Sleep Well Tonight, Crosswalk Stripes Have Been Banned
December 24, 2014 11:57 AM   Subscribe

As poverty moves to the suburbs, criminalization of walking intensifies. "Jaywalking" was the reason Michael Brown was first accosted, it is the offense that nearly sent a mother to jail for vehicular homicide when a drunk driver killed her child.
posted by blankdawn (121 comments total) 60 users marked this as a favorite
 
This seems to be a problem with some cities, perhaps the bigger ones, and not with other, more medium-sized cities. Spokane, WA has been putting in more crosswalks, many of them with pushbutton flashing signals to draw attention to pedestrians for drivers. I think I've read about a lot of other cities about the same size doing the same thing in recent years, too.

It's a shame the big population centers don't seem, according to this article, to be doing this also.
posted by hippybear at 12:07 PM on December 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


Cf. filthy light thief's excellent post from earlier this year: The Invention of Jaywalking and the Rise of Car Culture.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 12:08 PM on December 24, 2014 [27 favorites]


Meanwhile, in Tacoma.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 12:14 PM on December 24, 2014 [5 favorites]


The article says that crosswalk stripes are allowed with the flashing lights, but the price tag of around $100,000 each (seems crazy high) is prohibitive in places where they are needed most.
posted by blankdawn at 12:18 PM on December 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


Due to work, I ended up living in the Ft. Myers/Naples area of Florida for about 8 months. It was not the right place for me, to put it lightly. The most emblematic experience, I think, was when I decided to walk about 2 miles to a bar with a friend of mine. The way there was fine, although we got a lot of blaring horns and side-eyes. On the way back, we were "pulled over" by the police who gave us a surprisingly intense series of questions about where we lived, what we were doing walking, of all things (were we on drugs?! was there someone after us?!) and ultimately let us off with the admonition that "your type isn't usually seen walking around unless something suspicious is going on, so don't walk unless you want to look suspicious." By my 'type' I guess they mean nerdy looking white guys with glasses.
posted by feloniousmonk at 12:21 PM on December 24, 2014 [54 favorites]


The problem of the OP is seen in subdivisions which are losing their status in order to punish those who can't afford cars. Other similar-looking places where gentrification is in and affluent people are the ones who want it "walkable" get their crosswalks, bike paths, & etc.
posted by localroger at 12:21 PM on December 24, 2014 [29 favorites]


I live in Ferguson, people just run across the busy streets and laugh when they are not hit by a car.

There are crosswalks, not everyone uses them.

Jaywalking is not just walking across a street without a crosswalk, I see plenty of people walking down the middle of an intersection and blocking cars from driving on that intersection. I gave up driving because of it. I was afraid I'd accidentally hit someone who was jaywalking in the middle of the intersection and didn't plan to cross the street but stay in the middle of the street.
posted by Orion Blastar at 12:22 PM on December 24, 2014 [10 favorites]


Yeah, some places are weird like this. My s/o and I became minor celebrities at a campground in Texas due to our decision to walk a mile through a quiet neighborhood to the very-walkable downtown area despite the desperate admonitions of the campground host.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 12:25 PM on December 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


I expect that in suburbs, cyclists taking up lanes will do more for pedestrians than trying to guess where in these long stretches people might actually use crosswalks, doing traffic studies and so on.
posted by michaelh at 12:26 PM on December 24, 2014 [1 favorite]




Honestly, the paramount outrage to me isn't that there aren't enough crosswalks (which is an outrage) or that traffic design standards have been created to inconvenience pedestrians (which is also an outrage), but that there seems to be, in some areas, aggressive and even violent enforcement by police when it comes to jaywalking offenses.
posted by hippybear at 12:35 PM on December 24, 2014 [21 favorites]


I'm a lifelong pedestrian - I don't drive (never have) and have lived for over a decade in a city that's supposedly very walkable. Even where there *are* crosswalks, cars rarely respect them - so often pedestrians have to practically walk out into the intersection because cars stop in the crosswalk, not at the line where they should. Or the cars speed up through a yellow-turning-red light and end up blowing through a crosswalk where pedestrians have the walk signal (and, yeah, half the time the people behind the wheel are on their phone even though it's illegal here).

As a country we've got a long way to go before pedestrian safety becomes a thing of which the average citizen even takes notice, let alone cares about.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 12:37 PM on December 24, 2014 [26 favorites]


And who can forget the time when obvious danger to the public Professor Felipe Fernandez-Armesto was assaulted and knocked down by a plainclothes cop because of "jaywalking"?

The same thing happened this year to an ASU professor, who gave her reason for walking in the street as avoiding construction and pointed out that everyone else was doing it. I'm sure the fact that she's black was completely irrelevant.

The judge gave her 9 months probation, too. Is there such thing as sentencing someone to "battery served"? I.e. you were battered during your arrest, let that be your punishment.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:43 PM on December 24, 2014 [24 favorites]


This is such absolute shit. It's also part of why we have a drunk driving problem.
posted by NoraReed at 12:56 PM on December 24, 2014 [17 favorites]


As a country we've got a long way to go before pedestrian safety becomes a thing of which the average citizen even takes notice, let alone cares about.

We may just end up short-circuiting that whole process when we bring on the reliable-enough automatic cars.
posted by chimaera at 12:58 PM on December 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


Until August, I lived in a working-class, racially-mixed neighborhood on the edge of town. I never saw the cops hassle anyone for jaywalking (but I'm also white and have some middle-class signifiers), but good lord was the traffic design a mess for pedestrians. It's also, according to one of my neighbors, the only thing that has ever spurred people there to political activism. There was a proposal to move the bus stop so that everyone would have been forced to walk a quarter of a mile down a steep hill, with no sidewalks, street lights that are only activated by the presence of cars, and a blind curve at the top. People in the neighborhood, who are usually totally politically unengaged, packed the city council meeting and got the bus stop proposal defeated. But the bus service is still terrible, and a lot of people still have to walk up and down that hill in the dark, because the bus isn't even an option a lot of the time.

During my brief, stupid attempt to get involved in city politics, I tried to bring it up, and nobody wanted to hear it. We are, officially, an extremely pedestrian-friendly city. The national bike people rated us bronze or silver or something, and we're all very smug. If the people in trailer parks take their lives in their own hands every time they go to work, that's not any concern of the city government. They should get a car or move to a nicer neighborhood. I used to think that it wouldn't change until someone died, but now I think that the nice liberals who run my town wouldn't care if someone died, and it won't change until they raze the neighborhood to build luxury condos. Then it will change, because those people's lives matter.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 12:59 PM on December 24, 2014 [41 favorites]


I actually learned today (from the Oatmeal!) that Google's cars try to determine pedestrian intent.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 1:02 PM on December 24, 2014 [5 favorites]


"Jaywalking" was the reason Michael Brown was first accosted

That is a particularly horrible framing of this essay.

By all accounts, Brown was walking down the middle of the street, not crossing it. He wasn't accosted for jaywalking, they were searching for him as a robbery suspect and they found him in the middle of the street.

I am sure the writer had good intentions to expose a structural injustice, but linking your premise to a senseless, unrelated tragedy is sickening.
posted by charlie don't surf at 1:02 PM on December 24, 2014 [13 favorites]


To protest, I say we all start walking aimlessly across busy intersections.
posted by destro at 1:05 PM on December 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


By my 'type' I guess they mean nerdy looking white guys with glasses.

By your 'type' they probably meant nerdy looking white guys with glasses who are looking to buy crack from black guys with saggy pants. Or you were lost. My son is friends with a (white) woman who was walking in the predominantly black neighborhood she lives in and was stopped by a Milwaukee police officer who was concerned that she was lost. Because, you know, people like you just don't walk around in this part of town.
posted by MikeMc at 1:06 PM on December 24, 2014 [6 favorites]


Brown was not being stopped as a robbery suspect, stop repeating disproven smears.

The article explains how harassment of pedestrians in Ferguson is so common that people without cars ask for rides just to go to convenience stores blocks away.

Brown was stopped for being a pedestrian in the wrong way and executed for disrespecting someone whose ego finds that a capital offense.
posted by blankdawn at 1:10 PM on December 24, 2014 [105 favorites]


Brown was not being stopped as a robbery suspect

This is true. He was not possibly connected with any robbery until after he was already dead.
posted by hippybear at 1:12 PM on December 24, 2014 [20 favorites]


Well, I guess this discussion is finished..

Seriously, though, as hugely tempting as it would be to make this another thread about Michael Brown's death, please let's stick to the issue, which is interesting enough to deserve discussion and doesn't already have several threads of its own.
posted by Nerd of the North at 1:13 PM on December 24, 2014 [7 favorites]


Even where there *are* crosswalks, cars rarely respect them - so often pedestrians have to practically walk out into the intersection because cars stop in the crosswalk, not at the line where they should.

Here we see an intersection not far from my house. Some months ago, I was waiting to cross Brant Street; I pushed the pedestrian signal button and waited the 45 seconds or so for the light to change. When it finally did, I made my way across the street as a massive SUV pulled out of the Wal-Mart parking lot for a left turn into Brant. He got to just about exactly where the Google car is in the photo and slammed on the brakes to avoid flattening me, his bumper eighteen inches from my knees. Because of the size of this truck, nobody behind him could tell why he had stopped halfway through an intersection, so they immediately set up a cavalcade of horns.

I turned him a single withering glance without breaking stride then kept going. He rolled down his window to bellow at the pedestrian walking across an intersection between two solid white lines and with a green light, "That is not a walkway, buddy!" (I am guessing he meant crosswalk.) Good to know.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:14 PM on December 24, 2014 [19 favorites]


Brown was not being stopped as a robbery suspect, stop repeating disproven smears.

Oh IDK if that was a smear. I can recall, at least, twice being stopped while walking down the street, searched and run for warrants by MPD because I "fit the description of a robbery suspect". It was complete bullshit of course but it's one of those vaguely un-provable excuses cops use when they don't have anything else.
posted by MikeMc at 1:18 PM on December 24, 2014 [5 favorites]


Almost none of the suburbs around here have sidewalks or crosswalks at all. There's not even a shoulder for most roads either so if you're walking, it means that you're walking in the road; there's no alternative. When I lived in a suburb out here, I was a quarter mile from a supermarket but there was no way to walk there without just walking in the road which would have been suicidal.
posted by octothorpe at 1:19 PM on December 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


Jaywalking. Good point.
In Flint, Pants are legislated.
posted by clavdivs at 1:19 PM on December 24, 2014


What I was taught in CA drivers ed was that ALL corners are crosswalks, marked or not and that peds ALWAYS have the right of way......even when they shouldn't.
posted by brujita at 1:23 PM on December 24, 2014 [19 favorites]


What I was taught in CA drivers ed was that ALL corners are crosswalks, marked or not and that peds ALWAYS have the right of way......even when they shouldn't.

That's what I was taught in NM during drivers ed. It's also a part of the booklet they give you to study for your WA drivers license exam.
posted by hippybear at 1:26 PM on December 24, 2014 [5 favorites]


We may just end up short-circuiting that whole process when we bring on the reliable-enough automatic cars.

This seems incredibly naive to me. What will happen if robot driven cars become legal on roads is that the engineers will further define roads as spaces that humans do not belong. They will design them for the needs of the algorithms that control the cars. This will happen, like the article says, because the car and oil companies have major influence in the way these standards are written and all their metrics are based on X cars per hour. Robot cars will supposedly be able to go faster, more safely we'll be told (unless you're a scofflaw who dares to invade their space!).

That will sell a lot of cars, but I don't think it's going to do much for investment in transit or human oriented design in public spaces.
posted by bradbane at 1:27 PM on December 24, 2014 [22 favorites]


As a European, when I visit my brother in suburban Boston I walk everywhere, with the kids too. Even there you can tell you're doing something slightly odd.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 1:27 PM on December 24, 2014 [5 favorites]


The article points out that even in situations where pedestrians legally have the right of way, cops and courts ignore it. Also, "corner" is often not a relevant concept n these neighborhoods, because there are often long roads with few cross streets. In my old neighborhood, the streets perpendicular to the main road were staggered, so there were no through streets and few obvious places to cross.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:28 PM on December 24, 2014 [6 favorites]


I walk a lot, in what's officially a very pedestrian-friendly city. I only cross at crosswalks and intersections, not because I think it's safer - I don't - but if some asshat on their phone is going to hit me, I want them to at least get the blame. Of course more pedestrians are hit at crosswalks; that's where they're walking.

Intersections where drivers look left while turning right are the biggest hazard, at least in Michigan. Walking in California and Oregon, I was very pleasantly surprised at how much more pedestrian-aware the drivers seemed to be.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 1:33 PM on December 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


I wonder if we could use an app to conduct a controlled study of police harassment. He would instruct some random white people and some random black people to cross the same intersections maybe ten or 20 per metropolitan area, and record the rates at which they are stopped by police. Then we could get some solid evidence, beyond anecdotes, that the police really are as racist as they seem.
posted by miyabo at 1:34 PM on December 24, 2014 [6 favorites]


I'm pretty sure the anecdotes are quickly adding up to being data these days.

It's a social science -- all you have are anecdotes to accumulate as data.
posted by hippybear at 1:38 PM on December 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


brujita: "What I was taught in CA drivers ed was that ALL corners are crosswalks, marked or not and that peds ALWAYS have the right of way......even when they shouldn't."

I'm vacationing in CA this week and I keep getting flustered when traffic stops at the crosswalk when I step off the sidewalk. I'm so used to having to fight my way across the street even at crosswalks that I'm having a hard time coping with this. I got yelled at yesterday because I was just standing there waiting for all the traffic to clear not even noticing that the cars had stopped and were waiting for me to go. It's really hard for this east-coaster to grok.
posted by octothorpe at 1:40 PM on December 24, 2014 [14 favorites]


I'm vacationing in CA this week and I keep getting flustered when traffic stops at the crosswalk when I step off the sidewalk.

I was flabbergasted the first time I was in Canada and I pressed a button and traffic stopped on a busy street when the yellow lights started flashing. I had never seen anything like that. Needless to say I suddenly found it necessary to cross the street several times just for the novelty value.
posted by MikeMc at 1:45 PM on December 24, 2014 [14 favorites]


I wonder if we could use an app to conduct a controlled study of police harassment. He would instruct some random white people and some random black people to cross the same intersections maybe ten or 20 per metropolitan area, and record the rates at which they are stopped by police. Then we could get some solid evidence, beyond anecdotes, that the police really are as racist as they seem
I'm sure you could. But the police harassment is only part of the issue. It's horrifying that Raquel Nelson was prosecuted for her son's death, but it's tragic that he died in the first place. There's racist policing, but there's also racist urban planning and traffic design.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:46 PM on December 24, 2014 [11 favorites]


On the way back, we were "pulled over" by the police who gave us a surprisingly intense series of questions about where we lived, what we were doing walking, of all things

Ray Bradbury's story "The Pedestrian" wasn't just inspired by real life, but points to our future as well.
posted by Doktor Zed at 1:47 PM on December 24, 2014 [11 favorites]


This seems to be a problem with some cities, perhaps the bigger ones, and not with other, more medium-sized cities. Spokane, WA has been putting in more crosswalks, many of them with pushbutton flashing signals to draw attention to pedestrians for drivers. I think I've read about a lot of other cities about the same size doing the same thing in recent years, too.

It's a shame the big population centers don't seem, according to this article, to be doing this also.


I am engineer in one of those cities that are implementing these as quickly as we can. Mostly the limit is money, we don't have any budget to pave our roads or maintain them but we are scrapping together grants, taxes, and loose change to get these things in and tieing them in with an expanding Bus Rapid Transit line that is actually used, goes where it is needed (mostly) and doesn't suck (at least as bad as regular bus service does anyway).

We are using pedestrian injuries/fatalities to guide us were to put them (and in a great twist of irony, any reports from drivers about people jaywalking really help us locate them without any getting hurt). They are getting acceptance and being used and even respected-they only accidents have been drunk people ignoring them and sadly we had a fatality in one this past week.
On the whole the are awesome.

BTW they cost between 50k and 100k depending on location. The cost is split among several major items- making them ADA compliant (this is non trivial), getting the custom made electronic controller, redoing the curbs/gutters and driveways in the area so the new ADA ramps/walkways don't screw up the drainage in the streets or make people walk through puddles, it just all cascades on the other.

There is a significant amount of staff time getting other agencies to permit them if the road is multi-jurisdictional. State Highway DOT are usually primarily concerned with Trucking, Trucking, Trucking, then trucks not killing anyone, passenger cars and they don't do pedestrians at all.
posted by bartonlong at 1:50 PM on December 24, 2014 [30 favorites]


Near my house, where the bus stops to let people off to get to the light-rail system, there is a crosswalk. When you push the button for the crosswalk, lights flash, and a recording plays.

"CROSS STREET WITH CAUTION, VEHICLES MAY NOT STOP"

I think we may need more of these recorded warnings in our lives.

"EAT WITH CAUTION, RESTAURANT EMPLOYEES MAY HAVE DEFECATED IN YOUR FOOD"

"ENTER ELEVATOR WITH CAUTION, SERIAL KILLER COULD BE WAITING INSIDE TO MURDER YOU"

"OPEN DOOR WITH CAUTION, SOMEONE MAY BE POINTING A FAST MOVING 2000 POUND OBJECT AT YOU."
posted by idiopath at 1:51 PM on December 24, 2014 [40 favorites]


Wow, what a paranoid existence.
posted by hippybear at 2:01 PM on December 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


"CROSS STREET WITH CAUTION, VEHICLES MAY NOT STOP"

I think we may need more of these recorded warnings in our lives.


"SEVERE TIRE DAMAGE WHEN LIGHTS FLASHING"

"$500 FINE FOR RUNNING CROSSWALK LIGHT"
posted by Sys Rq at 2:03 PM on December 24, 2014 [37 favorites]


I used to live in a wealthy suburb, and it was much more terrifying to be a pedestrian there then in Los Angeles, even though arriving on foot to events here is sometimes a social faux pas. While my walking commute had many large sidewalks, there were few cross-highway crossing options, which meant that sidewalks impassable due to unshoveled snow/ice, fallen branches, or roadwork either meant running in the street or doubling back half a mile. The road crews never labeled the sidewalk as closed ahead of time, and very, very few fines were ever given to homeowners who left their sidewalks in dangerous condition. (In fact, on a neighborhood forum, people who suggested reporting illegally un-shoveled sidewalks were sometimes rebuked for causing a neighbor inconvenience.) One interesting quirk of church parking meant that there was exactly one mid-block crosswalk, no signal, at the top of a hill. It was often much safer to cross there, where one could see all oncoming traffic, than at the intersection crosswalks, where drivers routinely forgot to check the corners for pedestrians while turning. I guess I technically jaywalked sometimes, because the walk signal buttons rarely produced a walk signal. And that was a great neighborhood.

I'm joining the ranks of the car drivers soon, and it's worrisome to see how many people phrase it as "finally growing up" and "it's so convenient" and "it's so much safer than the bus."
posted by jetlagaddict at 2:04 PM on December 24, 2014 [10 favorites]


and it's worrisome to see how many people phrase it as "finally growing up" and "it's so convenient" and "it's so much safer than the bus."

But it is convenient. That's why people drive. (I don't think it's grown up or safer than a bus, though.) There are complex reasons why this is true, and it probably should be changed so that public transit is more convenient and cars are less (and public transit should be much, much cheaper than it is in most places), but I don't think it's fair to compare "having a car is being an adult" and "having a car is safe" with "having a car is convenient".
posted by jeather at 2:07 PM on December 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


Oklahoma surprisingly has reasonable laws on this subject. You're not jaywalking unless there is a crosswalk (marked or unmarked) within 200 feet of the place you are crossing. Not that the drivers give two shits. They consider you an inconvenience no matter where you cross.

Tulsa city ordinance does require that you use a sidewalk if it exists and extends at least a certain length that I don't remember off the top of my head, but that's not a problem since all but the very oldest and newest parts of the city lack them entirely, making it legal to walk in the street.
posted by wierdo at 2:10 PM on December 24, 2014 [4 favorites]


It worries me because it means they have very little incentive to try to improve public transit or advocate for better services. Many of the people I know who grew up in suburbs have rarely taken or relied on buses; that knowledge and prejudice against promoting public transit use often impacts how well public transit is perceived and to what extent that extends to the general perception of public transit users.

It's also really annoying in cases where taking the bus isn't inconvenient.
posted by jetlagaddict at 2:12 PM on December 24, 2014 [5 favorites]


arriving on foot to events here is sometimes a social faux pas

Interesting, can you explain why for those of us not in LA?

public transit should be much, much cheaper than it is in most places

I don't agree with this at all. It's not cheap in Tokyo (or any major Japanese city), which ensures a reliable source of funding for the operators and gives them incentive to serve as many riders as possible. The key is that private cars are appropriately priced as well, with high gas taxes and much fewer hidden subsidies.
posted by ripley_ at 2:17 PM on December 24, 2014 [4 favorites]


Up the pedestrians (and the bikers, mostly).

That said, there are towns near where I live that I will not drive through because too many of the locals are utterly indifferent to crosswalks and pedestrian Walk/Don't Walk signs. I'm not a great driver, I'm terrified I'm going to hit one of these idiots. (I am talking city-ish area, no corner more than fifty feet away, if that.)
posted by IndigoJones at 2:17 PM on December 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Interesting, can you explain why for those of us not in LA?

I've got no clue. Seriously.
posted by jetlagaddict at 2:18 PM on December 24, 2014


Maybe faux pas is the wrong word? It's just...it often leads to a lot of awkward questions and offers of Uber rides or rides home. Which is nice, but awkward, really awkward, especially at events like interviews where you don't want the focus to be anything other than your work. I think it varies by neighborhood though, I know a SoCal native who moved to Downtown and walks to work.
posted by jetlagaddict at 2:23 PM on December 24, 2014 [4 favorites]


My partner currently works in Marina Del Rey and lives around a mile from his work and he walks regularly. He has never mentioned that this is a social faux pas. When we talk about it, it sounds like the most ideal situation possible when it comes to living in the greater LA area.
posted by hippybear at 2:29 PM on December 24, 2014


Maybe I've just had bad luck! I haven't been here that long, and I quite wish I could walk to work.
posted by jetlagaddict at 2:30 PM on December 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Many parts of Sarajevo only have a thin sliver of sidewalk. It isn't really for walking on. It is to step on to get out of emerge way of cars.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 2:33 PM on December 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


I used to live in a wealthy suburb[...] The road crews never labeled the sidewalk as closed ahead of time, and very, very few fines were ever given to homeowners who left their sidewalks in dangerous condition. (In fact, on a neighborhood forum, people who suggested reporting illegally un-shoveled sidewalks were sometimes rebuked for causing a neighbor inconvenience.)

They'll learn soon enough once the slip'n'sues get wind of it.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:36 PM on December 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't agree with this at all. It's not cheap in Tokyo (or any major Japanese city), which ensures a reliable source of funding for the operators and gives them incentive to serve as many riders as possible. The key is that private cars are appropriately priced as well, with high gas taxes and much fewer hidden subsidies.

So what matters for me is the cost of a public transit cost for an irregular user vs the use of a car. If the public transit ride costs somewhere close to the cost of gas + parking, the convenience of a car is likely to win out, especially if you are more than one person. This is often not the case, though I have no idea what the specifics are in Japan. But this would encourage public transit use among people who currently drive, and once taking the bus is actually convenient (and car use is priced appropriately), more long-term thinking could be done.
posted by jeather at 2:36 PM on December 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


What I was taught in CA drivers ed was that ALL corners are crosswalks, marked or not and that peds ALWAYS have the right of way......even when they shouldn't.

Yeah, CA has a special pedestrian laws. As I understand it, pedestrians always have the right of way, even when jaywalking. Pedestrians are required to yield when not in a marked crosswalk, but even then, they still have the right of way the moment they step off the curb.

As I understand it, this is a relic of the early days of autos, lots of pedestrians were mowed down by speeding cars, particularly in Los Angeles. So essentially the law is designed to make the driver always at fault in any pedestrian accident, even if the pedestrian is crossing illegally. This law is useful even in unexpected circumstances, like the bicyclist who ran down and killed a pedestrian in San Francisco.

SF is an interesting comparison. It has tons of mass transit and you don't really need a car to get around. They even have a surtax on gasoline just to discourage use of autos. The streets are walkable and business districts are mostly designed to accommodate pedestrian traffic rather than autos. And still the traffic is miserable, pedestrians get killed all the time, and crossing the street is still taking your life in your hands.

And yeah, nobody walks in LA. It is just not done. I used to live four blocks from work in downtown, but I always drove because those four blocks were through Skid Row, and my employer had reserved parking as a free perk. Walking can get you killed. I remember once I was walking 500 feet back from lunch on a particularly crowded downtown street and there were some guys crouched down playing Three Card Monte on the corner. The mark jumped up and knocked over a pedestrian, who knocked into me, pushing me backwards into the street, right in front of a bus. If someone hadn't grabbed me by the lapels and pulled me back, I would be dead.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:43 PM on December 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


I don't know how to respond to this without using a JIF.

Hey, you got your peanut butter in my MetaFilter!
posted by hippybear at 2:46 PM on December 24, 2014 [6 favorites]


As the above mentioned Mr. Hippybear, I do live in Marina Del Rey and walk to work (and to stores). I also bike a reasonable amount.

Even with pedestrian lights on my side, I'm often having Close Encounters with cars turning. As in most places, it helps to not look (if you look, drivers know you see them coming and count on you stopping or moving out of the way). But there are serious impediments to being on foot - there are quite enough intersections where you can't just cross the street, but need to cross the intersecting street (on the light), then cross the street, then cross the intersecting street again. And with long waits for pedestrian lights, it's a pain.

I can't comment on social faux pas, as I tend to be fairly solitary. But I've been told by more than a few people that driving in LA is mandatory and not driving is considered a bit subversive at best.

As for biking - it helps to be an aggressive cyclist who takes no shit. It may get me run over one of these days.
posted by Death and Gravity at 2:54 PM on December 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


I live in Spokane also - Hi there, hippybear!

I live downtown and there are great crosswalks, mostly decent sidewalks, fancy-schmancy new signals that count down the seconds and verbally tell the pedestrian when to walk or wait. Also, we have great little curb ramp things that enable wheelchairs to get out of the street and onto the sidewalk quickly and easily and the downtown area is well lighted. So downtown is pretty good for pedestrians.

Except: All walk signals (every last one, new or old) are set for so few seconds that an Olympic sprinter couldn't make it across the intersection before the walk sign goes off, even if he had a running start. My wheelchair is motorized and at top speed, potholes and all, I barely make it to the center of the crosswalk before the Wait sign comes on. Meantime, the cars - oh, ye gods; I'm not a sissy and I don't live in fear of being run over by any means, but drivers seem to have no clue that they're supposed to wait for pedestrians IN crosswalks to get out of the sidewalk before they drive through - heck, they don't even wait for the pedestrian to get out of their own path, let along out of the crosswalk - whoosh! they sail right past my nose or right behind my chair. All the time. Nearly every day.

There are two places downtown which are special nightmares and I've talked to the police about them. Hah. They'll try to improve their presence there is what I'm told. Get the license plate number I'm told. Really? When a car just misses running over you and speeds past like his tail's on fire - I'm supposed to whip out my notebook and write down his license plate number, blurred by his speed as it is - yadda yadda. Typical BS - no action.

I take the city bus with my scooter all over town and I have to say that our fine city, other than downtown and along major arterials, is seriously lacking in crosswalks, in wheelchair access ramps to and from the sidewalks - even in sidewalks, for that matter, and what sidewalks there are are just downright hazardous with broken concrete from tree roots, huge holes from standing water and snow I suppose, etc. I don't complain about kid's toys or basketball hoops or kid's bikes on the sidewalks, though; people live there, I don't, and their kids deserve some slack. But I do have to drive in the street, zigzagging in and out around parked cars, in many parts of town - and there's almost nothing in the way of street lighting except on major streets where the car lights make it as bright as day anyway.

So - different situations for different people in different places, but it is a problem for pedestrians and the biggest problem is the drivers who completely ignore people in crosswalks because they're in such a hurry. I drove a car every day for 40+ years, so I know the pressures and headaches, but people in crosswalks have NO METAL SHELL AROUND THEM and if you run over one of them, your whole evening is going to be a bigger nightmare than if you just slow down and let them get through the crosswalk in the first place!

Sorry - got a bit derailed there. People drive because it is convenient and that's going to continue whether there's adequate public transportation or not, but the streets really do need to be well marked, especially in crosswalks around schools and parks and if there's no reasonable way for a pedestrian to cross a street other than by crossing without a marked crosswalk, then jaywalking loses all its meaning. Police are using jaywalking as an excuse to stop someone because they can get by with it.
posted by aryma at 3:09 PM on December 24, 2014 [8 favorites]


I'm a bus rider and therefore a pedestrian. Because I use a wheelchair, I'm below the eye-line of many drivers in SUVs. (Waves hello at aryma.)

I encounter fewer turning automonsters if I travel on the sidewalk that's parallel to traffic. If I'm over on the contra-traffic sidewalk, then drivers coming out of side streets are always looking for oncoming car traffic—away from me. When I'm rolling on the with-traffic sidewalk, at least drivers have some impulse to glance my way before turning.

Jaywalking doesn't exist in Wisconsin, but the "yield to peds" requirement specifies slowing down, not stopping. I can't count the number of timesĀ a vehicle has slowed down, I pull into the crosswalk, and then they gun it and speed by.
posted by Jesse the K at 3:16 PM on December 24, 2014


My residential but still fairly dense neighborhood in LA doesn't even have sidewalks everywhere, which I think exemplifies part of why people react strangely if you show up somewhere without a car. It may well be a genuine faux pas with some of the west side crowds, but I think with most people the reaction is somewhat akin to being told someone lives with their parents as an adult. You can have a "good reason" and it's no big deal, but the initial reaction is somewhere between "wow, I'm sorry, what happened?" and "oh, that sounds really inconvenient!"
posted by feloniousmonk at 3:16 PM on December 24, 2014


more crosswalks, many of them with pushbutton flashing signals to draw attention to pedestrians for drivers

One of these just went in where the street I live on tees into an arterial. It's new so drivers are still adjusting, but it seems to have transformed what was a terrifying crosswalk (it had signs and crosswalk paint, but you were never sure if the driver in lane two knew why the driver in lane one was stopping) into an easy and safe crossing point. Traffic is still too fast on the main street and what it really needs is the full array of traffic calming infrastructure and grade-separated bike lanes, but even this one thing is a significant improvement.

So what matters for me is the cost of a public transit cost for an irregular user vs the use of a car. If the public transit ride costs somewhere close to the cost of gas + parking, the convenience of a car is likely to win out, especially if you are more than one person.

It depends on the day and the time, but usually for an evening event we can drive downtown and park for the same or less than it would cost the two of us to take the bus. The key decision point is less the cost (which is trivially low in either case) and more the tradeoff between the convenience of the car or being able to drink. If I lived directly on a light rail line that ran late (so much nicer than the bus!) the decision would be a no-brainer even if the cost was significantly higher.

Except: All walk signals (every last one, new or old) are set for so few seconds that an Olympic sprinter couldn't make it across the intersection before the walk sign goes off, even if he had a running start

The last time I was in Spokane I got caught by this -- we were crossing a street at a normal pace (Main or Sprague, I think) and then all of a sudden the signal was red and several lanes of cars were starting to move. Other cities have mistimed walk lights also, but it was so short it really stood out to me.
posted by Dip Flash at 3:24 PM on December 24, 2014


Echoing the people find it weird if you walk places in LA observation - people occasionally comment on my habit of walking to the gym, even though I think it'd be silly to drive less than a mile to then go get my exercise. I think most people are just really stuck in the mode that going somewhere requires a car, even though everyone then complains about traffic and how terrible it is.

(I try not to walk very far at night, though, just because we have so many inattentive drivers. Google cars can't come fast enough in my book.)
posted by tautological at 3:25 PM on December 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


In my neck of the woods (Vancouver), the city really is quite walkable despite the poor attitudes of some people in cars. But jaywalking tickets are routinely used to harass folks in the Downtown Eastside, and the stats bear it out. Such bullshit.
posted by lookoutbelow at 3:33 PM on December 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


We live at one end of a 1.25 mile long school zone with clearly marked crosswalks, and crossing guards during the day. Seems a safe place to let your kid walk and ride his bike to school, no? Just this school year, my son and 4 other kids have been hit IN the crosswalk, in front of cops, and flashing lights, and crossing guards, by drivers turning right while looking left. 4 kids. My kid lost a week of school from injuries, but was ok. One kid is still in full casts. People in cars just don't look for pedestrians or bikes. Even in a school zone. With lights. And cop cars. And crossing guards.
posted by dejah420 at 3:44 PM on December 24, 2014 [10 favorites]


Texting is the new drunk driving without MADD to stop it.

Makes it all worse.
posted by el io at 3:49 PM on December 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


octothorpe- when I moved back to Seattle after many years in Chicago, the respect that drivers had for pedestrians was totally confusing and confounding.
posted by wotsac at 4:05 PM on December 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


Then we could get some solid evidence, beyond anecdotes, that the police really are as racist as they seem.

I am going to go out on a limb here and guess that you are not an African American.
posted by notreally at 4:20 PM on December 24, 2014 [7 favorites]


Except: All walk signals (every last one, new or old) are set for so few seconds that an Olympic sprinter couldn't make it across the intersection before the walk sign goes off, even if he had a running start.

This is my experience too. In Edmonton we have all the same conveniences you mention (the countdown lights, ramps for wheelchairs and so on) but they've also been cutting down the length of the walk signals. I've lived in the same neighbourhood my whole life and had to continually cross the same streets, so it's very obvious. The worst offender is an intersection where there have been quite a few vehicular accidents (though not pedestrian ones). The first thing they did was dramatically shave off the corners, making it easier for people to make high speed turns. Then they started to reduce the walk signal times. It's down to seven seconds now for a four lane road. I'm tempted to run across the street, but that's just asking to be hit by the drivers making their high speed left turns. After that they put in a turn signal that made things even worse, because drivers turn at any time in the cycle, signal or not. But they seem to have removed that one.
posted by Kevin Street at 4:30 PM on December 24, 2014


All walk signals (every last one, new or old) are set for so few seconds that an Olympic sprinter couldn't make it across the intersection before the walk sign goes off, even if he had a running start.

Is the walk sign going off or is it simply switching to a flashing "DON'T WALK"? I used to think signals around here were absurdly quick until I realized that the "WALK" sign is only a signal to begin crossing and a flashing "DON'T WALK" is a warning not to start crossing because there isn't enough time to make it all the way across before traffic starts moving again.

Assuming the overall time is sufficient, having the signal change from one to the other while you're still in the middle of the road is perfectly normal and safe. You're not supposed to make it to the other side while the white "WALK" light is on.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 4:33 PM on December 24, 2014 [5 favorites]


Lots of pedestrian crossings around here are having visible countdown timers added to them. They start counting down from 25 or 20 with a "WALK" signal, and when they get down to 10 it switches to an orange flashing "DON'T WALK".
posted by RonButNotStupid at 4:40 PM on December 24, 2014


Whoops. I completely missed that you do have countdown times where you are. Disregard my previous comments.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 4:43 PM on December 24, 2014


You're right though, as that is how it's supposed to work at most crossings.
posted by Kevin Street at 4:45 PM on December 24, 2014


Lots of pedestrian crossings around here are having visible countdown timers added to them. They start counting down from 25 or 20 with a "WALK" signal, and when they get down to 10 it switches to an orange flashing "DON'T WALK".

We have these. A guy who hit a pedestrian in my town tried to claim that the victim should not have been in the crosswalk because it was flashing "DON'T WALK".
posted by thelonius at 4:57 PM on December 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


This is the problem. Nobody (including me) ever realizes that you can still walk when it's counting down to red.
posted by Kevin Street at 5:01 PM on December 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Texting is the new drunk driving without MADD to stop it.

It has the force of law to stop it.

I'm unhappily ambivalent about MADD. To my mind, people should be taught about responsible drinking long before age 21. I could be wrong, but I associate the age limit with college binge drinking.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:05 PM on December 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


The problem with MADD is that it caused the entire conversation about drunk driving to be about enforcement and punishment and not even slightly about walkability and transit.
posted by octothorpe at 5:15 PM on December 24, 2014 [18 favorites]


I just got hit by a car, in front of my house, last month in Seattle. At 3pm on a non-raining afternoon. In a single-family residence neighborhood less than 4 miles from downtown. It has some sidewalks, some traffic-calming circles, and a few re-routed intersections (4-way intersections changed into two 90deg turn-only streets).

But I was hit at a T-intersection with one dead end arm, that can't accept a traffic circle due to trucks (garbage, deliveries, contractors, firetrucks) not being able to fit around a center obstruction. People race around the corner as they realize the upright and one arm of the T don't go through.

Just 3 blocks away, the only way to access the bus without using a public stairwell down to the major arterial, there are no arterial crosswalks except at lights about a quarter mile and 3/4 of a mile away. Not very usable for someone on crutches with casts on both legs; my maximum foot travel radius is about 4 blocks, the intersection has no streetlights, and obviously I am very slow. There is no way for me to cross the uncontrolled arterial/sidestreet intersection in a timely way.

Basically, I can't go out safely at night unless picked up by a car. The local infrastructure may be pedestrian tolerable (at least there are sidewalks and marked bus stops, but with no shelters or seats, on the arterial), but it is actively hostile to someone movement-disabled. All this in a US city well-regarded for its transit, pedestrian and bicycling accommodations.

Build cities for all the road users, dammit.
posted by Dreidl at 5:19 PM on December 24, 2014 [11 favorites]


What will happen if robot driven cars become legal on roads is that the engineers will further define roads as spaces that humans do not belong.

QFT. Today, at least, people have to acknowledge that there are kids and seniors and people with disabilities who cannot drive (although of course many end up driving regardless), and that to design a city in such a way that makes it physically impossible for them to travel violates some pretty basic human rights. Once we have robot cars, your kids will just get a cell phone that'll summon a car to carry them from school to the playground to home, as will everyone else who matters, and anyone left on the streets will be poor and therefore undesirable. They won't be able to eliminate crosswalks fast enough.
posted by alexei at 5:22 PM on December 24, 2014 [9 favorites]


To protest, I say we all start walking aimlessly across busy intersections.

Critical Mosey
posted by sourwookie at 6:11 PM on December 24, 2014 [12 favorites]


He rolled down his window to bellow at the pedestrian walking across an intersection between two solid white lines and with a green light, "That is not a walkway, buddy!"

In Myville, as often as not, cars pull into the crosswalks. I like to entertain myself by shouting "It's called a 'crossWALK' not a 'crossPARK'!" as I pass the driver.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:14 PM on December 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeah it's the texting that's really made things bad.

As a Boston trained and long time NYC driver, though, I don't get the fear of hitting someone. You drive slow where there are people around, you make eye contact, you look for blind hazards, and you give the space in front of your car profound attention. If everyone did that most cities would work better. Walkers too...I'm like a pivoting weather came when I cross NYC streets, phone down, earbuds out, pay attention time for serious. Both driving and walking in NYC I see people who are basically oblivious to one near death experience after another, and I not infrequently find myself warning people to look up or look out. But as much as better engineering or law enforcement will improve this situation at the margins, as long as 2500 pound plus vehicles and 150 pound humans share space the major need is for everyone to put down the fucking iphone and be alert. And drivers need to be slow and steady. Easy enough.
posted by spitbull at 6:24 PM on December 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


Traffic has a lot about pedestrian safety, in addition to some interesting research on why we drive the way we do.

Oddly, research in Europe shows that you can make pedestrians safer by reducing the barriers to the road, which is a bit counter-intuitive. But people tend to slow down when things are a bit iffy, or at least they would if they weren't texting that they were late for a meeting.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 6:30 PM on December 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


Fun facts: Massachusetts is the best state in the nation for pedestrian safety.

It's also the worst state in the nation for dings and fender benders.

http://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2014/12/11/best-of-blog-dangerously-uninformed

In my opnion, this is not a coincidence. The potholes, rocks, and tree stumps lovingly correct the kinds of driver habits that cause pedestrians to be killed.
posted by ocschwar at 6:39 PM on December 24, 2014 [11 favorites]


Ronbutnotstupid, you're right about the way the signals work - it's the WAIT hand that pops up within seconds after entering the crosswalk and I know that I still have some seconds left to finish crossing the street. The problem is that the drivers don't get it. I've had them yell at me for being in the crosswalk when the WAIT hand is flashing - they think it means STAY OUT of the crosswalk, even though I only entered it ten seconds ago.

You see, drivers drive - it's the pedestrians who walk or wheelchair (or use crutches, you poor Dreidl) or otherwise rely on crosswalks to safely cross streets. A good percentage of the drivers racing through these intersections haven't walked through a crosswalk in years and they sure as heck don't know how a WAIT hand signal works.

How would they know? I don't think most people even have to take written tests for a driver's license anymore, do they? So if there were some new information with regard to the new type of walk/wait signals that was printed in the Driver's Handbook, most would never have occasion to read it.

Anyway, I do okay, but I think some improvements, particularly in enforcing the law when it comes to people driving through occupied crosswalks, is in order.

(Wave hello to Jesse the K)
posted by aryma at 8:01 PM on December 24, 2014


Except: All walk signals (every last one, new or old) are set for so few seconds that an Olympic sprinter couldn't make it across the intersection before the walk sign goes off, even if he had a running start.

This is a huge problem around here. (Suburbs of suburbs of Toronto.) I am a tall, able-bodied person in decent shape; I walk fast. Yet, when I start crossing exactly when the little walky man first comes up, it's a solid hand by the time I get to the other side, and the cars are on their yellow light. If I cross any later -- still walky man, but later in his lifespan -- and walk at my normal quicker-than-average pace, I end up having to either stop at the median or dodge cars. The blinky hand essentially means RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!!! And, well, lots of people can't do that.

Pretty much all the intersections with traffic lights here are four lanes (two each way) crossing four lanes, usually with an additional left turn lane making five lanes total; unfortunately, it seems the powers that be have set the timer for just one lane or some stupid thing like that. This was very probably done deliberately, to keep traffic congestion to a minimum. Now, it's true that traffic congestion is a problem here--a problem commuters love to moan about, which every local politician promises to fix, which is currently being addressed by the construction of a massive new highway--and there's not a huge amount of foot traffic except when school gets out (during which time there are crossing guards because kids' lives matter), so, hey, fuck pedestrians, amirite? But this is a sleeper town. Traffic congestion is only really a problem for two to four hours each weekday. They can't slow things down for the other 150-odd hours of the week? And besides, most of these crosswalks are the kind where you don't get the walk signal at all unless you push the button, so it's not like traffic gets backed up while everyone waits for nobody to cross the street. There's really no excuse for the quick walk-flash-don't cycle.

What's especially irritating is that these suburbs are actually designed to be walkable. For the car first, certainly, but for pedestrians, too. There are sidewalks on both sides of every street, plus many shortcuts cars can't take, and they're even well maintained in all seasons. The place isn't that big; to walk all the way across town (which no one would ever need to do, there being adequate facilities in most walkable radii, plus lacking-but-not-horrible local public transit) takes me just one hour. Except in especially inclement weather, there's really no need for a car at all for local traffic unless you're moving furniture or something.

But these quick lights are really discouraging to pedestrians, particularly older ones who aren't so quick on their feet. So they get in their car and drive three blocks to the grocery store to get that one thing they forgot they needed for dinner. And then they get stuck in the rush hour traffic, while needlessly contributing to it. And then they complain about it endlessly. Sigh.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:08 PM on December 24, 2014 [4 favorites]


I'm from LA and I take the train in to DTLA, K Town and Hollywood all the time. My friends are used to it by now that they have stopped offering me rides and folks in church thought I was either poor or did not know how to drive because they never saw me drive and assumed I did not own a car.

I had a friend visit recently and I'd asked him to take the train back to North Hollywood from Downtown LA and his OC friend's (originally from LA) response was a very shocked one and she told him "Do not take the train, I don't want to see you dead. Do you know who takes trains here?" . I still get asked all the time if I valet parked at restaurants and saying I took the train gets weird looks.

I took the bus in to work up in the valley even though it took me longer and people made the same assumption that I did not have a car or God forbid, had a DUI. As a friend here says, "No one walks in LA unless they are poor, and if you are white or look professional and walk to the bus, it's cos you got a DUI".

I do see the trains getting more crowded with younger people, so there is hope yet.
posted by viramamunivar at 8:09 PM on December 24, 2014 [6 favorites]


A blinking "don't walk" signal, whatever form it takes, means "do not start crossing the street" not "you aren't supposed to be finishing crossing the street".

And yes, drivers have to take a written test to get a new license, whether it's for the first time or in a new state or whatever. There are no tests required for a renewal, at least in the states (NM, AZ, WA, OR) that I have lived in.
posted by hippybear at 8:12 PM on December 24, 2014


I'm from LA, born and raised. Walking was always (as long as my memory extends back) considered not only a social faux pas there, but as a major marker of class. There's a wacky song about it, even. If you can afford it, you drive. If you can't afford it, you're scum. At least that's what I grew up hearing and believing. (See viramamunivar's comment above. Exactly.) One thing that always separated me out from my friends in high school and after graduating from college is that I didn't have a car (couldn't afford one and didn't learn to drive till I was 24) and always had to bum rides from family and friends. It was embarrassing and made me feel infantilized. That feeling is not discouraged in a culture in which cars predominate.

I'll grant that the expansion of the LA Metro and other pedestrian-friendly initiatives, in addition to other changes in neighborhoods that have made being a pedestrian somewhat easier in the core of LA in recent years, have probably somewhat blurred those lines.

But LA is still a car town. The LAPD still treats pedestrians as a menace. Pedestrians accounted for 47% of all traffic fatalities in LA in 2012 (the number nationally was 14%). And from everything I can tell (I don't live there anymore), living in the sprawling areas of LA that are called "suburbs" by outsiders is just as hard and hellish for pedestrians (pedestrians who aren't pedestrians by choice) as it ever was.
posted by blucevalo at 8:19 PM on December 24, 2014 [5 favorites]


A blinking "don't walk" signal, whatever form it takes, means "do not start crossing the street" not "you aren't supposed to be finishing crossing the street".

It's supposed to, yes.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:20 PM on December 24, 2014


When I moved to NY all I had to do was turn in my CA license and get a note from my opthamologist
posted by brujita at 8:30 PM on December 24, 2014


aggressive and even violent enforcement by police when it comes to jaywalking offenses.

Thanks, DeBlasio!

In NYC, the mayor's enforcement initiative earlier this year notwithstanding, the steady white signal means walk, the flashing red signal means walk, and the steady red signal means look, then walk.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 8:36 PM on December 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


a flashing "DON'T WALK" is a warning not to start crossing because there isn't enough time to make it all the way across

You have to be already waiting at the curb in order to cross. Because 2 seconds later, it is blinking red. Which if it's a street you're not familiar with/doesn't have a countdown timer then it's a just a flashing reminder to HURRY UP DAMMIT CARS ARE WAITING.

Or you could wait at the curb several minutes for the next 20 second pause. I gotta say, when I'm in NYC, the light changes are wonderfully rapid in comparison.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 9:16 PM on December 24, 2014


Yet, when I start crossing exactly when the little walky man first comes up, it's a solid hand by the time I get to the other side, and the cars are on their yellow light. If I cross any later -- still walky man, but later in his lifespan -- and walk at my normal quicker-than-average pace, I end up having to either stop at the median or dodge cars.

Same deal at Dundas and Queen where they intersect University. It's maddening.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:23 PM on December 24, 2014


Related posts.
posted by homunculus at 9:30 PM on December 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


I was visiting some family in Katy, TX a while back, and there were zero sidewalks anywhere. One day I walked a few blocks to a gas station to buy some cigarettes and used my passport as ID. The attendant didn't know what to make of the passport and was genuinely baffled by my lack of a drivers license. "But... how did you get here?" It was pretty funny.

I'm from New Orleans and the pedestrian right of way is a total joke there. It's one of the few things I don't like about the city. There are crosswalks but they don't give you any advantage really. Moving to the SF Bay Area was a pretty big culture shock. The first time multiple lanes of traffic stopped for little ole me I was actually suspicious.
posted by brundlefly at 10:06 PM on December 24, 2014


I'm from LA, born and raised. Walking was always (as long as my memory extends back) considered not only a social faux pas there, but as a major marker of class.

When I lived in LA, I always regretted not buying a certain book at a garage sale. The guy had a whole box full of paperback books entitled "The Wit And Wisdom of Ronald Reagan." It mocked Reagan's idiotic statements when he was Governor of California. Even now, decades later, after just skimming through it for a few moments, I still remember one quote that was absolutely correct. He said, "All Californians support mass transit. They want everyone to take the bus or train, so they can have the freeways all to themselves."
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:18 PM on December 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


I must have put that together wrong, hippybear - my point was just that the drivers don't know that a flashing DON'T WALK means if I'm already in the crosswalk I should go ahead and finish crossing because I have 10 9 8 7 ... seconds left; the drivers see the flashing red hand and automatically assume I'm not supposed to be in the crosswalk at all.

Which is why I mentioned that I don't think most people even have to take a written test anymore It's true, apparently, for most drivers, since most are just renewing a license. If they had to take the test every four years and in that interim changes had been made in the booklet which pointed out that they MUST yield to people in a crosswalk even when there's a NO WALK sign that's flashing red, at least they'd be made aware of that fact because they had to take the test and, assumably, read the booklet.

I once knew a wonderful old lady in Colorado. Her name was Blanche and when she was in her mid 70s and still very active and a good driver, she was heading home one evening after dark through a residential part of town where there were no streetlights and few cars. A man had been drinking and had passed out in the street maybe 15' from where she'd just turned left onto the street. She ran over him. She heard the horrible sound and thought something had happened to her car, so she pulled over and dug out her flashlight - and found him. She ran to a nearby house and they called police and EMTs, but the man died before anyone could help him. Blanche never drove a car again and that was bad enough, but what it did to her emotionally I think cost her many years off her life. She passed away only a few months after that happened.

The reason I harp and ding so much about this kind of stuff is because I know that if some poor person were to run over me or over someone else in a crosswalk because they were in a hurry or didn't know they had to wait - it could and probably would destroy a good part of their life - or at least their emotional stability. I'm actually more worried about the driver than the pedestrian. And yes, I know we can't stop people from passing out in the street from too much drink, but we can do what we can do.

And I wish everyone safe driving and safe drinking and a happy and peaceful holiday!
posted by aryma at 11:23 PM on December 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't think most people even have to take written tests for a driver's license anymore, do they?

I don't know about other states, but in California there are several triggering events that can cause a driver's next license renewal notice to contain a requirement that they personally visit a DMV office for a vision test and a written test. In particular, one such trigger is that a driver can only receive two consecutive five year extensions without taking the tests. So the longest a driver can go in California without taking a written test is 15 years. Other triggers include age (70+ years), license suspensions, probation for driving offenses, failure to appear in court for a moving violation, and several others.
posted by RichardP at 12:06 AM on December 25, 2014


As in most places, it helps to not look (if you look, drivers know you see them coming and count on you stopping or moving out of the way)

Heh, I tend to do the opposite: I like to stare at the impatient car while I'm going across the crosswalk. Reassures me that they aren't about to run me over, and guilts them if they try anything. But I've never lived anywhere with a particularly bad pedestrian/driver culture, so I can't say that that's a good strategy elsewhere.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 12:11 AM on December 25, 2014 [4 favorites]


We're currently visiting Australia, where pedestrians don't have right of way except in marked crosswalks.*

I grew up in California, then moved to Portland, OR. When we were first told by Aussies that pedestrians didn't have right of way when crossing at an intersection without a painted crosswalk, I though it was a joke.

I've felt animosity from drivers even in the most "walkable" and "bike friendly" cities in the US, but it's nothing compared to the Australian attitude. So many of these otherwise-friendly people seem to view pedestrians and cyclists as nothing more than impediments to the free flow of car traffic - and some of them have said as much. (This may have something to do with the fact that we're in a fairly rural area; during our few days in Brisbane the drivers were mostly quite polite and bike/ped/transit infrastructure seemed reasonable.)

Anyway, it makes me grateful for cities like Portland that actively work to improve safety for all road users.

*Actually, reading the Road Rules, it seems that vehicles turning onto a road must yield to pedestrians on said road that are already crossing. Otherwise, though, pedestrians are expected to either head for the nearest crosswalk or stand around and wait for a break in vehicle traffic.
posted by sibilatorix at 1:47 AM on December 25, 2014


I must have put that together wrong, hippybear - my point was just that the drivers don't know that a flashing DON'T WALK means if I'm already in the crosswalk I should go ahead and finish crossing because I have 10 9 8 7 ... seconds left; the drivers see the flashing red hand and automatically assume I'm not supposed to be in the crosswalk at all.

Why are drivers looking at the pedestrian lights at all? Even if it says DON'T WALK, the car light should still be red, stopping them from driving across the crosswalk.
posted by ymgve at 7:18 AM on December 25, 2014


ymgve: drivers do all sorts of stupid, unjustified things. Like expecting the pedestrian countdown to let them know if the light is turning yellow soon, accelerating when a light turns yellow when legally yellow means "stop unless it is unsafe to do so". The driver here is turning across a crosswalk and justifies their reckless behavior with the mistaken notion that flashing red hand means the pedestrian is not allowed in the intersection.
posted by idiopath at 7:38 AM on December 25, 2014


Why are drivers looking at the pedestrian lights at all? Even if it says DON'T WALK, the car light should still be red, stopping them from driving across the crosswalk.

Not if the cars are turning onto the road that you're trying to cross. Then both you and the cars have the green and they're usually pissed that you're keeping them from turning.
posted by octothorpe at 8:38 AM on December 25, 2014 [3 favorites]


(Not to derail this thread further but as a quick and I think necessary corrective aside: I live in a community adjacent to Ferguson, a few miles away from where Michael Brown was shot, and have been following the case closely. Michael Brown was indeed originally stopped for jaywalking, and the Ferguson police department has issued conflicting statements as to whether Officer Wilson knew about the shoplifting incident earlier in the day; at first the Ferguson police chief publicly stated that the officer had not known about it, and some officers testified both during the initial investigation and during the grand jury inquiry that Officer Wilson told them he did not know about the theft suspect as he had been busy on another call-- waiting with the family of a sick child for an ambulance-- immediately prior to the Brown stop. During the grand jury investigation Wilson testified that he had in fact heard something about the theft over the radio and realized AFTER stopping Brown for jaywalking that he "fit the description," but that the initial stop was for jaywalking has never been in dispute. You can find all of this in early public statements made by the Ferguson police department and the grand jury documents that have been publicly released, if you feel like checking me. I have literally walked on the street Michael Brown was walking down when he was stopped and shot. It is not a main thoroughfare. It's a side street off another side street. The type of suburban street that does not even have a line down the middle, let alone crosswalks; the type of street you expect to see adults walking and children playing in. It is a very short, low-speed-limit road that leads directly into an apartment complex and the complex's parking lot. The apartment complex area does have sidewalks, but it does not have many crosswalks. It is entirely totally logical to assume that residents of the complex regularly walk in / cross that street in order to take the shortest logical route to their homes and cars. Michael Brown was literally steps away from the apartment he was headed toward when he was stopped. /end derail that was not entirely a derail because Michael Brown really was stopped for jaywalking in an area where it was perfectly safe and reasonable to walk in the street and the stop really was stupid.)
posted by BlueJae at 9:11 AM on December 25, 2014 [16 favorites]


. As in most places, it helps to not look (if you look, drivers know you see them coming and count on you stopping or moving out of the way)

I am so good at watching cars without visibly looking that early in our relationship, my boyfriend believed I was walking out into traffic without even checking for cars.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 9:24 AM on December 25, 2014


Not if the cars are turning onto the road that you're trying to cross. Then both you and the cars have the green and they're usually pissed that you're keeping them from turning.

If both pedestrians in the crosswalk and turning cars have green then the intersection was designed by a moron. Walk indicators generally come on only when all possible oncoming vehicles, including turners, have red. In states where right turn on red is legal (AFTER STOP ASSHOLES) there is usually a sign saying "No Right on Red" or "Turning Vehicles Must Yield To Pedestrians."
posted by localroger at 9:49 AM on December 25, 2014


Walk indicators generally come on only when all possible oncoming vehicles, including turners, have red. In states where right turn on red is legal (AFTER STOP ASSHOLES) there is usually a sign saying "No Right on Red" or "Turning Vehicles Must Yield To Pedestrians."

Neither of these things have been generally true in ANY state in which I have driven a vehicle.

Walk indicators change to "walk" to coincide with traffic that is crossing the same road that those on foot are crossing at that intersection. Light turns green, walk indicator also goes to "walk". (In fact, at intersections without a walk indicator, pedestrians are supposed to use the green signal as a "cross now" signal.)

I can see that perhaps in some big cities with a lot of people on foot, motorized traffic might have red in every direction while pedestrians are allowed to cross, but that is an exception, not a standard.

More places SHOULD have "yield to pedestrians" signage, but that is a very rare thing.
posted by hippybear at 10:07 AM on December 25, 2014 [5 favorites]


On the way back, we were "pulled over" by the police who gave us a surprisingly intense series of questions about where we lived, what we were doing walking, of all things (were we on drugs?! was there someone after us?!) and ultimately let us off with the admonition that "your type isn't usually seen walking around unless something suspicious is going on, so don't walk unless you want to look suspicious."

This has happened to me in one of the most bullshit parts of the Seattle area, mercer island. It's basically a bedroom suburb on an "island"(with I-90 running across it) for rich white people. Assholes live there, they have asshole kids, and repopulate the world with assholes.(I could almost write a book on that part) They also have asshole police.

For some reason i forget that was legitimate, like some friend I was with dating a girl who lived over there, we bused over there when I was in high school. We were 3 white(or in my case, white enough looking) kids dressed in a way that fit in enough... We got stopped by the cops exactly like this TWICE.

Buses run through the area too, but as far as I can tell people there have that "buses are only for criminals to take in and rob us" attitude, besides the commuter bus to Microsoft of course.

I've also had the same experience walking around Everett. Stopped by the cops, accused of stealing a shopping cart I found on the side of the road(the bus refused to let me on with a rabbit in a cat carrier, even though they had no actual rules against that... And it was a heavy rabbit). When I asked what I was being stopped for I was instantly threatened with arrest and a night in jail.

I've realized this is actually one of the main reasons I hate suburban/small town cops. At first I thought they had nothing better to do, then I realized they actively target it.

I can think of 2-3 other times it's happened to me too, or that I was just endlessly followed by a cop while walking in a place like that. Presumably waiting for me to jaywalk or do something "wrong" so they could jump out and go FREEZE GET DOWN ON THE GROUND.

Fuck all this shit.
posted by emptythought at 10:23 AM on December 25, 2014 [4 favorites]


Oh, i missed another bit there.

At least in my city, having a car as a teenager wasn't just a class thing, it was a marker of where you were from. Poor or lower-middle-class suburban kids had cars, but pretty much only rich kids had cars in the city. Basically all, like 99.999% of the middle and upper middle class kids i knew didn't.

Being in the suburbs, surrounding cities, or even outer stretches of town without a car was a huge visible marker of "i am not from this area". It wasn't just a nobody walks in LA thing, it was a nobody from LA walks so why are you here.

I've felt animosity from drivers even in the most "walkable" and "bike friendly" cities in the US, but it's nothing compared to the Australian attitude.

Drawing on the dynamic mentioned above, i've noticed a HUGE shift in this over the past say, 10 years. I've walked and bused everywhere my entire life. I only had a car for maybe 2 years, and i didn't use it a lot. As more people from out of town have moved here, the city population has shot up almost entirely with out of town people, and major employers have sprung up in the city like amazon... that "eww why the fuck are you walking" attitude has moved here and i've started to have more and more stupid crosswalk interactions.

I rant about it on social media all the time, but i suddenly get a LOT of people super aggressively accelerating at me or revving their engines, or doing the really aggressive "I'm not going to stop all the way and just slowly roll in to the crosswalk at you so you'll hurry up if you don't want to get run over" thing. A guy i know was actually slow motion hit/run over by someone that way, and the guy just kept rolling over him and didn't stop (...and he went totally apeshit and beat up their car, and the driver, because he's a violent asshole... and i feel like the guy totally deserved it, but anyways).

There's just a lot of "ugh why does there have to be pedestrians i hate this" angry driving now i never used to see. And i really attribute that to the suburban car culture, and other cities stronger car culture.
posted by emptythought at 10:47 AM on December 25, 2014 [4 favorites]


...but i suddenly get a LOT of people super aggressively accelerating at me or revving their engines, or doing the really aggressive "I'm not going to stop all the way and just slowly roll in to the crosswalk at you so you'll hurry up if you don't want to get run over" thing.

Wow. I've never seen anyone do anything like that around here. In my city the danger comes from inattention, and roads that encourage drivers to zoom along at high speed with a minimum of stops. But not outright anti-pedestrian aggression.
posted by Kevin Street at 1:22 PM on December 25, 2014


No really, that anger thing is huge and I don't think it's just "suburban attitudes invade the city" in my experience. It's generalized. People are more stressed out, more in a hurry, more aggressive and competitive than they used to be behind the wheel. I've been driving for nigh on 32 years now. I have driven in every single state in the union. I've driven close to a million miles in my life, and lived and driven both in big cities and quite rural settings (though rather less so in suburbia). I have definitely noticed a steady, incremental rise in stress levels on the road, along with ever heavier traffic and ever more isolating large luxurious vehicles (which I think encourage me against the world driving, the feeling of being invulnerable because you're big and high up and in a cocoon of luxury). Add that to the level of digital distraction and it's a recipe for bad stuff. On the other hand both roadway design and car design have gotten much, much better and where the former is invested in and the latter taken advantage of by drivers (my car yells at me if I seem oblivious to a person or vehicle behind me or in a blind spot, and I could have sprung for a system that would stop me automatically before I hit something in front of me if I'm traveling at under 20mph, not that I want to find out what that feels like, but it's going to be standard in a lot of cars soon that the car really won't even let you roll into a pedestrian from dead stop or at a low rate of speed typical of turning maneuvers in bigger cities) we are actually seeing less carnage, overall, year by year.

It comes down to the meat in the seat, though. And a lot of folks are driving super aggro these days because their lives suck.
posted by spitbull at 1:32 PM on December 25, 2014 [3 favorites]


and it's worrisome to see how many people phrase it as "finally growing up" and "it's so convenient" and "it's so much safer than the bus."

But it is convenient. That's why people drive. (I don't think it's grown up or safer than a bus, though.) There are complex reasons why this is true, and it probably should be changed so that public transit is more convenient and cars are less (and public transit should be much, much cheaper than it is in most places), but I don't think it's fair to compare "having a car is being an adult" and "having a car is safe" with "having a car is convenient".


You can't bring up people's "safe" comments, or the adulthood ones, without pointing out that these comments are often rooted in seriously racist and classist shit. Poor people and brown people ride the bus, you're not one of those dirty poors who has to ride the bus with *insert local group of brown people everyone whines about here* are you? Yea you're moving up the ladder!

This can be much more subtle if you have a white collar job and it's a more affluent area, but that's what stuff is. And yea, I know there's official explanations that give that stuff cover, but that's what it says to me. Especially after hearing lots and lots of comments by people and the tone they were couched in.
posted by emptythought at 4:23 PM on December 25, 2014 [3 favorites]


Dreidl: "a T-intersection with one dead end arm, that can't accept a traffic circle due to trucks (garbage, deliveries, contractors, firetrucks) not being able to fit around a center obstruction."
There are solutions for that.
posted by brokkr at 5:12 PM on December 25, 2014


As someone who walks and drives and uses public transit, depending, the main thing I want from jaywalkers is to not wander slowly across a main street in the middle of the block at night wearing dark clothes. Just drop any one of those risk factors, please.
posted by jeather at 6:02 PM on December 25, 2014 [4 favorites]


My LA experience is different, but it's also confined to a small corner of the westside. On my team of around 7 engineers, I walk to work, 3 people bike, another guy multimode train/buses and the last 2 drive. I've never really had any incredulous open looks when I show up at a happy hour or dinner via walking. Nor any real close encounters yet with cars.

It's West LA/Santa Monica though, so likely its own snowflake. The biking infrastructure here is as good as I've seen. You do want to get off the major thoroughfares to avoid the worst drivers so need to be comfortable in the neighborhoods, and the walking population isn't large. I'd say I recognize another dozen or so commuters though.
posted by minedev at 9:13 PM on December 25, 2014


Walk indicators generally come on only when all possible oncoming vehicles, including turners, have red. In states where right turn on red is legal (AFTER STOP ASSHOLES) there is usually a sign saying "No Right on Red" or "Turning Vehicles Must Yield To Pedestrians."

A large number, maybe a majority, of the intersections in my city don't actually have Walk/Don't Walk signs. Pedestrians just have to watch the same traffic lights that the cars do to know when to walk. Here's the closest intersection to my house for example. Note the complete lack of painted crosswalks too. Somehow the city can paint the yellow lines for cars but almost never bother to paint the crosswalks in.
posted by octothorpe at 10:13 PM on December 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


Ugh, street safety stuff makes me incandescently angry. I (a pedestrian) recently got hit by a turning car while I was in the crosswalk with a walk signal and the driver kept yelling at me about how she had the right of way, and what was I doing walking anyway (in Brooklyn, for chrissakes). I honestly don't know that we can ever do enough to make streets safe for walkers but thanks for posting this article, blankdawn, since I am pretty sure awareness has to be the first step.
posted by ferret branca at 9:20 AM on December 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


Neither of these things have been generally true in ANY state in which I have driven a vehicle.

It's true here in Massachusetts. Most signals are configured such that the walk cycle corresponds with a four-way red light for automobiles, though Boston is apparently reconfiguring some intersections to give parallel/turning vehicles a green and Cambridge has always been like that.

Massachusetts also has (or had, as it's being phased out for not being compliant with national standards) a simultaneous Red/Yellow light that stopped all traffic and even prohibited right turns on red.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 5:23 AM on December 27, 2014


As a country we've got a long way to go before pedestrian safety becomes a thing of which the average citizen even takes notice, let alone cares about.

About a hundred years ago, this was something the average citizen cared about. There was public shaming and even attacks on reckless drivers who killed pedestrians, especially children, because the street was the domain for everyone, including children at play.

Less than a hundred years later, we are so far away from that reality that few realize we lost.

I'm now a transportation planner at the state level, and as everyone here realizes, there is no standardization from state to state, let alone between communities. Some states value trucks and freight above other modes, while others generally value all through-traffic. By and large, bicycle, pedestrian and equestrian facilities (often gathered under the header of BPE at the national level for discussions of alternative -that is, slower and less protected- modes of transportation) are add-ons, when there are funds for such facilities. And the federal gas tax has been flat since 1993, which is kind of like trying to buy the things you need today with the same income you've had for the last two decades.

But there's also the issue of disconnections in general project design, and issues of environmental justice: road projects built without enough attention paid to the local communities and their primary modes of transportation (as seen with multi-lane roads), which could have been addressed through public input, except those impacted are generally less available to attend meetings that often take place in the middle of the work day, and there is no significant involvement from transit agencies, because people who operate bus lines could also inform the project on the placement of crosswalks to provide better access to transit stops.

States and communities can get federal funds specifically for safety projects, but there needs to be coordination between the local and state agencies to make use of these funds, which may be fully reimbursable (which is to say, it shouldn't cost the municipality anything at the end of the project, though they will have to generally put money up front and get paid back).

All of this leaves out the police forces who enforce the rules when there are limited options for poor individuals and disadvantaged communities. Police need to understand the bicycle and pedestrian laws in place, as do pedestrians and bicyclists. But that doesn't help when you have to walk half a mile to the next crosswalk, just to get across the street to get to a bus stop, and this reality doesn't even come into the thinking of the police in the area.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:53 AM on December 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


« Older "So, yes, this is Bride of Frankenstein with...   |   Hallelujah, Holy Shit! Where's the Tylenol? Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments