment - and encouraging the same of pedestrians. Can't find a link or the name of the project ATM, apologies, but I'm sure it's been posted here before as well.

Considering in the US alone cars are responsible for 4000 deaths per month, with countless injuries - really permenant, debilitating injuries - not to mention the cost of insurance, car crime, oil wars, and everything else which goes along with the numbers of private vehicles, it's time to reconsider the relationship we have with cars. The PubMed link was particularly interesting; the defacto framing of media coverage accentuates vehicular accidents as 'victim'/'villain', yet (in my opinion) didn't seem to go as far as to state that allowing people to shield themselves in a ton of metal with a powerful engine was inevitably going to lead to accidents.

I heard a programme on ResonanceFM some time back with a 'pedestrian activist' arguing his case. He made the point that many of the measures put in place to prevent pedestrians from crossing roads were leading to a greater number of accidents - a long iron fence running along Upper Street in London, designed to dissuade pedestrians from crossing the road usually resulted in pedestrians forced to cross at junctions instead.

I'm not going to make the argument that seat/safety belts lead to more reckless driving - but I wonder what impact there would be on drivers if vehicle insurance were outlawed? Too much we consider the use of vehicles a nescessary act, rather than an act of volition.

Thanks, aerotive, for the post.
posted by davemee at 2:13 AM on November 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


The whole concept of there being a criminal offence of jaywalking is quite bizarre to me. When I was on holiday in the States, I would just cross roads whereever, without any thought that I might be breaking the law. I'm not surprised hardly anyone walks anywhere- even walking around supposedly pedestrian friendly Pasadena was an excruciatingly annoying experience. Walk one block, wait ages for the green light. Repeat.
posted by salmacis at 2:32 AM on November 11, 2009


A programme that began in the Netherlands and is being trialled around Europe removes the distinction between pavement(/sidewalk) and road and creates mixed-use space ... Can't find a link or the name of the project ATM, apologies, but I'm sure it's been posted here before as well

The name you are looking for is Hans Monderman.
posted by Dr Dracator at 2:42 AM on November 11, 2009


Thank you, Dr. Dracator.
posted by davemee at 2:44 AM on November 11, 2009


There's no such thing as jaywalking here in the UK. Motorists (of whom I am one) are expected to drive with sufficient care and attention and to give due consideration to the needs of other people using the road. That includes other motorists and pedestrians.

As someone who walks everywhere, my pet hate is car drivers that are too considerate. Often I find myself stood waiting to cross one of the side streets that adjoin the main road I walk along to work. At least once a week someone who is turning down that road, and who has no traffic heading in the opposite direction and can just go and be gone in seconds, will wave me across.

They're trying to be nice, they're trying to be considerate but, more importantly, they're trying to tell me from the comfort of their safety cage when to put my squishy body into the path of oncoming vehicles. It's hard to gracefully decline too, all you can do is shake your head and then you end up pissing them off.
posted by vbfg at 2:46 AM on November 11, 2009 [7 favorites]


For a second I was thinking "How can Slate possibly think The Jay Leno Show is still a good idea?"
posted by ALongDecember at 2:54 AM on November 11, 2009


had a fun time trying to explain to explain to my European girlfriend why we couldn't just walk from the mall to the other mall next door

I can't wait until they invent malls you can drive around. Then we can forget about walking altogether.
posted by rhymer at 3:01 AM on November 11, 2009


Coming from someone who's lived in France (and so can walk into any road without looking and with a sense of self-entitlement, j'ai la priorité couillon): America, you are a strange country.
posted by litleozy at 3:52 AM on November 11, 2009


I can't wait until they invent malls you can drive around.

We've already tried that here in Georgia.

Actually, this city is notoriously pedestrian-unfriendly. Where I work large numbers of people have to cross a busy 5 lane street daily and accidents, even fatalities, occur regularly. The thing is, most of these are people crossing legally in a crosswalk. This is because at the crosswalk at an intersection you have cars coming from from 4 directions and turning right an left from each direction, with the predictable result that drivers are too busy looking out for other cars to notice pedestrians as well. The obvious solution to me is to cross in the middle of the block where there are only cars coming from 2 directions. Of course, after the last fatality about a year ago, the response of public safety was to crack down on jaywalkers, despite the fact that the unfortunate victim was crossing legally when she got hit by a bus driver blinded by the morning sun.
posted by TedW at 3:56 AM on November 11, 2009


As someone who walks everywhere, my pet hate is car drivers that are too considerate.

Here in Providence, RI, drivers pretty much stop and go randomly. As a pedestrian, there is really no way to figure out what they are going to do next. My general tactic is to assume all drivers are actively trying to kill me at all times. So far, it has kept me alive.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:13 AM on November 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


This is a great post, I agree.

Just the idea that anybody would consider this article to be taking a contrarian position is mind-boggling.

One of the things I love about having moved to Europe is that many of the things that I suspected as being perhaps a bit weird as an American in the US are much much more clearly insane when viewed from a distance.

In most places, especially cities, cars are a mad luxury and really should be treated as such. Anything that makes city centers more hostile to cars - such as congestion charges, strict speed limits, more crosswalks, more roads closed to cars altogether - should be encouraged. Pedestrian's aren't a nuisance. They're part of the city landscape. It may be ok to go 100mph in desolate country roads or on super highways but in the city, you have to be vigilant for people, for bikers, for other drivers, for sudden events.

If you watch old movies with Model-T's ambling down the road, the roadways belonged to everybody. In the 1920's people would just walk in the streets. Now, 80 years later, the automobiles somehow own the streets? And pedestrians have to sheepishly file across at their designated intersections?
posted by vacapinta at 4:16 AM on November 11, 2009 [5 favorites]


I live in Boston, where I have actually had cops slow down to let me jaywalk in front of them (no kidding). You HAVE to jaywalk here if you have any desire to get someplace in a timely fashion. A nearby intersection that takes me about 30 seconds to cross if I ignore walk signals and just cross when its safe took an experimenting friend a full 2.5 minutes to cross when waiting properly for the signals.

That said, as both a Boston driver and pedestrian, I think there are some etiquette matters to work out. If I'm jaywalking, I know the cars have right of way, so I will do my best to hurry across the intersection and let them go about their day as quickly as possible. Therefore, as a driver, if someone who, visually, appears to be entirely physically healthy decides to jaywalk by ambling slowly across Mass Ave yapping on their cell phone, I get righteously angry. Similarly, as a pedestrian, I always make eye contact with a driver before I jaywalk in front of them. The runner who one day decided to cross in front of me as I was obviously checking the opposite direction for traffic to turn onto a one-way street and nearly got hit... well, dude. You kind of had it coming.
posted by olinerd at 4:21 AM on November 11, 2009


I've found that jaywalking isn't really any more dangerous than crossing at the crosswalk. Or maybe I should say that walking at a crosswalk is just as dangerous as jaywalking. I don't know how many times I've almost been run down while walking at a cross walk which often have signs that say "Yield to Peds" on the sides of the road AND often little stand-up signs right in the middle of the road saying the same thing. No matter, people blow right through the crosswalks, honk at you, swerve around you or just try to run you down. I literally had to dive for my life yesterday, in a crosswalk, when a woman talking on her phone tried to run me down.

The sadest thing is when you notice how many times those little stand-up "Yield to Peds" signs have been run over themselves.
posted by octothorpe at 4:50 AM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


The runner who one day decided to cross in front of me as I was obviously checking the opposite direction for traffic to turn onto a one-way street and nearly got hit... well, dude. You kind of had it coming.

If you were checking the opposite direction and almost hit something as you were turning, this means you were not looking in front of you. A person once rear-ended me because he was looking the opposite direction for a turn, and not in front of him, as he accelerated. It was his fault. The same goes if you were to hit a pedestrian. He should be able to expect that while you are moving forward on a city street, you are also LOOKING forward. If you were not paying attention ahead of you, that is your fault, not his (although he would have paid the consequences).
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 4:53 AM on November 11, 2009 [5 favorites]


49 comments and no mention of woonerfs yet? Ok, I admit, I say that partly because I love to say the word woonerf, but there are some interesting attempts to shift the focus of road use to include bikes and pedestrians.

At a recent neighborhood meeting to discuss the redesign of a major intersection near where I live, it was particularly heartwarming to hear the word woonerf spoken with a Boston accent. I'm not sure if these ideas will work out in practice, but it's great to hear people talking about them.
posted by sriracha at 4:54 AM on November 11, 2009


In parts of the US I find the whole attitude to pedestrians mindboggling. A month or two back on a business trip, I elicited gasps of admiration for walking half a mile to a meeting from my hotel.

That said, in the UK, we have an advanced form of the problem, my own personal bugbear. Drivers who have forgotten their highway code and don't understand rights of way. Namely rule 170. Most drivers seem to think that it's always their right of way.
posted by MuffinMan at 4:57 AM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Seriously, there's only one traffic rule that matters, EVER: respect the weaker party. If a bike is breaking the lights, make your car wait. If a pedestrian is "jaywalking" (can't believe that law exists) then slow your bike the fuck down.

Would you rather assert your feeble state-given traffic right or avoid a fatality?

Denmark made this concept law. It has to be shown in court that the weaker party deliberately caused the crash for compensation or whatever for them to be in the wrong.
posted by stepheno at 5:42 AM on November 11, 2009


Awesome 1937 WPA anti-jaywalking poster.
posted by mediareport at 5:51 AM on November 11, 2009


Slightly OT thoughts prompted by me walking during lunch at work and observing traffic in a very car-heavy suburban area.

I used to drive sort of fast when I was younger. This was made worse by me having a pizza delivery job for a while. Then I had a couple of minor wrecks which nearly bankrupted me, and I got a little older, and had kids.

I drive no more than 9 miles over the limit regardless of how much faster than that other traffic is going. I signal when turning, even in parking lots. I slow down when it's raining. I leave at least 1 car length in front of me for every 10mph or so if at all possible. If I get a cell phone call I ignore it, or if it might be important I pull over into a side street or parking area and return the call. When driving down residential streets I visualize kids or skateboarders behind every bush or parked car. I drive on the right when going slow and switch to the left lane to pass. When pulling up to a stop sign or light, I slow down gradually and stop completely behind the line, then pull up to make a turn. If I am late, I blame myself for not getting up earlier instead of blaming "the idiots" on the road or the construction workers.

Guess what? Everyone else on the road hates me. *

* Also I am a special snowflake and never make mistakes.
posted by freecellwizard at 6:06 AM on November 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


I walk nearly every day (at the moment, we only have one car, and my wife needs it to get to work) and usually while pushing a stroller. Crosswalks are great, but you have to watch out for people making right turns (especially coming out of the grocery store near my house). I always assume that people in cars are going to do the craziest/most dangerous thing they can do at any given moment and prepare accordingly. Then again, that's also how I drive/bike.
posted by drezdn at 6:20 AM on November 11, 2009


In the 1920's people would just walk in the streets.

And the rate of pedestrian injuries was so high it became a public health concern.
posted by Miko at 6:23 AM on November 11, 2009


Most drivers seem to think that it's always their right of way.

Everybody thinks they have the right of way at all times.

Keep in mind, Oedipus wouldn't have got himself into all that trouble if he'd just has a bit more patience in traffic.

BTW, it's flout.
posted by Herodios at 6:25 AM on November 11, 2009


I think anyone who's been surprised while driving will shift into a more-vigilant mode, at least for a few minutes. I can't imagine that drivers who've been annoyed at jaywalkers will be more likely to blow through regular crosswalks

Sure, it seems counterintuitive, but it's empirically true. And they begin to get irritated, which increases hostility.

I agree with a lot of people in deploring car culture and its bad influence on city planning, but I think that unless one has had ample opportunity to experience mobility in a city from both a walking and driving - and hell, cycling - perspective, it's not quite possible to understand the limitations and parameters each party is working with in. I'll always be a huge proponent of crosswalks in which drivers are regulated - to me, that's an essential part of creating a pedestrian-friendly environment wherever there are roadways. I would find it hard to argue that it's hostile to pedestrians.
posted by Miko at 6:28 AM on November 11, 2009


When my brother was in NYC visiting from Seattle last summer he remarked how necessarily it is for pedestrians to jaywalk (Seattle fines jaywalkers). We have such a high density of people on the street, that to keep everyone moving and not clog the system, we need to, well.... keep people moving.

Also, with scaffolding, carts, and other sidewalk obstacles, I often walk in the street to get to my office from the subway.
posted by yeti at 6:49 AM on November 11, 2009


In the 1920's people would just walk in the streets.

We still do that here. Takes some getting used to.
posted by electroboy at 6:58 AM on November 11, 2009


Heredios: "Everybody thinks they have the right of way at all times"

Only soon-to-be dead pedestrians think that for any length of time.
posted by MuffinMan at 7:07 AM on November 11, 2009


Seriously, there's only one traffic rule that matters, EVER: respect the weaker party.

How about: 'Respect all other parties, regardless of their relative strength'?
Seems obvious to me.
posted by rocket88 at 7:10 AM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


FWIW, I currently work in Tempe, AZ, and the Tempe Police are said to be quite zealous with the jaywalking tickets. I've never been cited, because I heard horror stories and am now absurdly careful about respecting the signals. I think the idea is to intimidate the drunk undergrads (and grads!) into not being stupid. If they cite a few people and count on word of mouth to keep the rest of us in line, their strategy is quite effective.
posted by Alterscape at 7:19 AM on November 11, 2009


Fun Fact: A New Yorker in 1900 was twice as likely to die from a horse accident as a modern New Yorker is likely to die from a car accident.

Obvious Conclusion: A horse would win a karate match against a car.
posted by brain_drain at 7:29 AM on November 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


They're also down on jaywalking in Seattle and the police routinely give out tickets.

Word Detective on the origin of "jaywalking."
posted by kirkaracha at 8:06 AM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I walk to and from work every day here in Seattle, and routinely bitch about inattentive (or occasionally homicidal) drivers who seem to want to run me down. Then I remember the traffic in Rome and I just kind of have to laugh at myself. It's a wonder that there are any living pedestrians in Rome.
posted by Skot at 8:09 AM on November 11, 2009


Southern U.S. cities hazardous to pedestrians
"Florida's Orlando, Tampa, Miami and Jacksonville top a list of the 10 most dangerous U.S. cities for walking.

According to a study released on Monday by Transportation for America, in the last 15 years more than 76,000 Americans have been killed while crossing or walking along a street, with children and the elderly making up a large proportion of the deaths.

The group's Pedestrian Danger Index, which computes a city's rate of pedestrian deaths relative to the average amount of walking residents do, found that cities with heavy driving are the most lethal.

....Minnesota's Minneapolis is the safest city for walking, followed by Boston, Massachusetts, and New York."
posted by ericb at 8:16 AM on November 11, 2009


Philosopher Dirtbike: If you were checking the opposite direction and almost hit something as you were turning, this means you were not looking in front of you. A person once rear-ended me because he was looking the opposite direction for a turn, and not in front of him, as he accelerated. It was his fault. The same goes if you were to hit a pedestrian. He should be able to expect that while you are moving forward on a city street, you are also LOOKING forward. If you were not paying attention ahead of you, that is your fault, not his (although he would have paid the consequences).

I'm not trying to be contrarian here because I generally agree with you, but I think the operative word in Olinerd's post is "runner". In downtown DC I've seen plenty of near misses where people were running in front of a turning car or bus in order to make the light at the last second. It appeared to me that the intersection was clear when the driver began to turn, and if it wasn't for the drivers' quick reaction time there would have been some ugly incidents. But inattentive drivers not checking the intersection properly first is by far the bigger and more common problem.
posted by Challahtronix at 8:21 AM on November 11, 2009


I'm amazed at how everyone stares at the little green man and obeys him.

Not in Greater Boston. Around here, what usually happens is that a pedestrian will hit the switch to trigger the "Walk" light, but then cross the street the moment there's a break in traffic, before the light has a chance to change. So almost invariably, by the time the "Walk" light turns green and stops all traffic, the pedestrian who hit the switch is already half a block away.

You can argue that indicates a problem with the light's timing, and it probably does (see olinerd, above). But knowing that, it would be nice if pedestrians would stop triggering the damn things. Because 99% of the time, around here, the effect of "Walk" lights is to stop traffic for no reason.

In most places, especially cities, cars are a mad luxury

No. In most places in the United States, cars are a necessity. (Less so, in major cities.) This becomes a major problem in the criminal justice system, which routinely suspends the licenses of people who need cars to buy groceries, go to work, etc. A single suspension ends up being perennial, because the person keeps getting cited for behavior he can't avoid. Public transportation simply isn't available.

A person once rear-ended me because he was looking the opposite direction for a turn, and not in front of him, as he accelerated. It was his fault.

Well... Yes, technically speaking ('rules of the road'), the rear driver is to blame. But those accidents are almost never caused by a driver who just "didn't look." What happens is, there's a break in traffic and the lead car begins to turn. At that point, the rear driver takes his foot off the break (to take the lead position) and turns his head, because now it's his turn to watch for the next break. But in the interim, the lead driver changed his mind about pulling out and stopped again, and so the cars collide.

People talk about offensive driving versus defensive driving, but in reality, most accidents are caused by indecisive driving.
posted by cribcage at 8:22 AM on November 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


Previous "jaywalking" FPP: Historian arrested for jaywalking, after being assualted by Atlanta police.
posted by ericb at 8:32 AM on November 11, 2009


Here in Boston it is illegal to "jaywalk." The very term was first applied here -- "the Bostonian ... has reduced 'a pedestrian who crosses streets in disregard of traffic signals' to the compact 'jaywalking.'" -- June 1917 Harper's Bazaar Magazine).

The Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 90, Section 18A stipulates a fine of $1.00 for the transgression.

However, since there is no identification card or license required for "pedestrians" or "walkers," there is no way for a poilceman to establish the true identity of the "law-breaker." ("I'm sorry officer I have no identity on me. My name? I am Samuel Adams. Maybe you have heard of me? I have a brewery here in Boston.")

So -- when in Boston, do as the "Romans do" -- cross where/whenever you wish. Feel free to "flip-the-bird" to the driver who honks at you as you traverse Mass. Ave. at Newbury Street -- especially when the traffic light before you turns "red." *
posted by ericb at 8:37 AM on November 11, 2009


As a pedestrian (and user of public transportation) I have two pet peeves when I am walking around: People riding bikes on the sidewalk, and impatient drivers.

I can't tell you how many times someone trying to turn honks when I'm crossing the street, when I have the light and am crossing at the crosswalk. Or those who decide to just hit the gas when I'm crossing, thereby making me have to run out of their way (I'm glad I could save you 10 seconds there, buddy!).The other day, I had someone beeping repeatedly at me to essentially let him pass when I was crossing at a walk signal, at the corner. And then there are people who rush through the red light and basically place their vehicles in the crosswalk when I'm trying to cross, making me walk around them or in front of them.

The bikes on the sidewalks happen very often. And the NYPD or DOT or whoever is responsible does not enforce the law that prohibits adult cyclists from riding on the sidewalk at all. I'm nearly hit by people on bikes fairly often, or they come whizzing by from behind me, where if I had taken a step to the left too far, I'd have my face spread all over the sidewalk.

As far as safety goes, yes, target the drivers, and the cyclists who ride on the sidewalk. Tackling both of these would keep pedestrians much safer.
posted by cmgonzalez at 8:43 AM on November 11, 2009


I knew a girl who was really into cycling, I'm guessing she probably rides on the sidewalk because everyone does around here. But she also drives a car.

Anyway One day while driving she hit a drunk pedestrian. They actually had to pay to fix her car.
posted by delmoi at 8:48 AM on November 11, 2009


Well... Yes, technically speaking ('rules of the road'), the rear driver is to blame. But those accidents are almost never caused by a driver who just "didn't look." What happens is, there's a break in traffic and the lead car begins to turn. At that point, the rear driver takes his foot off the break (to take the lead position) and turns his head, because now it's his turn to watch for the next break. But in the interim, the lead driver changed his mind about pulling out and stopped again, and so the cars collide.

People talk about offensive driving versus defensive driving, but in reality, most accidents are caused by indecisive driving.
Oh come on. 'Indecisive driving' may have been a catalyst, but the accident was caused by the idiot who drove head first into another car.
posted by delmoi at 8:51 AM on November 11, 2009


Because 99% of the time, around here, the effect of "Walk" lights is to stop traffic for no reason.

I actually noted that walk lights in Boston were really, really short compared to what I'm used to here in NYC.

Then I remember the traffic in Rome and I just kind of have to laugh at myself. It's a wonder that there are any living pedestrians in Rome.

I reference the same experience, Skot. Inching my way around a fountain in the middle of a round street opening, looking for a place to dash madly across the street without being killed is not a memory that leaves. The entire trip was like that.
posted by cmgonzalez at 8:51 AM on November 11, 2009


"From a full stop to hitting a pedestrian crossing a side street two feet in front of your car is a pretty awesome lack of pedestrian awareness."

As a former cab driver and now pretty much full-time pedestrian, allow me to make two points to pedestrians everywhere:

1. the driver of many a car trying to make a right turn onto a busy street/road (left in Britain, Japan, NZ, Oz etc) is not looking ahead but rather checking the oncoming traffic. Once he/she spies a gap in traffic, he guns it, often without double-checking that there is no one passing in front. This is sloppy f***ing driving but it HAPPENS ALL THE TIME.

2. the driver of many a car hanging a left (right in Britain, Japan, NZ, Oz etc) from a busy street onto a side street is very focused on the oncoming traffic and, same as above, upon seeing a gap will gun it for the side street without doublechecking that a pedestrian is NOT crossing it. This is also sloppy f***ing driving but it happens all the time.

Crossing the street is probably the single most dangerous thing most of us do on any given day. Blame and hate car culture all you want (I sure do) but I'd rather be unmaimed than in the right any day.
posted by philip-random at 9:06 AM on November 11, 2009


hermitosis : I get really angry when I see a car blow down a residential street at a speed that guarantees they'd have no chance to stop if they had to. Because one of these days, they're going to have to.

Two words: "Darwin Award"

As someone who prefers walking to driving wherever physically possible, I will still side with the drivers 99% of the time on this one. Unless talking about something like a car actually running a red light, pedestrians should absolutely bear all responsibility for their suicidal behavior. And that whole "pedestrians have right of way" BS needs to end yesterday.

I base this on two major points...

First, as the "misused" link inadvertantly points out, streets cannot realistically accommodate both cars and pedestrians safely. Yes, we can interleave use via traffic signals, but the simple fact remains that two tons of steel moving at a decent speed leaves zero room for error (and "to err is human", or so I've heard) against 150lbs of walking meat.

And second, continuing on that last idea, pedestrians may fare rather poorly in an actual collision, but in every other aspect they by far have the advantage; They have far better lines of sight, they can massively outmaneuver a car (ie, instantly change direction to avoid the bus you just stepped out in front of), they can wait patiently for a chance to cross without a line of pissed people behind them beeping.

Put simply, cars make our modern lifestyle possible. Even if you have the luxury of living in a major city with decent public transit and everything you need within a mile, where do you think your food comes from? The owner of the corner Kwik-E-mart sure as hell doesn't walk to Idaho for potatoes every morning.
posted by pla at 9:20 AM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


As one of the few transit-users at my work, I am very familiar with this issue; in order to get from the train stop to my workplace, you have to cross an insanely busy 6 lane road. One particular crosswalk has some of those little split-off turn lanes on it, so you end up hopping from tiny island to tiny island while cars come at you from about 4 directions, and it being Texas, none of them are used to pedestrians. It's terrifying.

So myself and the other pedestrians go south a little bit to cross at the middle of one of the streets, where there are only two lanes of cars going one direction, and only one island in the middle to cross. Totally illegal, but in terms of being able to see whether speeding metal death is bearing down on you, safer. I'm sure it irritates the drivers. Tough cheese.
posted by emjaybee at 9:26 AM on November 11, 2009


The same goes if you were to hit a pedestrian. He should be able to expect that while you are moving forward on a city street, you are also LOOKING forward. If you were not paying attention ahead of you, that is your fault, not his (although he would have paid the consequences).

As a driver, pedestrian, and bicycle commuter, I wouldn't expect anything unless I had made eye contact with the person in question. Drivers making a right turn are usually looking for traffic from the left, and I sure as hell don't step in front of someone looking the other way.

I don'y care at all about jaywalkers- I agree that it's part of city driving, and everyone should be on alert for all kinds of stuff. The one pedestrian tactic that I hate hate hate is Noe Valley mothers pushing their strollers out in front of them without looking in order to claim the right to walk right there, right now. They use their kid as a path clearing device on sidewalks and in the street. It blows my mind.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:39 AM on November 11, 2009


Oh, and lest anyone think I have something against moms, I should say that working at a Now Valley company driving a garden truck 3-4 days a week, I never saw a single person pulling a kid in a trailer or wagon or walking with a baby strapped to them cross the street in front of me without looking. It's a stroller thing.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:42 AM on November 11, 2009


As someone who prefers walking to driving wherever physically possible, I will still side with the drivers 99% of the time on this one. Unless talking about something like a car actually running a red light, pedestrians should absolutely bear all responsibility for their suicidal behavior. And that whole "pedestrians have right of way" BS needs to end yesterday.

Ah yes, the imaginary hoardes or suicidal pedestrians rear their heads once again.

Funny how we're not all diving in front of cars in Europe, whereas in Florida, they just can't stop themselves from their lemming like behaviour. Presumably that's because people in Florida just aren't as smart as we are?

Put simply, cars make our modern lifestyle possible.

Intelligent people tend to make tools their servants, not their masters.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:56 AM on November 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


PeterMcDermott : Funny how we're not all diving in front of cars in Europe, whereas in Florida, they just can't stop themselves from their lemming like behaviour.

Having recently had the opportunity to visit a few European cities, two features stunned me...

First, I discovered very quickly that stepping off the curb carelessly would not result in honking and someone flipping me off - It would mean certain death.

Second, I observed that the traffic actually moves rather than sitting backed up in gridlock as far as you can see in every direction


Intelligent people tend to make tools their servants, not their masters.

Intelligent people, if you really want to go there, recognize that some tools can hurt them (and/or others), even when functioning perfectly. We thus structure the use of such devices in such a way as to minimize the effects of the various modes of failure. Assuming that a human operator will never make a mistake not only doesn't satisfy that criteria, it sticks its tongue out and blows a raspberry in safety's face.

In highly-automated factories, you have vast areas of floor painted red to tell you "go here and you might lose a head or two". In the London Underground, the voice admonishes you to mind the gap, and you'd best do it. A gun has a "natural" way to hold it and an awkward way that gets you killed.

And if you step out between two SUVs in front of a bus, all the "right of way" rules in the world won't stop your "master/servant" relationship from changing to "pate/food-processor".
posted by pla at 10:34 AM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


IRTAD, International Traffic Safety Data and Analysis Group: Road User Fatalities by Road Use Type, 2009 .

Long story short: Expressed as a percentage of all traffic fatalities, the most dangerous nations in which to be a pedestrian are:

Korea, 37.4%
Poland, 34. 9%
Japan, 33%
Luxembourg and Ireland, tied at 24%
Hungary, 23.4%
Great Britain, 21.9%

And the safest:

Iceland, 6.7%
Belgium, 9.7%
Norway, 9.9%
New Zealand, 10.7%
Slovenia 10.9%
United States, 11.2%

So we don't have a handy argument for European superiority here.
posted by Miko at 11:11 AM on November 11, 2009


Miko, but what is the ratio of pedestrians to vehicles in those countries? Without knowing that, the results aren't really a good reflection of the danger of being a single pedestrian.

From a UK perspective, Jaywalking does seems like a silly law-- we all learn the "Green Cross Code" from a young age. If you want to cross the roads, you stop, look and listen. It's your responsibility to ensure you are alright to cross.

But as a driver, you should be driving within whatever safe limits the environment requires of you, because sometimes people, kids, animals are dumb and will walk/run out unexpectedly in the road. If you're speeding, talking on your cell phone (which I'm amazed isn't entirely banned yet in the US), eating or flicking to the next track on your iPod and you hit a pedestrian-- well, while I sure it was an accident, the blame rests heavily on your shoulders.
posted by Static Vagabond at 11:46 AM on November 11, 2009


It also varies a bit from state to state. I visit a town in New Hampshire periodically, where they actually enforce the whole "stop for pedestrians on a marked crosswalk" thing. When I'm up there walking around, I'll step off the curb onto the crosswalk, but not cross until cars in both directions actually stop. When I glance at the license plates, it's almost always New Hampshire cars that stop, and Massachusetts, Connecticut , New York or other southerly cars that fly by. Once while driving through the same section of road, I stopped for a pedestrian (as I do anyway) and saw the pedestrian do the very same plate-check, do a double take, and read my plate again. I gather he'd never seen a car with New Jersey plates actually stop for a pedestrian before.
posted by Karmakaze at 11:52 AM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


That section from Piers Anthony's (I know, I know) On a Pale Horse where Zane encounters himself as a motorist, cyclist, and pedestrian from each of the other perspectives always comes to my mind when discussions like this come up. Even when they switch between modes, human beings are often not very good at being considerate about the perspective of people using the other modes, and it gets worse if you tend to use one frequently enough that you begin to identify with it. My guess is this is more than half the problem.
posted by weston at 12:13 PM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Long story short: Expressed as a percentage of all traffic fatalities, the most dangerous nations in which to be a pedestrian are:

I confess I haven't read the report, but this sounds like a poor metric, as it also depends on the chance of dying in some other traffic accident which is irrelevant here. A country with lots of accidents that are fatal to car drivers --- for example, a country were unsafe cars and reckless driving are popular --- would score well on this test without being any safer for pedestrians. Per capita number of pedestrian fatalities would be a more interesting number.
posted by Dr Dracator at 12:31 PM on November 11, 2009


freecellwizard: I leave at least 1 car length in front of me for every 10mph or so if at all possible.

3 second following distance is where it's at. Not always possible, but it scales to all speeds. Just remember to stretch it out if conditions are sketchy.
posted by Decimask at 1:14 PM on November 11, 2009


Long story short: Expressed as a percentage of all traffic fatalities, the most dangerous nations in which to be a pedestrian are:

Is there data on all accidents involving pedestrians? Because looking only at fatalities doesn't give the complete picture.
posted by cmgonzalez at 1:18 PM on November 11, 2009


3 second following distance is where it's at. Not always possible, but it scales to all speeds. Just remember to stretch it out if conditions are sketchy.

I've heard this expressed as "2 seconds" but the rest stands true; the only exception being blind corners where you simply don't travel any more quickly than would allow you to come to a complete a halt if you suddenly came upon a stationary obstacle (a stalled car, a cow, a child). It's amazing how many people abuse this rule, particularly when driving in remote areas.
posted by philip-random at 1:28 PM on November 11, 2009


If you want stats, I think a comprehensive global status report on Road Safety - linked off that page - by the World Health Organization is fascinating to read.

It does include road fatalities per capita. At 13.9 deaths per 100k people the US is not as bad as Eritrea (48) but more dangerous than France (7.5) or England (5.4)
posted by vacapinta at 1:47 PM on November 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


what is the ratio of pedestrians to vehicles in those countries?

It was noted that where vehicle ownership is lower, there are more pedestrians, and thus proportionally more pedestrian fatalities. There are also injury statistics, but I didn't feel like spending my afternoon on this project.

However, I'm not sure that it matters much. If the question is whether jaywalking should be allowed, how much does it matter what the pedestrian-to-vehicle ratio is? Doesn't it matter more whether stopping for crosswalks is enforced, and/or not jaywalking is enforced? In a society that did both perfectly, there would be very few such fatalities (understanding that there will always be a few haywire accidents where pedestrians are not even trying to cross the street). Or in a society in which people jaywalked skilfully and people drove perfectly and this worked well, there would still be very few fatalities. Given that none of these things can be controlled to happen perfectly, where is a societal intervention most productive? I think it's in the good use of the crosswalk system.

(I also live in a town in NH where Karmakaze's note holds true. But I've also seen it work within MA and CT. IT seems very much town-by-town, though, and I think it strongly depends on local enforcement, whether or not it's a state law. The places where it's definitely most effective have those triangle "Stop for Pedestrians in Crosswalk" signs as you enter the congested areas).
posted by Miko at 2:33 PM on November 11, 2009


I confess I haven't read the report...

You should definitely take a look at the report and the other links. It pretty much captures most of what one would want to know about fatalities for cyclists, drivers, and pedestrians country by country.
posted by Miko at 2:36 PM on November 11, 2009


Here in Providence, RI, drivers pretty much stop and go randomly. As a pedestrian, there is really no way to figure out what they are going to do next. My general tactic is to assume all drivers are actively trying to kill me at all times. So far, it has kept me alive.

You said it. Though as a Providence driver, I have to assume that all pedestrians will walk out in front of my car at all times no matter what color the light may be. I have to drive through both Thayer St. and Kennedy Plaza at 5PM and I've come to the conclusion that the only people possibly more dangerous than Providence drivers are Providence pedestrians - who are inclined to walk in front of my car even if I have a green light and have started going. I'm personally not trying to kill anyone, but the overwhelming feeling I get is - as a friend stated - that a lot of people around here see transportation (including walking) as a zero-sum game.

Don't get me started about the actual drivers. Egads.

But yeah. Conversely, I assume that every pedestrian will walk in front of my car and it has kept me from killing anyone.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:03 PM on November 11, 2009


I am merely of the opinion that the majority of people, drivers and walkers alike, should just stay the fuck at home because they pretty obviously have no idea what they are doing.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:12 PM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


The owner of the corner Kwik-E-mart sure as hell doesn't walk to Idaho for potatoes every morning.

And not every cocksmoker veering his lime green convertible Porsche wildly back and forth across a suburban street at 6 in the evening is delivering Her Majesty's Post.
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:28 PM on November 11, 2009


Miko: "You should definitely take a look at the report and the other links. It pretty much captures most of what one would want to know about fatalities for cyclists, drivers, and pedestrians country by country."

Indeed. For example, if you visit the Netherlands, or Denmark, under no circumstances use a bicycle-- it is a deathtrap. Over ten times more dangerous than the USA. We should send them some safety tips.
posted by alexei at 7:14 PM on November 11, 2009


Great article, thank you. I'm a pedestrian daily in downtown Chicago and have been for 8 years or so - and I have had countless close calls with cars.
posted by agregoli at 7:07 PM on November 12, 2009


« Older The Australian Capital Territory, the home of the ...  |  A LOVE LETTER FOR YOU is a ser... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments