The phantom of the “distracted pedestrian” haunts America
January 24, 2018 8:47 AM   Subscribe

"As it happens, the enormous legal privileges of car drivers are rooted in an earlier anti-pedestrian campaign dating from the early days of the automobile. Historically, city streets had been part of the public realm. Vendors, horse-drawn vehicles, playing children, and public-transit streetcars all used them, but the pedestrian dominated. Crossing the street on foot was a simple matter of walking from one side to another. Due to their mechanical power, fast speeds, and need for large amounts of physical space, cars upset this mix of uses and posed a new mortal danger to pedestrians exercising their right to mobility. So starting in the 1920s, automakers and their allies led a coordinated effort to “socially reconstruct” American city streets, as historian Peter D. Norton writes — shifting responsibility for maintaining road safety away from drivers and onto pedestrians." Who's Afraid of the Pedextrian?
posted by everybody had matching towels (229 comments total) 66 users marked this as a favorite
 
It's particularly interesting that European countries aren't seeing the huge rise in automobile fatalities that the US is. They've got smartphones, so I have trouble believing that that's the sole cause...
posted by straw at 8:49 AM on January 24, 2018 [13 favorites]


If our cities suddenly become filled with emboldened, safe pedestrians, the whole mythology upon which car culture is founded would crumble into dust. Car companies know all too well that this is one possible version of the future. Hence the “petextrian”: a preemptive attempt by automakers and their allies to invent a menace that’s a worthy successor to the jaywalker of a century ago.

this always seemed depressingly obvious to me - if you're operating a 1000+ lb hunk of metal that can move at murdering speeds, the onus of responsibility is on you to not murder people, not on people to learn how to avoid you murdering them by remaining on high alert. it's a very special kind of brainwashing that has normalized the narrative that my ability to dodge a hurtling machine in order to facilitate the minute convenience of its passengers means, morally, the fault is mine for being bad at dodging things
posted by runt at 8:56 AM on January 24, 2018 [109 favorites]


The article makes a gesture in the direction toward that difference, though it's not its primary point:
Everything we know from countries that have successfully reduced road deaths indicates that the most effective approach is to systematically redesign streets to prioritize safety over speed.
It could be that smartphones (especially in the hands of drivers) are significantly contributing to the rise in traffic fatalities in the US, while in other countries, their effect is being mitigated by more effective road safety policies.

Anecdote: Not too long ago I was walking to work and I saw a woman - looking down at her phone - almost rear end the car in front of her. It was rush hour and traffic was really slow, but she was distracted long enough that she lost track of how close she was. She looked up just in time to slam on her brakes. At the time, I remember thinking, "You're really lucky you weren't going 5mph faster."

I also made an angry PUT DOWN YOUR PHONE gesture, which she saw. I hope she was fucking embarrassed that someone witnessed her dumbassery.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 9:01 AM on January 24, 2018 [7 favorites]


I walk to and from work, and my 1st grader accompanies me on the way home in the evenings. Even with me being VERY vigilant because I do not trust drivers to actually see me, we've had a few close calls at the dangerous five-way intersection we have to cross. Drivers just do not fucking look. Full stop.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:02 AM on January 24, 2018 [18 favorites]


Everyone involved in the traffic ecosystem should be on high alert, always. It is not now nor will it ever be safe for a pedestrian to la-di-da across the street without a care in the world, especially in the US where streets are wide and speeds are fast.

I don't own a car and walk to work. As a rule of thumb if I am crossing a street and a car is approaching the intersection, even if I have the walk signal / right of way, I make eye contact with the driver to ensure that I will not be run down. If anything seems amiss I will turn right back around. A guy actually yelled at me for doing that once.
posted by grumpybear69 at 9:04 AM on January 24, 2018 [7 favorites]


I also made an angry PUT DOWN YOUR PHONE gesture

Side question: Which gesture do you use for this? I've never been able to figure one out that seems to be understood by drivers.
posted by asperity at 9:05 AM on January 24, 2018 [7 favorites]


Side question: Which gesture do you use for this? I've never been able to figure one out that seems to be understood by drivers.

Step 1: Raise a closed fist, the back of your palm facing the offender.
Step 2: Extend your middle finger.
Step 3: Wave it back and forth in a manner that calls attention to the gesture.
Step 4 (optional): Repeat with other hand.

NOTE: May not be applicable in the UK.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:09 AM on January 24, 2018 [71 favorites]


Everyone involved in the traffic ecosystem should be on high alert, always.

sure, and similarly I should always never trust white people to not say dumb racist shit to me because if I went around trusting every last one of them, I'd be an emotional trainwreck

doesn't mean it's right or fun - but, within the context of this article, it does point to a horrible kind of capitalism-guided culture pervasive in all of us and it should, to drivers of cars, hopefully inspire more intentionality and care when driving
posted by runt at 9:10 AM on January 24, 2018 [18 favorites]


"Police were encouraged to blow loud whistles and host mock trials for Californian pedestrians who were simply behaving as they had for decades"

Texas of today is the California of the early 1900s in terms of laws meant to only serve a wealthy minority.
posted by The_Vegetables at 9:11 AM on January 24, 2018 [3 favorites]


I mimicked talking on the phone and then hanging it up while staring her in the face. Whether she understood me or not, she knew I had seen her almost hit that car while she was on the phone.

Next time I might try the PERSONAL FOUL signal from football.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 9:13 AM on January 24, 2018 [8 favorites]


My city had a typical snowstorm followed by some atypical difficulties clearing the roads of snow. I don't think I've ever seen the kind of car-centric assumptions written so baldly - it's not just that people feel that driving a car is a right, they feel like they have the right to operate any car, in any conditions, and if the city doesn't facilitate that, it is gross mismanagement at best, and criminal negligence of health and safety at worst.

Meanwhile my husband and I were playing "which block has the best neighbors?" based on how many sidewalks were cleared. Some people were kind enough to clear a path the width of their shovel - not wide enough for a walker or a wheelchair.
posted by muddgirl at 9:19 AM on January 24, 2018 [13 favorites]


I know I shouldn't, and it's going to get me road-raged one day, but if I'm crossing a street--at a corner, in a crosswalk, at a stop sign, goddamn it--and a car that should have stopped for me doesn't, I often give it a good tap on the rear quarter-panel as it rolls by.

The idea that distracted pedestrians are to blame for pedestrian deaths is crazy and offensive. That such an idea is planted by the auto industry is sort of a no-shit-Sherlock situation. I live in the (walkable) downtown area of a suburb, and every single time I walk into town I have to jump back onto the curb when some dipshit rolls through a stop sign either because he didn't see me or because he feels entitled to that intersection.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:20 AM on January 24, 2018 [52 favorites]


It could be that smartphones (especially in the hands of drivers) are significantly contributing to the rise in traffic fatalities in the US, while in other countries, their effect is being mitigated by more effective road safety policies.

I could see an argument that phone distraction is causing a rise in crashes, but the difference in Europe (in city centers especially) is that speeds are much lower so, as the article mentions, the fatality rate drops.

Our city is used as a major thoroughfare for commuters trying to get in to Cambridge and Boston and those people get pissed when anything disrupts their flow of traffic. However, our transit planner is a dedicated cyclist and pedestrian, and the city has been doing a lot to try to slow things down. The city-wide speed limit was reduced to 25 mph (arguably still too fast, and they're working on bringing it down to 20). Traffic calming measures are being implemented, including narrowing streets by adding islands and bike lanes. Ironically, the data the city has presented to us shows that slowing things down actually increases traffic throughput - cars flow more smoothly rather than race and stop between intersections, which causes upstream congestion problems. Plus, making other transit options more viable means fewer people are using cars for intracity travel.
posted by backseatpilot at 9:23 AM on January 24, 2018 [15 favorites]


99% Invisible did an episode in 2013 about the early battle between pedestrians and cars: Episode 76, "The Modern Moloch".
posted by good in a vacuum at 9:24 AM on January 24, 2018 [5 favorites]


I live in the UK, and shouting "INDICATE, YOU [expletive disallowed on metafilter]!!" at someone nearly running me over after turning unexpectedly is at least a weekly occurrence. I'd long since have been a road accident statistic in the US.
posted by Dysk at 9:25 AM on January 24, 2018 [7 favorites]


Here in Tucson, where the car is King, every news article about yet another pedestrian killed by a car has a very scoldy tone about stupid loser pedestrians and how they should be more careful. Even when they get killed doing perfectly legal things like crossing in a crosswalk on a green light. And the articles always end that no charges have been filed against the driver.

You could very purposefully run someone over here and walk away free.
posted by Squeak Attack at 9:28 AM on January 24, 2018 [11 favorites]


It is not now nor will it ever be safe for a pedestrian to la-di-da across the street without a care in the world

I don't think anybody, including the author of this piece, is suggesting that we shouldn't be careful walking. But anti-texting-pedestrian laws are some evil bullshit and pretty much designed to be enforced in bigoted ways, just like existing anti-jaywalking laws.

And that doesn't even touch the way that police and news media rush to slander pedestrians by assigning blame to them in advance of any crash investigation (Toronto, NYC, Maine), or the way that even staying on the sidewalk or indoors won't keep people safe from unsafe motorists.
posted by asperity at 9:28 AM on January 24, 2018 [18 favorites]


"
Our city is used as a major thoroughfare for commuters trying to get in to Cambridge and Boston"

Howdi, neighbor.

Same city or same story. (I live in the Gateway to Winchester.)
posted by ocschwar at 9:30 AM on January 24, 2018


You could very purposefully run someone over here and walk away free.

Previously, on MetaFilter...
posted by Guy Smiley at 9:31 AM on January 24, 2018 [4 favorites]


I know I shouldn't, and it's going to get me road-raged one day, but if I'm crossing a street--at a corner, in a crosswalk, at a stop sign, goddamn it--and a car that should have stopped for me doesn't, I often give it a good tap on the rear quarter-panel as it rolls by.

I do that. Twice now the driver (both males) has stopped the car and jumped out with the apparent intent of beating me up for it - once I was on a bike and could get away, once I happened to be walking directly into a store from the crosswalk and he didn't see where I'd gone. It's definitely dangerous.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 9:32 AM on January 24, 2018 [7 favorites]


[expletive disallowed on metafilter]

What the fuck is this shit?
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:39 AM on January 24, 2018 [34 favorites]


I am an aggressive pedestrian, who regularly stares down cars turning into the crosswalk when I have the right of way, yells "Turn signal, asshole!" when someone's turning and hasn't indicated, will pound on hoods or trunks when someone causes shit, and generally does my damnedest to defend my rightful space when crossing. If more pedestrians weren't submissive to drivers, we'd be in a better place.

That said, if I'm jaywalking, or if something is my fault, I won't do those things 'cause then it's on me.
posted by SansPoint at 9:40 AM on January 24, 2018 [19 favorites]


My biggest problem with distracted pedestrians is when I am also a pedestrian. I work on a college campus and holy cheezits PUT DOWN YOUR PHONES, YOUNGSTERS.

Whether I am in a car or not, I don't trust anyone to be able to operate a vehicle safely.

they feel like they have the right to operate any car, in any conditions, and if the city doesn't facilitate that, it is gross mismanagement at best, and criminal negligence of health and safety at worst.

Howdy, neighbor! As far as I can tell, this happens every year. Every single snow fall is "the worst job the city has ever done clearing snow!!!!!" It's an annual event. And some of it is caused by straight up car-centric entitlement, but it's also caused by the fact that businesses have also decided that they need to be open and fully staffed no matter what. Like, stocking the place mats at Target is Essential Services. People have to try to get to their jobs, even when there's a foot of snow on the ground and the city hasn't had 12 hours to clean the mess up. The assumption on the part of employers that we're all capable of commuting in literally any weather is bonkers to me. (The University pretty much never ever closes for weather but at least I'm in a white collar position where I could just tell my boss yeah sorry. I live on a two-block-long dead-end, we aren't going to get ploughed out until tonight. I'll work from home or take PTO and go sledding." People who work down at Home Depot don't have that privilege.)
posted by soren_lorensen at 9:41 AM on January 24, 2018 [10 favorites]


I bet self-driving cars -- if and when they arrive -- turn this shit around a bit. You will distractedly step into the street and they will slow or stop for you, not squash you, because self-driving cars won't be sleepy or distracted or impatient or trying to prove how manly they are. The occupants of the car might jump out and beat your ass, but the car itself will not try to kill you.
posted by pracowity at 9:43 AM on January 24, 2018 [8 favorites]


I bet self-driving cars -- if and when they arrive -- turn this shit around a bit

Addressed a bit in the article -- Google's self-driving car got rear-ended stopping for a pedestrian and got hung up in an intersection when human drivers kept inching forward. Both problems solved by 100% autonomous vehicles, but still.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:47 AM on January 24, 2018 [3 favorites]


While out walking my dog once, I crossed a 4-way stop thinking the driver coming toward me would stop because she had plenty of room to see me. She didn't. At the last minute I threw my stainless steel travel mug at her windshield (which bounced off without harming it) and screamed -- and she slammed on her brakes, then got out of her car and yelled at me for throwing something at her. I silently pointed to my very cute dog, who was standing in front of her car, not even an inch from her front bumper, straining at his leash to keep walking. If she hadn't stopped at that moment, she would have hit him. She turned white, picked up my mug and handed it to me, apologized and got back in her car. I got out of the road and had to sit down in the grass for a few minutes because I was shaking so badly.

I wish this was the only time this had happened to me. Although I do drive, I also walk a lot, and over and over again, drivers don't see me and just keep going -- usually when turning right across a crosswalk. It's gotten to the point where I plan my walk routes so that I never cross a street from the side where a car would be making a right turn in front of me, especially if I have the dog with me.

I wholeheartedly agree that America needs to reduce road speeds. Our cars are so big and luxurious -- surely we can enjoy a few more minutes in them while getting where we are going.
posted by OrangeDisk at 9:49 AM on January 24, 2018 [26 favorites]


Side question: Which gesture do you use for this? I've never been able to figure one out that seems to be understood by drivers.

Step 1: Raise a closed fist, the back of your palm facing the offender.
Step 2: Extend your middle finger.
Step 3: Wave it back and forth in a manner that calls attention to the gesture.
Step 4 (optional): Repeat with other hand.

NOTE: May not be applicable in the UK.


The pound is higher than the dollar there so you have to use two fingers.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:51 AM on January 24, 2018 [31 favorites]


Here in Tucson, where the car is King, every news article about yet another pedestrian killed by a car has a very scoldy tone about stupid loser pedestrians and how they should be more careful.

[prominent statement that the deceased was not wearing a helmet]
posted by indubitable at 9:56 AM on January 24, 2018 [7 favorites]


[expletive disallowed on metafilter]

What the fuck is this shit?


It's not any of those words, no.
posted by Dysk at 9:57 AM on January 24, 2018 [19 favorites]


A problem I have as a pedestrian is that I 100% don't trust cars so I'll step into the street, stop, glare at them, and then walk, and I think it annoys them and in fact I know this because people have yelled "I was gonna stop for you!" or whatever but I'm not betting my life and safety (and that of my child) on people following traffic laws. I'm sure it's frustrating that I sort of hesitate a bit but I see so many people on phones that I literally do not know if someone's going to be aware that I exist and I am not willing to take that risk.

It happens on the highway too, someone will tailgate me and I'll move over for them to pass and they won't pass and then eventually they sort of drift by staring at their phone. It is terrifying and maddening because I literally can't do anything about it.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:58 AM on January 24, 2018 [10 favorites]


I think faith in autonomous vehicles solving this is misplaced, and we're just going to see a new phase of the car companies shifting responsibility for maintaining road safety to pedestrians. Jaywalking laws will be replaced by something along the lines of "interference with the operation of an autonomous vehicle" laws.
posted by Sangermaine at 10:11 AM on January 24, 2018 [7 favorites]


> It's gotten to the point where I plan my walk routes so that I never cross a street from the side where a car would be making a right turn in front of me, especially if I have the dog with me.

The number of drivers who turn right *while* looking left for oncoming traffic is really scary. How do you not look where your car is going?

I personally also don't like walking in front of gas stations. They often have big or multiple driveways and people turning in at high speed at the last minute, with their eyes on the gas gauge or the free pump.
posted by smelendez at 10:14 AM on January 24, 2018 [11 favorites]


This is pretty much what I study as a postdoc.

In both walking and driving, there's this huge focus on distraction, as if the multitasking alone is what makes people more likely to be where they shouldn't (e.g., drivers hitting other vehicles, drivers hitting pedestrians, pedestrians walking into cars, pedestrians walking into bears) and it's really not. Particularly in driving, everyone (including NHTSA) is screaming about driver distraction as if it was the great evil of our age, and no one thinks about what the driver has to do in order to be distracted. Any time you're distracted by a task on your smartphone (say, checking your email, texting, seeing what latest horror crawled out of Twitter), you're taking your eyes away from the environment around you, and I'd argue that it's this change in available information that gets you. You certainly get a lot of information from peripheral vision (here, the area of the visual field beyond your smartphone screen), but that's not the same as what you'd get if you were looking at the road / where you're walking / etc. We're starting to see some data that backs this up, but a lot of this is that the people doing research in driving and driver behavior aren't really thinking about what information the driver can or can't get; they're just focused on the attentional component of doing two tasks at once.

I tried writing a fellowship grant a few years ago based around exactly this question: how do pedestrians use peripheral vision to navigate the world while distracting themselves with visual tasks on their smartphones. Fortunately for me, that wasn't funded (I've since learned, the hard way, how difficult it is to do good outdoor pedestrian studies when you care about where someone is looking and what they're doing), but the broader questions here are absolutely what I do.

In the process of trying to write that grant, we did some in-lab pilot testing; putting obstacles in front of someone who was walking and texting, and unless they were very low to the ground, our subject was able to see them and avoid them. Distracting pedestrians isn't the problem: getting them to look away from the environment is, the same way it is for drivers and anyone else.

That article makes an excellent point about the disconnect between automakers and silicon valley when it comes to safety. The automakers, broadly speaking (and oh my, do I have commentary here, but it's out of the range of this comment) are much more focused on not killing people, whereas the silicon valley approach to driving is very much "we'll test it live!" which makes the safety-focused people at automakers break out in hives. For a recent example, see the Tesla that autonomously ran into the back end of a firetruck in SoCal this week.

One of the largest problems in this space is how we deal with mixed roadways: not just manually controlled cars and autonomous cars in the same environment, but pedestrians, cyclists and everyone and everything else. There's thought going in here, but it's not enough, because (from what I've seen) a lot of it makes unrealistic assumptions about human behavior. It'd be so much simpler if everyone just did what the engineers think they should do... which is why there are people like me looking at what the humans can and cannot perceive.

(That was a very long comment).
posted by Making You Bored For Science at 10:15 AM on January 24, 2018 [57 favorites]


It's particularly interesting that European countries aren't seeing the huge rise in automobile fatalities that the US is. They've got smartphones, so I have trouble believing that that's the sole cause...

In the UK at least, it's against the law to operate a mobile phone when behind the wheel of a car with the engine running. You could very easily lose your license. The law is enforced, and people know that it's enforced, so they tend not to do it. In the USA, at least in Pittsburgh, you won't go further than a mile without seeing someone texting while driving.

Speed limits are also not enforced, nor is it illegal to drive while fairly drunk (.08 BAC).

Ask even the leftiest American what to do about the bloodbath that is American roads, and a worrying number will throw up their hands and say "Can't fix it, America is broken in a special way that stops us from doing what other countries do, let's just wait for everyone to be rich enough to afford robot cars."

Once upon a time, this country sent men to the moon using sliderules.
posted by FeatherWatt at 10:20 AM on January 24, 2018 [43 favorites]


I commute through several extremely pedestrian heavy localities and my biggest worry isn't a distracted pedestrian, it's not seeing somebody because they're obscured by the massive A-pillar on my modern car. Sure, there are a lot of moronic walkers here with no idea of what right-of-way means who tend to add a few minutes to my drive, but that just convinces me that we should have 15 mph speed limits on our smaller streets because you're not going to cure obliviousness with a law. I also don't understand why all the lane/braking assist and backup cameras on newer cars aren't connected to internal DVRs so we don't need to buy separate dash cams.
posted by mattamatic at 10:20 AM on January 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


[expletive disallowed on metafilter]

What the fuck is this shit?


There are certain words that aren't necessarily offensive in Dysk's native UK that are considerably more offensive in the US. As Metafilter is US-based (and a global website), the standards are generally to try to avoid using words that'd upset any of our friends here.
posted by explosion at 10:24 AM on January 24, 2018 [5 favorites]


[Just for clarity: No, there was not a word redacted from Dysk's comment. Both Dysk's comment and (I assume) that comment with 'shit' and 'fuck' were jokes. Nothing was deleted, in general cussing is perfectly fine on Mefi with a very very few exceptions and if there were a problem we would delete the whole comment; we don't unilaterally edit or redact.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:26 AM on January 24, 2018 [11 favorites]


As a pedestrian--who occasionally fields questions of non-car ownership disbelief from my American family--I get that distracted walking can be A Thing, but it's not as scary A THING when I still see people on their phones behind the wheel (I think it's illegal in Ontario but when has that ever stopped anyone?). I don't care if you only look at your phone at a stoplight, or whatever, it can totes wait until you are parked in a lot or at your destination. It's super upsetting to see drivers face very few consequences when they kill or gravely injure a pedestrian. It makes me think constantly is that it all it takes is someone to do something dumb behind the wheel and I could be a goner.
posted by Kitteh at 10:29 AM on January 24, 2018 [5 favorites]


My MIL got hit by a car that ran a stop sign. It permanently fucked up her knee.

I used to cross in front of cars approaching stop signs, because they were going to stop right? But once I learned about what happened to my MIL, I stopped.

She is not to blame for what happened to her knee. Even if she had been, there’s no comparison between what might have happened to the car and what happened to her. I’m sure that driver isn’t forced to have a dented bumper for the rest of their life.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 10:31 AM on January 24, 2018 [8 favorites]


Yeah, it was very much a case of self-censoring there.
posted by Dysk at 10:32 AM on January 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


I don't even want to hear about distracted pedestrians. I have never in my life texted while walking or looked at my phone while walking, any my short walking commute home from work is regularly filled with encounters with cars that could've/would've hit me if I wasn't an extremely defensive walker. I don't jay walk and I'm not distracted and the only reason I haven't been hit is that I don't trust drivers to obey ANY road signs.

And yes, I'm one of those people that will stand and glare with eye contact until you come to a complete stop at the stop sign or light before I step out because I don't fucking walk in front of moving cars I assume are going to stop for me.
posted by Squeak Attack at 10:33 AM on January 24, 2018 [16 favorites]


I work in Bellevue, WA, and commute through Seattle.
Seattle has a (misplaced, I believe) reputation for being 'friendly' to pedestrians. More and more, I see drivers turning right who are focused solely on traffic approaching from their left. Never mind the pedestrians! A sharp "Hey!!" in my Loudest Voice usually gets them to stop, and actually look in my direction.
Bellevue is a whole 'nother deal. Here, drivers will look you in the eye, and turn right in front of you - as if it's their right.
I yell at them too, but to far less effect.
I've had a couple of close calls where the driver was going to turn while I was in the crosswalk in front of them - a sharp rap on the hood and a yell got them to stop, but my heart nearly stopped as well.
posted by dbmcd at 10:33 AM on January 24, 2018 [8 favorites]


I've noticed that pedestrian density makes a huge difference in the way people drive. However, an even bigger difference is made by the pedestrian density where the driver lives.

Drivers coming from the far flung suburbs bring their shitty habits honed on six lane surface streets in lanes wide enough to fit two cars leading into their precious gated fortresses to the smaller and busier streets in the city. People who live in the close in quasi-suburban neighborhoods and those who live in the fully urbanized areas are for the most part much better at looking out for cyclists and pedestrians.

Back when I lived in Tulsa people were often quite shocked when I walked as if I owned the fucking intersections and driveway crossings. If even the pedestrians act as if the cars own the public space, drivers get the idea that they do. When pedestrians are more militant about it, most people treat the entire group with more caution.

Lately I've had to be a bit more timid thanks to a blister on my foot turning my walking into something closer to hobbling, but normally I'll happily play chicken with the fuckers so they learn to pay attention and don't run over some kid walking home from school one day. Much less of that has been required in the area I presently live than any of my previous cities of residence, thanks to a relatively high pedestrian density, but there's always some idiot trying to run a fresh red light or a last moment right on red or whatever despite the vast majority being able to coexist reasonably well.
posted by wierdo at 10:35 AM on January 24, 2018 [10 favorites]


Yes sorry I was making a joke in case that wasn't entirely clear.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:38 AM on January 24, 2018


I used to have to cross a moderately busy 4 lane (2NB, 2SB) road in the mornings to get to my bus stop. It was always a bit harrowing (though the low median in the middle helped) - someone in the curb lane would stop, but not the centre lane, for example. And on several occasions I saw people in the curb lane make the fast lane change to the centre to get around the car that had stopped for me, blowing past me in the crosswalk. If I was lucky, the driver would look slightly ashamed.

I probably caused about five or six fender benders there, just with cars failing to stop fast enough to avoid hitting the car in front of them. One morning, however, I came across a new scene - a driver, realizing he wasn't going to stop in time, had driven their car onto the median, nearly taking out the pedestrian in the process. It added a whole new worry to crossing there.

Those of us who used it frequently approached the city about getting some pedestrian warning lights installed for it; we got a bunch of paperwork and guff about impact studies and told it couldn't happen for at least a year. One of my neighbors, upon hearing this, phoned the city, declared she was handicapped and absolutely had to cross at that crosswalk to get to the bus she needed. The lights got installed about a week later. Those lights make a huge difference for everyone - drivers and pedestrians - so I'm not exactly proud of how the process got short-circuited (the neighbor did not have a disability) but the only other way I could see it happening was a fatality.

It's scary because even if the pedestrian does everything right - crosswalk, making eye contact, waiting for people to stop - all it takes is one driver to not pay attention to cause injury and damage.
posted by nubs at 10:44 AM on January 24, 2018 [10 favorites]


Side question: Which gesture do you use for this? I've never been able to figure one out that seems to be understood by drivers.

I am a fan of the finger-wag. Point, finger-wag, "No no no!"

When dealing with entitled assholes behind the wheel, being scolded like a toddler or a dog drives them absolutely berserk. They are probably flipped off a dozen times a day, but getting the belittling No-No wag is effective, memorable, and particularly enragening. It's even better when you look away before they have a chance to respond and tell you what they think of your mother.

I had a very good finger-wag a couple of months back. I was walking down the sidewalk with a few other people. A car came out from a parking lot -- a blind exit leading over the sidewalk and then onto the street. The car was going pretty quick, quick enough to give us pedestrians a jolt. The driver, naturally, was on the phone. I pointed at him, finger-wagged, and walked on. The driver, pissed off to be condescended to like that and denied the opportunity to tell me off, let the guy behind me have it. Then THAT guy let the driver have a piece of his mind.

I actually didn't know about the guy behind me. He caught up with me at the next set of lights, and let me know what had happened. "I had your back."
posted by Capt. Renault at 10:46 AM on January 24, 2018 [14 favorites]


it's not seeing somebody because they're obscured by the massive A-pillar on my modern car.

I've heard several drivers make the same comment here in Toronto. Those things are a real problem in downtown cores.
posted by jamesonandwater at 10:50 AM on January 24, 2018 [3 favorites]


A few times a week I stride through an uncontrolled intersection across my local Seattle thoroughfare, with the right-of-way but without giving the oncoming cars the deference they expect, glaring at them and daring them not to stop.

Used to be I just did that for fun and convenience, but now I'm part of a movement!
posted by gurple at 10:53 AM on January 24, 2018 [6 favorites]


I generally walk to and from work. I got hit a few years ago by a guy who, I assume, was looking at his phone. I saw him approaching a stop sign and thought it was safe to cross because he had to see me when he came to a stop. My mistake was assuming he was actually looking where he was going. No damage done in my case, but it has made me even more cautious on my walk.
posted by maurice at 10:53 AM on January 24, 2018


massive A-pillar on my modern car.

yeah, i went from a 1990 car to a 2012 car in 2012 and it was a huge adjustment; i have no idea how they are remotely legal
posted by entropicamericana at 10:55 AM on January 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


Our city is used as a major thoroughfare for commuters trying to get in to Cambridge and Boston

One of the things that absolutely infuriates me about Greater Boston (and one of the reasons I don't want to stay) is this almost sadistic level of pride in how shit their roads are and how resistant they are to having someone fix them. You know, like their small town would be great if it weren't for all the fucking people driving despite the fact that their "small town" has 30,000 people in it and the population density of Hong Kong.

If I was dictator of Massachusetts the first things that would go would be:

Alewife Brook/Fresh Pond parkways. Gone. They're Route 2 now. They're controlled access freeways through to Soldiers Field to hook up to the Pike. Pike tolls from the intersection to the city are gone.

Mystic Valley Parkway. It wants to be a controlled access road so badly. It feels like an inner beltway that got fucked by '70s NIMBYism but I don't know the area's history all that well.

Revere Beach Parkway. Gone. It's a tunnel between 1 and Fellsway and then comes out and elevates west of Fellsway to hook up to 93 to maintain pedestrian access to Mystic River. The 1 and Revere Beach Parkway intersection is a crime against humanity.

128 and 2, 128 and 3, 128 and 93, 495 and the same afore mentioned the cloverleafs are gone. Triple level stack that doesn't slow the entire fucking freeway down to 10mph as people weave in from lane 2 to the exit. 128 and 1? Blow the whole thing up and start from scratch.

Who was hurt by route 3 south of 128 as a child? Was there any particular reason to let it become the clusterfuck that it is instead of finding a controlled access route into Mystic Valley Parkway? It's almost like the highway engineers have some sort of vendetta against beltways that's so bad that they want to make sure 128 is utterly non-functional making sure everyone going up 3 has to traffic at least part of it. Then they make the 128 and 3 interchange so ridiculously bad as a cherry on the shit sundae that is 128 between I-93 and route 2.

Concord Rotary. Gone. Stupid. Realign that shit. Every other flyover for route 2 gets constructed.

Tunnel between 3 and 495 from Westford Rd to Boston Road. I don't know how any civil engineer looked at that intersection and thought "duh they're not going to use route 4 as a rat run".

Then I'd give every arterial road in all of New England three lanes so that turning doesn't stop the fucking traffic for a left turn.
posted by Talez at 11:16 AM on January 24, 2018 [8 favorites]


Our lovely road agency has taken to slapping stickers on the sidewalks to scold pedestrians for pedestrianing. Ignore the fact that they design and build roads with blind crossings, as wide as a freeway, encourage high speeds and straightaways, and generally do nothing to encourage the behavior of the operator of said several thousand pound hunk of metal to slow the fuck down. Instead we'll put stickers on the ground that distract and make your walk slippery in the weather right next to a crossing. Great work.
posted by msbutah at 11:19 AM on January 24, 2018 [5 favorites]


massive A-pillar on my modern car.

Depending on the make and model, components for the side impact airbags live in the A-pillar. So they're massive for, you know, safety.
posted by peeedro at 11:24 AM on January 24, 2018


Just started TFA and already I have learned something! I always assumed jaywalking referred to birds. Like, you're just walking where you want, like a bird does. I didn't realize I had been assuming that until they explained the jaywalking origin. LOL.

Anyway based on the comments so far I guess my shouting at cars "I have the fucking right of way!" and "That was a red light you piece of shit!" has had absolutely no effect on dangerous drivers.
posted by Emmy Rae at 11:25 AM on January 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


yeah, i went from a 1990 car to a 2012 car in 2012 and it was a huge adjustment; i have no idea how they are remotely legal

I feel like if they could, they’d make cars without no windows at all
posted by aubilenon at 11:28 AM on January 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


I believe the large front and back pillars are at least in part because of increased standards for roof strength. So, they'll protect you more if you roll your car over, at the cost of decreased visibility.
posted by ghharr at 11:29 AM on January 24, 2018


Also: clearing snow = pushing it onto the sidewalks.

****
Another very dangerous situation is caused by drivers trying to be helpful: when you have multiple lanes to cross, and a driver in the closest lane stops to let you go, blocking your view of the next lane over, and, often, provoking someone behind them to pass at a high speed. This also applies to cars trying to turn left: you are not "helping" by stopping and encouraging them to come out before the road is in fact clear all the way.

*****
While we're going full Andy Rooney, what's with people making wide/lazy turns and crossing the center line? I've almost been hit by cars doing this even before I reach the painted line where you are supposed to stop, and it seems like it's happening more often.
posted by thelonius at 11:32 AM on January 24, 2018 [5 favorites]


In the UK at least, it's against the law to operate a mobile phone when behind the wheel of a car with the engine running. You could very easily lose your license. The law is enforced, and people know that it's enforced, so they tend not to do it.

As someone who lives above a busy road in the UK at exactly the right angle to see what drivers are up to, I'm assuming by "tend not to do it" you mean "there are a few people who don't".
posted by grahamparks at 11:32 AM on January 24, 2018 [5 favorites]


I absolutely walk in front of cars on the assumption that they will stop for me (when I have the right of way), to the extent that a truck once honked its horn at me for having the temerity to assume that 1) me having a walk sign, and 2) him having a red light (several seconds old at that point) meant I was safe to cross.

It shows very little self-preservation, but sending a supercilious glare at terrified drivers after I have given them near heart-attacks by staking my claim on roadspace with my fragile body is my version of extreme sports, I guess. I’m walking here. EYYYYY, I’M WALKIN’ HEEEEEERE!
posted by a fiendish thingy at 11:33 AM on January 24, 2018 [15 favorites]


Depending on the make and model, components for the side impact airbags live in the A-pillar. So they're massive for, you know, safety.
I believe the large front and back pillars are at least in part because of increased standards for roof strength. So, they'll protect you more if you roll your car over, at the cost of decreased visibility.

typical. improved [blank] for drivers at the cost of pedestrian safety.

great for people who voluntarily choose to ride in speeding hunks of metal, not great for people more likely to be struck by speeding hunks of metal
posted by entropicamericana at 11:33 AM on January 24, 2018 [9 favorites]


Pedestrians did not start the war on cars but we must finish it
posted by vibratory manner of working at 11:35 AM on January 24, 2018 [50 favorites]


> Another very dangerous situation is caused by drivers trying to be helpful: when you have multiple lanes to cross, and a driver in the closest lane stops to let you go, blocking your view of the next lane over, and, often, provoking someone behind them to pass at a high speed.

Wait, what's the correct behavior there by the first driver? Are they not correctly yielding right of way?

My own (mostly non-dangerous) pet peeve in that situation is when there is a single car coming, followed by a gap wide enough to cross, followed by a big line of cars across multiple lanes. The first driver will often (unconsciously?) slow, but not stop, on seeing a pedestrian waiting to cross, eliminating the opportunity to cross after they go by.
posted by smelendez at 11:40 AM on January 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


Wait, what's the correct behavior there by the first driver? Are they not correctly yielding right of way?

Well, I'm thinking of when you have to cross where there is no light and no crosswalk, or even when there is an implied crosswalk (but no light) from a cross street. Stopping may be correct, but it's not safe to walk when only the nearest driver stops, in my opinion.
posted by thelonius at 11:43 AM on January 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


Wait, what's the correct behavior there by the first driver? Are they not correctly yielding right of way?

Just keep going if there's more than one lane. Otherwise we'll just have to stand in front of your car and wait for the rest of the road to clear anyway.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:45 AM on January 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


While we're going full Andy Rooney, what's with people making wide/lazy turns and crossing the center line?

In my city, it seems to be accepted practice to make right turns from the centre lane. I have no idea what that's about, but it's happening more and more. And yes, as a pedestrian, I've been given a couple scares by it, because yeah, I'm not expecting that oncoming car to turn in front of me from not-the-turning lane.

A couple of week ago, I was on the bike, stopped at an intersection, signalling to turn left. I was in the middle of the lane since that's where I'm supposed to be when turning left. A car behind me apparently didn't feel like waiting but didn't have room with me there, so he drove over the sidewalk to turn right. I didn't respond -- I was too stunned by the fact that this was actually happening. OK, I guess this is something we do now. Jesus Christ.
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:47 AM on January 24, 2018 [5 favorites]


Just keep going if there's more than one lane. Otherwise we'll just have to stand in front of your car and wait for the rest of the road to clear anyway.

Sort of raises the question of how anyone ever crosses multilane busy streets, though, doesn't it?
posted by gurple at 11:47 AM on January 24, 2018 [3 favorites]


Also: clearing snow = pushing it onto the sidewalks.

I fucking hate this. The light changes, I have the little white man, but it takes me 30-45 seconds just to climb over the huge bank of snow to even get into the crosswalk. Meanwhile all the cars that have stopped to wait for you (IF they even have, right) have given up and started going.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:47 AM on January 24, 2018 [8 favorites]


massive A-pillar on my modern car.

Ugh, god, the one time I drove a PT Cruiser was when my then-girlfriend's parents rented one so she and I could drive all her stuff up to Michigan. I guess they decided it had the most cubic space for stuff, or something. But I guess interior space comes at a cost of, like, window size, because I swear I've never driven a car with smaller windows. Even the windshield was weirdly small.

Anyway, when we got to Ann Arbor, I nearly hit a pedestrian in a crosswalk because the stupid A pillar was so big that I couldn't see him *at all*. I guess the speed at which he was walking, the speed at which I was turning, and the regrettable girth of that pillar all combined to render him totally invisible to me until the last second. Fortunately, I was going pretty slowly.

Demonstrating the famous Ann Arbor friendliness, he said "what the fuck is your problem?" Well, my problem was the PT Cruiser and its honkin' A pillar.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 11:48 AM on January 24, 2018 [5 favorites]


Sort of raises the question of how anyone ever crosses multilane busy streets, though, doesn't it?

I've lived in Atlanta without a car - no need to school me on this!
posted by thelonius at 11:49 AM on January 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


(You do it by risking your life, every time).
posted by thelonius at 11:50 AM on January 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


Demonstrating the famous Ann Arbor friendliness, he said "what the fuck is your problem?" Well, my problem was the PT Cruiser and its honkin' A pillar.

Biff Tannen: I can't believe you'd [rent] me your car without telling me it had a blind spot. I could've been killed!
posted by gurple at 11:50 AM on January 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


"sending a supercilious glare at terrified drivers after I have given them near heart-attacks by staking my claim on roadspace with my fragile body is my version of extreme sports, I guess. I’m walking here."

Yeah, I feel the same way, though I like to believe it doesn't require taking on that level of risk. As a pedestrian it's much easier for me to stop or change direction on a dime, and I'm quite happy to continue to clearly communicate my intention to take my right of way right up until the very last moment.

Increasingly I also feel like it's not even to my advantage to make it obvious that I'm paying attention. I *do* actually try to pay attention. But if I go out of my way to reassure drivers that I'm doing so, I feel like I'm communicating acceptance of a burden of responsibility that should really be theirs in a lot of cases.

Does there come a point when I'm annoying people more than I'm helping? I dunno.
posted by floppyroofing at 11:52 AM on January 24, 2018


The light changes, I have the little white man, but it takes me 30-45 seconds just to climb over the huge bank of snow to even get into the crosswalk.

And then, the people who have stopped in the other lane observe your progress and start moving when you are almost out of the street, but you slow down to climb the snow bank or get across the ice and they are scarily close!

I often wonder if the health benefits I get from walking everywhere are counteracted by the cortisol or whatever stress hormone is released by all the times drivers nearly kill me and don't care.
posted by Emmy Rae at 11:52 AM on January 24, 2018 [4 favorites]


I've lived in Atlanta without a car - no need to school me on this!

Seconded. I was stationed in Atlanta in '97 and there were literally streets where, if there even was a sad little crosswalk indicator on those sidewalk-free massive boulevards, I basically had to count the green as a starting pistol and run like hot fuck to get across the lanes before some dickface in a BMW would be trying to kill me (three guesses what counties I was shopping in). I'd had this nice thought that living in a city meant I could be all European and pedestrian, but buying a TV and carrying it back to my apartment in Midtown on public transportation felt a lot like I imagine it must feel to loot something in a riot.
posted by sonascope at 11:55 AM on January 24, 2018 [9 favorites]


Demonstrating the famous Ann Arbor friendliness, he said "what the fuck is your problem?" Well, my problem was the PT Cruiser and its honkin' A pillar.

Biff Tannen: I can't believe you'd [rent] me your car without telling me it had a blind spot. I could've been killed!


Hey, I'm not an idiot. My point is that while most cars have blind spots, PT Cruisers have visibility spots, small areas where you may accidentally be visible to the driver. Like, it's one thing to have a blind spot, it's another to have a huge blind spot in the front because Chrysler thought a tiny windshield was a good design decision.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 11:56 AM on January 24, 2018 [4 favorites]


Sort of raises the question of how anyone ever crosses multilane busy streets, though, doesn't it?

Very aggressively if you're physically able. Whenever a critical mass of drivers that are aware of their legal obligation to stop, otherwise. I have on more than one occasion stood on the lane marker with cars passing within a foot on both sides, but thankfully it's rare that it happens and when it does there are only ever a few assholes who think that they need not stop.
posted by wierdo at 12:04 PM on January 24, 2018


"Anyway, when we got to Ann Arbor, I nearly hit a pedestrian in a crosswalk because the stupid A pillar was so big that I couldn't see him *at all*. I guess the speed at which he was walking, the speed at which I was turning, and the regrettable girth of that pillar all combined to render him totally invisible to me until the last second."

I recently ran across this article, which I thought was a fascinating explanation of exactly that problem: http://singletrackworld.com/2018/01/collision-course-why-this-type-of-road-junction-will-keep-killing-cyclists/.

"Demonstrating the famous Ann Arbor friendliness, he said "what the fuck is your problem?""

It can't be what you intended, but that sounds awfully like you're judging someone's "friendliness" based on their failing to be polite to you after you'd nearly injured them.

(Yes, the car design is also at fault, but as drivers we're supposed to compensate, and anyway they could hardly be expected to realize what had happened in the moment.)
posted by floppyroofing at 12:06 PM on January 24, 2018 [10 favorites]


I've had friends in LA tell me that driving was a civil right - a license was something the government owed you, unless you'd done something horrible to lose that right. The idea that a driving test might actually require a set of skills other than "can make the vehicle move around" was entirely alien to them. (People in LA were absolutely baffled that I walked a mile to work. Some of them were baffled that I walked three blocks to the grocery store.)

I would love to see changes to reduce the automotive industry's lock on US culture.
* Cities designed more for pedestrians and bicycles;
* Stronger prosecution for car-based crimes, including small accidents
* More public transit, possibly paid for with higher indiv car & gas taxes
* More stringent driver license tests, requiring renewal tests every 4 years regardless of how good one's record is (this, too, requires funding - make the license cost more than an ID card!)
* Easier path to civil suits against drivers who've hurt pedestrians or businesses

Moving around in a two-ton instant-death machine should be a privilege, and our laws and city structures should treat it that way.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 12:07 PM on January 24, 2018 [23 favorites]


It can't be what you intended, but that sounds awfully like you're judging someone's "friendliness" based on their failing to be polite to you after you'd nearly injured them.

Oh my god, totally not what I intended. It never occurred to me that it would come across as judging him. But also, I don't want to give the impression that I screeched to a halt with his legs inches from my bumper, and then told a "funny" story about it. "Ha ha, almost injured him and he was all angry and stuff!" I was going like 1 mph, which is why his walking speed and my turning speed matched up, and I stopped well short of him.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 12:16 PM on January 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


LA was a shock for me, not because it's so intensively motor-centric, but rather because there is something instilled so deep in the drivers of the region that makes them stop for pedestrians. I wondered sometimes what it was, if it was draconian penalties, enforced for stars and schlubs alike, or whether it was just so shocking to see a person walking with any conviction that sudden stillness was the only acceptable reaction. My habit of constant jaywalking as a means of managing safer urban mid-block crossings in lieu of the Wild West of intersections forever placed me in the center of sudden traffic events as I'd attempt to surreptitiously scamper across West Adams, only to be caught, blinking in the daylight of the gaze of golden dreamers, like a mouse pausing too long in a hurried transit of the kitchen.
posted by sonascope at 12:17 PM on January 24, 2018 [6 favorites]


SansPoint, I like the cut of your jib and will happily party with you. I am a dedicated hood-slapper and yeller, much to the embarrassment of family and friends.
posted by orrnyereg at 12:17 PM on January 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


My car has a pretty large a-pillar. I spend a lot of my driving time slowing through intersections that could have pedestrians and leaning forward and back to look around the pillar (this is definitely something I'm going to watch out for next time I buy a car). Other people I drive with don't seem to do this, and pedestrians always "come out of nowhere!" Drivers are never responsible for the safe operation of their car, it's always the fault of someone or something else.
posted by muddgirl at 12:20 PM on January 24, 2018 [17 favorites]


I used to have to cross a moderately busy 4 lane (2NB, 2SB) road in the mornings to get to my bus stop.

I used to have to do this, too, and it sucked for all the reasons you give. I talked with the police chief and director of public works and city council and mayor about it, and I wasn't the only one doing that. We weren't organized at all, but that intersection was awful. It took a while, but the city did a 4-to-3 conversion (also known as a "road diet") and it has been much easier to cross since.

A year or two after that, the city installed a rapid flashing beacon at that intersection, and we can push a button to trigger flashing lights on the yield-to-pedestrians sign, which definitely helps improve motorists' crosswalk compliance (even if it's still not what we should expect from people steering deadly weapons.) Though apparently it turns out those beacons are patented and may now be harder to install. Boo.
posted by asperity at 12:23 PM on January 24, 2018 [4 favorites]


I often give it a good tap on the rear quarter-panel as it rolls by

I would not usually recommend it due to violent furious drivers, but I did this to a bus once and it made a very pleasing BOOM noise (followed by angry Glaswegian bus driver yelling WHIT DID YE DAE THAT FOR?)
posted by Catseye at 12:26 PM on January 24, 2018 [14 favorites]


speaking of bicycling, because hardly anyone is ...

I don't ride anymore due to an injury, but back when I did (and before the smartphone changed everything, or certainly accelerated the change), I learned to be far more wary of pedestrians than cars. True, a car was more likely to kill me, but pedestrians were magnitudes more likely to just step out in front of me, or do something else erratic. Which really drove home the point of how clued out very many of us are when we're on foot as to what's going on around us. So, yeah, it is a thing. And it pre-dates texting etc.

Be Here Now, the mystics say. We need more mystical pedestrians.
posted by philip-random at 12:37 PM on January 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


LA was a shock for me, not because it's so intensively motor-centric, but rather because there is something instilled so deep in the drivers of the region that makes them stop for pedestrians.

They're shocked at the novelty. They're caught up in the cognitive dissonance of "human being in my neighborhood" and yet "not in a car." It confuses them, so they have to pause to try to figure out what's really going on.

Eventually, their brain comes up with a likely reason: Too stoned to find their car keys, and they are ready to move again, happy that they have figured out the problem.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 12:44 PM on January 24, 2018 [13 favorites]


. In the USA, at least in Pittsburgh, you won't go further than a mile without seeing someone texting while driving.

Speed limits are also not enforced, nor is it illegal to drive while fairly drunk (.08 BAC).


There are no speed limits in Pittsburgh. Or at least I've never been stopped in 30 years of driving here (for speeding or anything else) and I've never met a single person who got a speeding ticket within the city limits. The police don't enforce speeding, running through red-lights, running through crosswalks with pedestrians, making rights on red when there's a "No Red Turn" sign or pretty much anything else. The only person I know who got a ticket from the Pittsburgh police got it after ramming a police car with his car.
posted by octothorpe at 12:45 PM on January 24, 2018 [10 favorites]


I probably see someone drive through a red at the lights in front of my office once a month. They're the lights in front of my bus stop so I only see them on my way to work, so this works out to something like 5-6% of the time I'm at the intersection. I don't think they're all looking at their cell phones, there are just a lot of bad drivers where I work (when I drive to work I make sure to park as far away from the office as possible because everyone who doesn't eventually gets their car bumped or doored, and obviously no one ever leaves their number). I always make eye-contact when crossing the street anyway but I take extra care when I cross at those lights.

Whenever I see it I wish I had a water balloon or raw egg to throw at the cars as they obliviously drive through the lights but I'm pretty sure that's a bad idea.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 12:45 PM on January 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


One of the things that absolutely infuriates me about Greater Boston (and one of the reasons I don't want to stay) is this almost sadistic level of pride in how shit their roads are

I think there are a lot of separate issues wrapped up in the transit network around here, not all of which are easily solved. Mostly, though, I think the highway network simply hasn't kept up with the population increases; however, there are have been several studies that adding lanes doesn't really help traffic flow all that much.

As much thought as traffic planners put in to developments, I still feel like the network effects are poorly understood. When the Big Dig was completed, it was expected to relieve congestion around Boston. And it did, for the most part - but not by adding capacity. It pushed traffic farther out to the 128 corridor, which is why that road's become a mess. Add in local drivers' notorious, shall we say fluidity with traffic rules causing knock-on effects from poor behavior and the whole thing is usually a mess.

There's a lot of NIMBYism around highway expansion in the area, but I think it's for good reason. Highways are incredibly destructive to local neighborhoods - look at the Big Dig again. The North End used to be almost a ghetto because of the elevated highway, and now it's become a much more connected part of the city. Cambridge blocked the extension of Route 2 through the city for similar reasons, which is why the highway ends at Alewife.

(Of course, it's gone the other way, too. Arlington didn't want the "urban undesirables" to get in to their city, so the Red Line was terminated in Cambridge instead of heading all the way out to 128 in Lexington like what was originally planned. Someone should write a book about all these aborted infrastructure projects.)
posted by backseatpilot at 12:50 PM on January 24, 2018 [4 favorites]


Whenever I see it I wish I had a water balloon or raw egg to throw at the cars as they obliviously drive through the lights but I'm pretty sure that's a bad idea.

I fantasize about this all the time on my bike commute.

Hopefully, for the public good, by the time I'm old and cranky enough that I might actually do it, I'll be too decrepit to bike commute.
posted by gurple at 12:51 PM on January 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


new phase of the car companies shifting responsibility for maintaining road safety to pedestrians

I am willing to bet that there will be different packages of automation available for different classes (prices) of vehicle. The affordable ones will be programmed to avoid pedestrian accidents at even potential for injury for their occupants - the more expensive models will have "enhanced" passenger safety options available.

As with every other rush to automation - there will be biases programmed into these systems - and given the history of the automobile and the human nature of the buyers, there will be biased navigation systems...
posted by jkaczor at 12:52 PM on January 24, 2018


We need more mystical pedestrians.

I think something significant here is that in the moment, it's very easy to see yourself as the person who is 100% not responsible. Like, sure, I could have done X, but it wouldn't have been necessary if they hadn't done Y! Pedestrians, pay attention!

I used to bike everywhere, and pedestrians could be totally irrational and erratic, but then I've also been walking places and had cyclists yell at me for, like, being in the middle of the curb cut when they wanted to get up on the sidewalk. "Watch where you're going," they'd yell, as if a curb cut isn't a reasonable place for a pedestrian to be. I still remember all the times when I was a little kid and I nearly got hit by a car while I was in a crosswalk. And I'm sure every driver was like "stupid kid, watch where you're going!" Only once, recently, did someone nearly hit me while I was in a crosswalk and yell "sorry!" out the window as she zipped by.

Reasonable safety standards mean that even when you can't see someone right away, or even when they jump out in front of you, you have the time and distance to react, either stopping or diverting your own course. And really, it comes back to what people keep saying, that going more slowly reduces pedestrian fatalities. People will always do erratic stuff, or not be paying attention, but ideally we come up with a way of managing stuff that doesn't just place the entire burden of safety on the people most at risk of death or injury.

LA was a shock for me, not because it's so intensively motor-centric, but rather because there is something instilled so deep in the drivers of the region that makes them stop for pedestrians.

Honestly, I think it's just that there is, theoretically, the threat of a ticket, combined with the fact that sort of everyone does it, combined with, I don't know, maybe people are polite sometimes, even in car-centric "Ell Ay." being an Angeleno doesn't automatically make you want to mow down pedestrians.

They're shocked at the novelty. They're caught up in the cognitive dissonance of "human being in my neighborhood" and yet "not in a car." It confuses them, so they have to pause to try to figure out what's really going on.

Oh, for fuck's sake.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 12:54 PM on January 24, 2018 [5 favorites]


Vendors, horse-drawn vehicles, playing children, and public-transit streetcars all used them, but the pedestrian dominated.

No kidding. Here's SF's Market Street in 1906 before the big quake.
posted by sjswitzer at 1:05 PM on January 24, 2018 [6 favorites]


(be sure to note that you see the same few automobiles passing and being overtaken by the camera in attempt to make it look like san francisco had more and was more metropolitan)
posted by entropicamericana at 1:11 PM on January 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


man i thought i was the only one who did the glare of death while crossing in front of cars, mentally daring them to try some shit. good to know i'm in good company.
posted by indubitable at 1:14 PM on January 24, 2018 [10 favorites]


The only person I know who got a ticket from the Pittsburgh police got it after ramming a police car with his car.

The exception to this rule (if you are white--if you are black you can and will get dinged for Driving While Black) is the college campuses. The smaller the college, the greater the chance a bored campus cop will pull you over for something. I got pulled over and given a warning by Carlow campus police a couple months ago for not adequately stopping at the stop sign you can barely see peeking out from behind a telephone pole at this intersection. There are like 3 other stop signs that you also must stop at in the space of about 50 yards when turning on to Fifth from Robinson. I imagine they just camp out there whenever they have a half hour to kill and take their pick.
posted by soren_lorensen at 1:22 PM on January 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


if I'm crossing a street--at a corner, in a crosswalk, at a stop sign, goddamn it--and a car that should have stopped for me doesn't, I often give it a good tap on the rear quarter-panel as it rolls by.

I have had some experience with doing this.

Additionally, I was once walking back from lunch with a coworker and I stopped to tie my shoe, while leaning against the fender of a car. She exclaimed, almost in a shout, "What are you doing?!?" I replied that I was tying my shoe. In an agitated voice, she continued, "But you are TOUCHING that CAR! If my husband came out of somewhere and saw someone touching his car, he would beat the person up!"
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:27 PM on January 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


I'm most aggressive about claiming pedestrian supremacy in the couple of designated woonerfs we have here in Seattle. Pike Place is easy, since everyone does that there. Bell street is more likely to generate confusion, probably due to lack of cobblestones.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 1:36 PM on January 24, 2018


if I'm crossing a street--at a corner, in a crosswalk, at a stop sign, goddamn it--and a car that should have stopped for me doesn't, I often give it a good tap on the rear quarter-panel as it rolls by.

Yeah, I'm not really interested in getting into a fist-fight on my way to work. People get pretty crazy if you touch their cars.
posted by octothorpe at 1:58 PM on January 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


Just started TFA and already I have learned something! I always assumed jaywalking referred to birds. Like, you're just walking where you want, like a bird does. I didn't realize I had been assuming that until they explained the jaywalking origin.

When I was in kindergarten or maybe the following year, Elmer the Safety Elephant came to our class and gave us all safety lessons. I distinctly remember that the illustration for jaywalking showed a naughty boy crossing an intersection diagonally. From ages six to maybe thirty-five, I really thought that was the only thing to which the word applied, and my crossing mid-block was merely the sign of an enlightened spirit*. Conversely, to this day when I use a scramble intersection on the diagonal, I feel like I am getting away with something.


*A view I actually hold to this day.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:04 PM on January 24, 2018 [7 favorites]


Anyway based on the comments so far I guess my shouting at cars "I have the fucking right of way!" and "That was a red light you piece of shit!" has had absolutely no effect on dangerous drivers.

I have had a dangerous driver (SUV, natch) shout at me for having the fucking temerity to cross at an intersection and with the signal when he wanted to turn through me.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:08 PM on January 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


I live in a giant city. I am pro-pothole. You might think I'm joking about that. I'm not.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 2:11 PM on January 24, 2018 [19 favorites]


There are a couple streets around here along my old walking route to work where I believe it is safer (for those who are able to cross quickly) to jaywalk mid-block than to cross legally. You at least have a clear view up and down the street and can see cars coming with time to react. At the intersections you never know when someone will decide to make a right on red without stopping, or not yield to the crosswalk, and you would barely have any time to react. IMO, a right turn on red should be illegal anywhere there are a lot of pedestrians, and should be vigorously enforced (which is a whole nother problem in itself).

I mean really though, private autos should be banned from cities.
posted by ghharr at 2:17 PM on January 24, 2018 [11 favorites]


If we must have cars in cities, I vote for the sidewalks to extend at level across the street, forming speed bumps across every intersection.
posted by zeptoweasel at 2:23 PM on January 24, 2018 [14 favorites]


The police don't enforce speeding, running through red-lights, running through crosswalks with pedestrians, making rights on red when there's a "No Red Turn" sign or pretty much anything else. The only person I know who got a ticket from the Pittsburgh police got it after ramming a police car with his car.

I like to imagine that the driver was of an empirical bent and had a clipboard in the passenger seat. Every day another thing was crossed until they reached the T-BONE POLICE CRUISER line when that finally triggered a citation. The Pittsburgh driver's equivalent of the WOW Signal.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:29 PM on January 24, 2018 [9 favorites]


When I was in kindergarten or maybe the following year, Elmer the Safety Elephant came to our class and gave us all safety lessons. I distinctly remember that the illustration for jaywalking showed a naughty boy crossing an intersection diagonally. From ages six to maybe thirty-five, I really thought that was the only thing to which the word applied, and my crossing mid-block was merely the sign of an enlightened spirit*. Conversely, to this day when I use a scramble intersection on the diagonal, I feel like I am getting away with something.

Your six year old view may be correct. It varies substantially by jurisdiction, but as an example, here in Calgary -- not a pro-pedestrian area by any measure except empty words -- mid block crossings are generally legal. You don't have the right of way over cars, but it's legal unless within a block of a traffic light or pedestrian crossing light.

Provincially, it's legal everywhere - 92 A pedestrian who is crossing a roadway at any point other than within a crosswalk shall yield the right of way to vehicles on the roadway.

But our local bylaw adds the within-a-block rule, which is limiting in the inner city, but less so in suburbia. Quick googling suggests it's the same in Ontario, much of California, and I believe a lot of other places.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 2:35 PM on January 24, 2018


Yeah touching someone's car, in the hoods that I grew up in, is a good way to start a fistfight. It was known.

I've been tempted to throw down before when someone tapped my fender once as I was trying to park my car in front of the dollar store. Buddy was feeling tough because he had his boy with him. I decided not to run him over or otherwise engage in violence because I was hungry and my SO was expected to meet me very soon. But I had to think about it for a few seconds before I made my decision.
posted by some loser at 2:37 PM on January 24, 2018


Merely touching someone's car being a common invitation to violence is another great reason to ban cars.
posted by ghharr at 2:44 PM on January 24, 2018 [40 favorites]


Down here in Fl. it is walking through massive parking lots that is risky. At the risk of being identified as a misogynist:

Almost all men will stop and wave me across in front of them.

Most women, not so much.
posted by notreally at 2:51 PM on January 24, 2018


why not ban violence instead?
posted by some loser at 2:52 PM on January 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


Most women, not so much.
posted by notreally


Eponysterical!
posted by grumpybear69 at 2:54 PM on January 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


If we must have cars in cities, I vote for the sidewalks to extend at level across the street, forming speed bumps across every intersection.

Apparently this is how it was done in ancient Rome. Pedestrian crossings were raised stones across the road, with spaces between the stones just wide enough for wagon wheels. This served two purposes: forced the wagons to slow down, and kept the pedestrians out of the mud puddles when it rained.
posted by lharmon at 2:56 PM on January 24, 2018 [11 favorites]



As a pedestrian it's much easier for me to stop or change direction on a dime, and I'm quite happy to continue to clearly communicate my intention to take my right of way right up until the very last moment.


I have mastered the air of an oblivious suicidal pedestrian so well that it scares people walking with me, let alone the speeding drivers who should have stopped when they saw me a block away.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 2:57 PM on January 24, 2018 [9 favorites]


Ricochet Biscuit, I have also had the experience of being screeched at by a left-turning white-boy ingrate in a Big Dumb Truck for crossing the street in a crosswalk when the walk light was on. This was in fact in front of the Harvard Law School: I’m not sure I believe that people who live in cities are actually any better about not menacing pedestrians.

I responded to him by screaming “FUCK OFF AND DIE, FUCKFACE,” and I’d like to acknowledge but not apologize for that to any other innocent commuters who were there.

I am also glad that there are lots of my eye-laser road crossing brethren here. It really does seem to help, and I like getting excuses to practice my evil eye. I will start using the super-annoying and wonderful condescending finger wag, also.
posted by faineg at 3:01 PM on January 24, 2018 [9 favorites]


I've always had an uphill battle arguing that, morally (so to speak) -- not legally or empirically -- the purpose of traffic laws was to protect pedestrians and cyclists from motor vehicles (and secondarily pedestrians from cyclists). Therefore, as a pedestrian or cyclist I had far less need or responsibility to follow the letter of the law than the motor vehicles around me had, except to be predictable and defensive when they were around me.
posted by lathrop at 3:17 PM on January 24, 2018 [3 favorites]


When I'm crossing a street (as a pedestrian) and I see someone also crossing but only looking at their phone is it appropriate for me to tell them to put the phone away? And if so, what's a good phrase to use? I bet I could use it on my commute home tonight.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 3:18 PM on January 24, 2018


If we must have cars in cities, I vote for the sidewalks to extend at level across the street, forming speed bumps across every intersection

You're describing a continuous pavement, which is how the Dutch do side streets.

(they also usually incorporate a cycle track too, because civilisation)
posted by grahamparks at 3:21 PM on January 24, 2018 [9 favorites]


I've been tempted to throw down before when someone tapped my fender once as I was trying to park my car in front of the dollar store. Buddy was feeling tough because he had his boy with him. I decided not to run him over or otherwise engage in violence because I was hungry and my SO was expected to meet me very soon. But I had to think about it for a few seconds before I made my decision.
posted by some loser


Really? You were going to assault someone with a deadly weapon for touching your car but he was lucky you had to meet your SO? Cool Internet Tough Guy story bro.

Eponysterical
posted by ActingTheGoat at 3:27 PM on January 24, 2018 [20 favorites]


Merely touching someone's car being a common invitation to violence is another great reason to ban cars.
Funny story: I was riding in the bike lane when I came across a driver sitting in it with his engine running, talking on his phone. I smacked the roof as I went by. He peeled out, caught up to me and screamed, "WHAT WAS THAT FOR I WASN'T DOING ANYTHING!" I pointed out that he was parked in a bike lane. He flipped out and threatened to kill me. Like, if you're concerned with "not doing anything wrong," threatening to murder someone might be a problem, eh?
posted by klanawa at 3:37 PM on January 24, 2018 [11 favorites]


When I'm crossing a street (as a pedestrian) and I see someone also crossing but only looking at their phone is it appropriate for me to tell them to put the phone away?

For other pedestrians? Only if they're walking directly into your path. Or, if you're feeling generous, if they're about to fall into a crevasse.
posted by asperity at 4:00 PM on January 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


> Merely touching someone's car being a common invitation to violence is another great reason to ban cars.

Cars for many people are the most valuable thing they own, and they're often full of other important items. If your car is stolen or somehow damaged by a parts thief or deranged person, it can get very expensive very quickly. For some people, having a car suddenly rendered inoperable could be life threatening, or at least seriously damaging to their family's well-being.

Actual violence, like punch first and ask questions later, is obviously an overreaction, but I wouldn't blame anyone for getting really frightened and angry if someone seemed to be tampering with their car. Leaning on someone's car to tie a shoe seems a little like picking up someone else's credit card to sweep up a couple of crumbs off a bar: it's kind of clever, it's not destructive, but if they see you doing it, they're going to think the worst.

Cars, computers and cellphones, purses and backpacks... there are definitely certain valuables I'd only touch in an emergency.
posted by smelendez at 4:11 PM on January 24, 2018 [4 favorites]


Oh, we're sharing pedestrian rage stories? Boy, let's see:

McGuinness Blvd, Greenpoint, Brooklyn (aka The Defacto Highway Between the LIE and the BQE Even Though It Divides a Densely Occupied Neighborhood at Grade): Typically, I wait for the light to change, and typically, some asshole tries to beat the light and gets stuck in the crosswalk. I WHAM on his trunk and hear "Hey. Hey asshole. Come back here. Asshole!" as I completely ignore him, sauntering my way to Key Food, no doubt making him even more livid

McGuinness Blvd, again: I'm crossing in the morning rush on my way to the train. There's an elementary school on the corner and many children are crossing, with the aid of a crossing guard. A giant Fed Ex truck tries to beat the light and gets stuck in the crosswalk. I walk around the truck and up to the driver's side window, hit it as hard as I can, yelling "FUCKING ASSHOLE THERE'S A SCHOOL RIGHT HERE KIDS ARE CROSSING IF YOU CAN'T MAKE THE LIGHT STOP!!!!"

42nd St and 5th Ave, midtown Manhattan, midday: a black towncar with tinted windows, no doubt ferrying some jerk diplomat to the UN, gets stuck in the crosswalk trying to beat the light (seeing a trend here? DO NOT BLOCK THE BOX I AM COMING FOR ALL OF YOU). I walk over to the rear passenger window and slam it a good one

Eventually, I moved to Portland, Oregon, because I did not enjoy being a lunatic rage monster every single day I left my apartment. I did a two-year stint in Portland, daring drivers to hit me and claiming the right-of-way if it was at all safe to do so (I'm relatively young, nimble, and very good at this--don't worry.) I made a point of jaywalking and helping the older and more scared cross the street by leading the way and making cars stop. I was also almost hit by an idiot Lyft driver who didn't notice that the light wasn't green then proceeded to say to me in a very passive-aggressive tone of voice (Portland!) "Hey man, that was your fault" to which I replied by hitting the hood of his car

I'm probably moving to Philadelphia soon--I think I'll fit right in.
posted by Automocar at 4:15 PM on January 24, 2018 [9 favorites]


Oh, and by the way, all this talk of distracted walking, distracted driving, distracted... whatever: this is the whole theory behind Vision Zero, which at its core is the radical idea that a human being making a minor mistake should not mean death or serious injury. I am not very optimistic about its chances of long-term success in a country which let children go without health care for over a month because Republicans couldn't convince anyone to have sex with them in college.
posted by Automocar at 4:18 PM on January 24, 2018 [17 favorites]


As a cyclist, I'm just going to say that I do not trust a single motherfucker out there.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:21 PM on January 24, 2018 [21 favorites]




I don't endorse internet, or real world, tough guy actions, at all.

I have noticed a weird, pre-rational fight-or-flight, adrenaline-y response on the rare occasions someone has smacked my car when I was in it. There's something hind-brainy going on there, maybe (I have no idea what I am talking about) connected with the car feeling like an extension of your body?

It's a thing, though it is no excuse to act on it in a shitty way.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 5:01 PM on January 24, 2018


I don't endorse internet, or real world, tough guy actions, at all.

I have noticed a weird, pre-rational fight-or-flight, adrenaline-y response on the rare occasions someone has smacked my car when I was in it. There's something hind-brainy going on there, maybe (I have no idea what I am talking about) connected with the car feeling like an extension of your body?

It's a thing, though it is no excuse to act on it in a shitty way.


See, here's the thing though. As a person walking through the world, I am just a fragile fleshbag who can be life-changingly injured by any vehicle going more than 20MPH, and I also don't come equipped with a loud horn. So, if I'm driving a car and you are also driving a car, and you do something boneheaded that almost kills me, I honk at you. "Hey buddy, just letting you know that you almost killed me! Pay more attention and have a great day." Me, as a Person Not in a Car, hitting your vehicle because you almost ran over me? Just think of that as another driver honking at you. Okay?
posted by Automocar at 5:06 PM on January 24, 2018 [10 favorites]


Leaning on someone's car to tie a shoe seems a little like picking up someone else's credit card to sweep up a couple of crumbs off a bar:

A very little.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:08 PM on January 24, 2018 [13 favorites]


typical. improved [blank] for drivers at the cost of pedestrian safety.


Well, Ford’s new ad campaign IS “Everybody drives...”

LA was a shock for me, not because it's so intensively motor-centric, but rather because there is something instilled so deep in the drivers of the region that makes them stop for pedestrians.

As shitty as the LAPD is to pedestrians with its zealous enforcement of jaywalking and ped signal violations, they are equally as vigilant with crosswalk laws. Quite often they set up stings with a clown or a guy in a chicken costume at the start of a crosswalk, then pull over the drivers who sail through.
posted by hwyengr at 5:08 PM on January 24, 2018


I've glared and smacked, as a pedestrian, more than I have had my car smacked. I glare crossing streets pretty much daily.

I'm just describing a visceral response I've noticed, not defending inattentive or enraged drivers.

To be clear: an initial feeling is not an excuse to act upon it.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 5:10 PM on January 24, 2018


"Pedestrians just need to be loved.

"Pedestrians comprise the larger part of humanity. More than that: its better part. Pedestrians created the world. It was they who built cities,erected multi-story buildings, laid sewage systems and water pipes, paved the streets, and illuminated them with electric lights. It was they who spread culture all over the world, invented the printing process, concocted gun powder, cast bridges across rivers, deciphered Egyptian hieroglyphics, introduced the safety razor, destroyed the slave trade, and determined that one hundred and fourteen tasty, nutritious dishes can be made from the soy bean. And then, when everything was ready, when our native planet had assumed a relatively well-appointed mien, the motorists appeared.

"It must be noted that the automobile was also invented by pedestrians. But somehow, motorists immediately forgot about that. They began to run over the clever, meek pedestrians. The streets, created by pedestrians, were taken over by motorists. Roads grew twice as wide, while sidewalks narrowed down to the width of a cigar band. Pedestrians began flattening themselves against the walls of buildings in alarm.

"Pedestrians lead martyrs’ lives in the big city, where a sort of transportational ghetto has been created for them. They are allowed to cross the street only at crosswalks — in other words, only at the precise place where street traffic is heaviest, and where the thread by which the pedestrian’s life usually hangs is easiest to break."

--The Little Golden Calf, Ilf & Petrov, 1931
posted by belarius at 5:24 PM on January 24, 2018 [10 favorites]


Hitting a stranger's car - no matter how justified you believe it to be - is insanely stupid and could get you killed.
posted by grumpybear69 at 5:32 PM on January 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


Leaning on someone's car to tie a shoe seems a little like picking up someone else's credit card to sweep up a couple of crumbs off a bar

Sure, if by "a little" you mean "not at all, in any way, shape, or form."

it's kind of clever, it's not destructive, but if they see you doing it, they're going to think the worst

Which is...tying your shoe? This example is far more illustrative of the dangerous sense of entitlement of car owners mentioned extensively in this thread than concerns about safety or self-preservation. I mean, really, there is no worst scenario to think of in this situation unless the car is being operated, in which case the concern should be about the pedestrian. If seeing someone tying their shoe, a completely innocent gesture done billions of times a day, while in physical contact with your car kicks up your paranoia and aggression level, that's 100% on you.
posted by zombieflanders at 5:53 PM on January 24, 2018 [16 favorites]


I would only smack someone’s car if I was ready and willing to get in a fight right there and then.

Lately I’ve been idly wondering if the inattentive drivers at the intersections I cross every day would all of a sudden pay attention and respect my pedestrian space if I was ostentatiously carrying a big black assault rifle. In other words, is the problem inattention or or them not caring because of the power imbalance?
posted by Dip Flash at 5:55 PM on January 24, 2018 [5 favorites]


Pedestrian, bicycle, or automobile, can y'all please stop getting mad and doing a bunch of weird loud surprising stuff (honking, yelling, hitting things) in the middle of traffic? That does the opposite of get me to drive more safely, rationally, or focusedly.
posted by value of information at 5:56 PM on January 24, 2018 [4 favorites]


I used to know a guy who was really proud that he'd kick cars if they did something stupid while he was walking. He grinned when he told us that he had dented more than one car. Someone else I knew, an avid cyclist, was really proud of having once broken someone's side mirror when she cut him off on his bike. I know another guy who actually pulled a guy out of his car and threw him on the ground after he ran a stop sign in front of him. A friend of mine was leaving a parking lot when a guy decided she had gotten too close to him while he was walking, and he started screaming at her (it was only when she showed him that she was dialing 911 on her phone that he stopped).

I walk everywhere and rarely drive, and I've definitely had cars come very close to completely mowing me down, so I get how terrifying and infuriating that can be. But I don't want this to just be sharing fun stories about how great it is that we smack cars, and stuff. In my case, yeah, as a pedestrian I'm pretty vulnerable, but as a guy I also need to be aware that I can't see myself only as the victim of a near-miss. If my mom was in her car, didn't stop for a pedestrian at a crosswalk, and then he smacked her car and screamed at her, would that be cool? (Fun fact: this did happen when I was in the car with her, and it wasn't cool.) Does the guy screaming at my mom magically become not threatening to a 70 year old woman because she's in a car? Should we be cool about the reaction if he only did it because he was totally sure she was an asshole and not, like, just someone who made a mistake?

The key to safety isn't making sure everyone learns to rip people's heads off when it's, like, totally justified, it's making sure the roads are designed to maximize safety. Yeah, we're not there yet, and I'll probably still yell "motherfucker!" the next time someone zips right in front of my while I'm on the crosswalk in front of my apartment. But also, there's a point where it starts just being plain old road rage, and where I could become the threatening one.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 6:38 PM on January 24, 2018 [11 favorites]


People that block the box know what they’re doing.
posted by Automocar at 6:51 PM on January 24, 2018 [5 favorites]


I had a dude flip the fuck out at me and beat on my car once. I had come up to an intersection and had the green, but there was gridlock so I stayed out of the intersection, waiting until there was room for me on the other side. Traffic was bad though, so the light turned red before I could cross and I wound up slightly in the crosswalk (a couple feet) and couldn't really do anything about that. A guy walking his dog across the street stopped and freaked out and started screaming at me about blocking the crosswalk and hitting the hood of my car. I've seen this same guy do the same thing to other people who stop at lights with any part of their car inside the crosswalk, so apparently this is His Crusade and I'm sure he feels very righteous and justified (he sure looked like he did).
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:51 PM on January 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


Yeah, fair enough, I'm not really a fan of escalating, however amusing it may be to hear some of the stories.

But, that a driver didn't screw up *on purpose* is kind of a weak defense.

If anything there's probably a better case for hitting the cars of drivers who are "just" making mistakes. They're dangerous too, and they're probably more likely to learn from the negative feedback than assholes out looking for a fight.
posted by floppyroofing at 6:54 PM on January 24, 2018 [7 favorites]


Almost all men will stop and wave me across in front of them.

Most women, not so much.


I read this in the 90s I think but Deborah Tannen says this is because men "let" people go first in order to assert their dominance.
posted by TheLateGreatAbrahamLincoln at 6:57 PM on January 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


I’m trying to switch to screaming like I’m being murdered when someone almost murders me with a car. I’m a bike commuter, bus rider, and pedestrian. I’m sometimes, but quite rarely, a driver.
posted by advicepig at 7:26 PM on January 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


Fellow outside travellers, lend me your eyes as I believe I may have found the unfortunately necessary safety solution for us.

I use a whistle. So far not much for pedestrianing as like many here I have honed my survival skills around tactics involving eye contact and road selection and car deference but my god, what a difference.

I get mine for about $2.50 at the local hardware store. If you've got a conveniently small store they'll be around the counter with the other impulse items but they are not hard to come by nor expensive. I have a cord run through it that's looped a few times so I can keep it on my knuckles like a referee. Get the kind with the pea.

I walk to work through a fairly urban environment usually one day a week but bike the rest of the week. Biking is where I encounter the most hazards and for years it was either "HEY!" or "HEY MOTHERFUCKER!" depending on how badly my rights and safety were violated. My wife -- who was unfortunate enough to bounce of a hood of a car a block from my work -- got me a lovely air horn for my bike and still, nothing beats the whistle. I use it nearly every other day on the 7 lane-intersecting-8 lane monstrosity where even on the satellite imagery someone is violating the shared pedestrian and bike crossing, looking to turn right while facing 50MPH traffic coming left.

The whistle incurs no contact, no breaking of social bounds. It can be made friendly or less so depending on the application. Toot-toot-friendly wave. We're all conditioned so that a whistle demands attention but its in no way aggressive.

I had to "MOTHERFUCKER" on foot last week and a few weeks before that had to explain to a broski who was nochill that I would not have needed to tap his hood had he not had cans on (thanks Dre) and been violating my crosswalk. I largely doubted he'd have beaten my ass in front of a dozen spectators at the cafe, but still -- the whistle would have done the same job, no contact.

Be safe, y'all.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 7:37 PM on January 24, 2018 [9 favorites]


Mystic Valley Parkway. It wants to be a controlled access road so badly. It feels like an inner beltway that got fucked by '70s NIMBYism but I don't know the area's history all that well.

If my daughter wants to ride her bike to school, she would have to cross MVP.
Twice.

Narrow it. Or shut it down. You will NOT turn it into a highway.
posted by ocschwar at 8:03 PM on January 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


If my mom was in her car, didn't stop for a pedestrian at a crosswalk, and then he smacked her car and screamed at her, would that be cool?

If your mom's failure to pay attention is endangering the vulnerable road users around her to the extent that she's going through intersections without yielding to people with right of way, I have a hard time feeling bad about someone non-harmfully smacking her car or yelling at her.

Nobody – not your mom, not my mom, not anybody – has the right to operate a vehicle if they can't do so without endangering the people around them.
posted by Lexica at 8:06 PM on January 24, 2018 [20 favorites]


But, that a driver didn't screw up *on purpose* is kind of a weak defense.

Toronto has its sixth pedestrian fatality of 2018 today. I am not sure six grieving families cared overmuch about oopsies when picking out the casket.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:16 PM on January 24, 2018 [9 favorites]


I had fun tonight filling out surveys, scribbling on maps, and applying stickers to show my support for better infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists on a specific (and spectacularly dangerous) travel corridor. Lots of people were there to support the same things I was, too. I was expecting the general tenor of the crowd to be more NIMBY don't-make-me-slow-my-car, given the demographics most heavily represented.

Also, there were snacks. As much as I think letting drivers know when they're putting me in danger is important, they never seem to listen or change their behavior at all. Tonight's town hall meeting gave me somewhere arguably constructive to channel my ban-all-cars rage. Because fuck all the drivers who feel entitled to all the space in the world.
posted by asperity at 8:28 PM on January 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


But I don't want this to just be sharing fun stories about how great it is that we smack cars, and stuff.

Oh, me either. Let's add in the time a car came through a red light and hit me and threw me off the crosswalk so I landed several feet away in the intersection in the active lane of traffic and then a bunch of police and fire trucks came and I got taken to the emergency department and he argued his way completely out of a 'dangerous driving' ticket and that was it. And then we can get back to how I want to slash tires and have settled for just smacking the side of a car as it sails past me not giving a shit about lights and stop signs and crosswalks and potential dead pedestrians.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 8:44 PM on January 24, 2018 [14 favorites]


If your mom's failure to pay attention is endangering the vulnerable road users around her to the extent that she's going through intersections without yielding to people with right of way, I have a hard time feeling bad about someone non-harmfully smacking her car or yelling at her.

Nobody – not your mom, not my mom, not anybody – has the right to operate a vehicle if they can't do so without endangering the people around them.


This is absurd. Look, people make mistakes, and we always pretend that only total idiots could make that kind of a mistake. What I keep saying is that safety measures need to take into account that people aren't perfect, and that they make mistakes. I'm not even saying that flipping your shit isn't ever justified, because I still do it sometimes. But obviously your comment set me off, because I'm talking about someone being super threatening towards my mother, and you're coming at me with "well maybe the real problem is that she can't drive and shouldn't be on the road." I mean, fucking seriously.

What I am also saying is that I don't want to see myself or anyone else using their vulnerability as a pedestrian to justify aggressive, threatening stuff. You want to call attention to someone making a mistake? That's well and good. You want to scream your head off at my mother, or at someone else? Take into account the fact that some of us don't stop being threatening just because someone's in a car. There is a point when smacking someone's car and shouting threats at them becomes more than just an attention-getter. I'm not even saying this happens all the time, but as a guy I probably take it for granted that I can't necessarily shout and flip out in public, even if it's totally reasonable in context, without someone wondering how violent I will get. You don't know what a random stranger is capable of, my mom doesn't know what a random stranger is capable of, and what may seem like harmless venting to you may just as well look like the precursor for real violence to someone else. Is it my right and my duty to take advantage of that to threaten drivers into compliance with traffic laws? Maybe some people think that's acceptable. I don't.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 8:45 PM on January 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


Assuming someone will get out of your way because you've got a car pointed at them really isn't any morally different than assuming someone will get out of your way because you've got a gun pointed at them. One's just more common and socially acceptable in out society.
posted by Zalzidrax at 8:56 PM on January 24, 2018 [15 favorites]


> If I was dictator of Massachusetts the first things that would go would be:

> Alewife Brook/Fresh Pond parkways. Gone. They're Route 2 now. They're controlled access freeways through to Soldiers Field to hook up to the Pike. Pike tolls from the intersection to the city are gone. . . .


The thing is, you would do all this and about four months later, you would find that all the traffic had become just exactly as bad as it was before. The absolute most you might accomplish would be shuffle the most congested spots around just a little bit.

You absolutely cannot build your way out of motor vehicle congestion in a city by adding more/faster lanes.
posted by flug at 9:16 PM on January 24, 2018 [8 favorites]


As a bicyclist, I've had a motorist physically try to force me off the road while riding on a residential city street. This guy slowed down to match my speed, moved over until the side of his car was in contact with my handlebar, then veered toward the curb to try to force me off the road or into a parked car. My husband, while riding his bike in accordance with the California vehicle code, has had a driver get out of the car, open his trunk, and take out a chain which he started wrapping around his fist. (I did not hit the parked cars, and my husband rode away before the driver managed to deploy the chain.)

And then there are the too-innumerable-to-remember times that some driver in a hurry to get somewhere has made an illegal turn through a crosswalk, or run a red light with pedestrians present, or veered around another driver (who was stopped to let the person in the crosswalk pass), or…

You'll excuse me if I can't muster any sympathy for inattentive drivers who get yelled at for not paying attention. Whether it's deliberate or through just not giving a shit, motorists kill pedestrians and bicyclists daily. Don't want to get yelled at or have your car thumped? Pay attention and don't endanger us and we won't have reason to yell or thump.
posted by Lexica at 9:23 PM on January 24, 2018 [18 favorites]


> this is the whole theory behind Vision Zero, which at its core is the radical idea that a human being making a minor mistake should not mean death or serious injury.

One of the pillars of the Vision Zero philosophy is that deaths and serious injuries caused by motor vehicles are completely preventable and, thus, ethically unacceptable.

Think about that for just a moment. Deaths and serious injuries caused by motor vehicles are completely preventable.

Is that really true?

Because if it is true, it really does set up a dilemma: In the U.S. every year something like 40,000 people are killed and over 2 million seriously injured by automobiles.

If all of those fatalities and injuries are actually preventable, but we are not doing the things needed to prevent them, then that really is an ethical quandary.

The things needed to prevent those fatalities and injuries are really not all that complicated or expensive. More info at the Vision Zero Network.
posted by flug at 9:27 PM on January 24, 2018 [13 favorites]


I'm perfectly torn between "I want to slash tires/smash windows/beat on cars" and "I don't want to be aggressive because I don't believe in strange displays of toxic masculinity", because I live predominantly in the latter but understand the feelings of the former, especially as a cyclist.

I've only started driving again after 7 years away from driving, and I am SUPER careful about it and am endlessly terrified of hitting somebody. I love my car, it's actually made my life easier (anything helps when you're viciously depressed so often), and I do enjoy driving it (most of the time), but jfc it's dangerous out there, and I know first hand what the dangers are.

I really hate the identity of "being a driver", especially when I use to be a "cyclist" and a "pedestrian". Other drivers terrify me. I've almost been killed so many times driving my car, to the point where I've had to pull over and relax, and I've seen other drivers be super aggressive to me for things I am doing legally and safely. I carry a 16" collapsible baton on me now, because my heavy-duty U-lock is for my bike. If anyone wants to attack me they'll get a beatdown.

As for drivers vs. cyclists/pedestrians, I've posted here many times about growing up in Phoenix, AZ and how I literally had people going 60 MPH down 40 MPH roads (67th Ave. & Union Hills up in Glendale, hello) yell at me, calling me a faggot, and throwing literal bottles at me. I'm lucky I never got hit. I'm lucky I didn't die, ffs. I carried a collapsible baton back then too, because cars full of men would pull up next to me at the red lights and tell me to "get a car, fag". The world is fucked.
posted by gucci mane at 9:27 PM on January 24, 2018 [3 favorites]


I'm living in León, Nicaragua for the winter in some part because in Portland, Oregon I was literally risking my life anytime I wanted to bike across town, and I bike defensively. It's not like the drivers here are that much better, and the sidewalks aren't wheelchair friendly, but the diversity in transportation mode share is amazing.

I can think of half a dozen different common ways people get themselves and their belongings around off the top of my head. Including horse and cart.

And no one will ever be able to tell me again that cars polluting are better than horses pooping in the street. They invented manure bags for that.
posted by aniola at 10:17 PM on January 24, 2018 [4 favorites]


At the risk of intruding on a well-deserved distracted driver hateathon I really must question the entire premise of the article. Motor vehicle fatalities, while higher in the United States than elsewhere, are not in any significant sense increasing much less seeing a "huge rise" as claimed in the first comment which set the tone.

Yes it's true that fatalities per 100million vehicle miles is up from a historic low of 1.08 in 2014 to... wait for it... 1.18 in 2016. But two years is not a long goddamn trend. And for effs sake, that could just be statistical noise. It was 1.26 in 2008 and 1.46 in 2005. You could write an article titled "motor vehicle fatalities PLUMMET IN LAST DECADE" by pointing out they were 1.42 in 2006 and fell all the way to 1.18 in 2016.

This is like people being convinced that violence is way up or that kids get kidnapped by strangers at huge rates compared to the past. It just isn't so.

*unreasonable anger intensifies*
posted by Justinian at 10:24 PM on January 24, 2018 [7 favorites]


and a car that should have stopped for me doesn't, I often give it a good tap on the rear quarter-panel as it rolls by

An open-handed slap works for me. But last time it happened I calmly crossed the street behind the car and made a one-finger tap on a taillight lens. The driver opened her door and yelled at my retreating back, "You dumb c*nt!"

Re: distracted pedestrians
I can't even.
posted by bendy at 11:07 PM on January 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


Only just now did I realize the thing that bothered me so much about seeing someone be so aggressive towards my mom: when I was a kid, she hit a motorcyclist. She was changing lanes on the highway, and the guy sped up from behind her on the right. She couldn't see him, and he ended up crashing into her from behind. Regardless of whether or not she could have or should have seen him, the law dictated that she was fully responsible because she was changing lanes. And I remember seeing that someone who never speeds in her life, who is the most strict person when it comes to road safety, was suddenly being referred to as a disgustingly reckless driver who shouldn't be on the road. It was devastating for my mom. I will never forget being alone in a waiting room with my sister, and asking the guy's lawyer why they were doing this to our mom; she detailed for us, with a sneer on her face, all the horrible things our mom had done to that motorcyclist. The implication being, of course, that our mom deserved much worse.

I've been a pedestrian or a cyclist far more than I've ever been a driver. I, too, have had people do crazy shit to me. There was the jeep that saw me approaching a four-way stop, accelerated, and ran through it directly in front of me while the driver flipped me off. There was the driver that sped through an intersection I was crossing with my mom when I was 10, who was so close to me I could feel a rush of air as it went by. There was the suburban woman in an SUV who tried to force me off the road because I had the nerve to be in the middle of the road making a left turn. People have yelled, thrown shit at me, and threatened me. It sucks.

But I've also fucked up as a cyclist and a pedestrian. I've made stupid mistakes because I wasn't paying attention, or because I didn't see a sign, or I thought the light had changed when it hadn't. The difference between those stupid mistakes and the ones I've made as a driver were that the stakes were much higher when I was behind the wheel. I've never been in an accident, and I've never even gotten a ticket, but I've definitely done dumb stuff that could have caused serious harm if circumstances had been slightly different - someone crossing the street at the wrong moment, or something else. It still could happen, and most of the reason I don't drive much anymore is that I'm terrified of it.

There was an FPP recently about people who have accidentally killed someone, and most of them had accidentally killed someone while driving. It's agonizing for them. Literally no one, including the people themselves, feel like they deserve to be forgiven. One of the articles talked about how life is totally arbitrary, like you can do absolutely nothing wrong, and all it can take is someone in a car getting suddenly distracted by a loud noise, and they'll look away just long enough to not see you in time.

In a minor way, I guess that's what happened to my mom; maybe even a fraction of a second difference in timing - her changing lanes at a different time, or the cyclist going at a different speed - and maybe it would just be an ultimately forgettable story about a cyclist shaking his fist at her and yelling through his helmet. Or maybe the cyclist could have died. I'm biased to think my mom wasn't the one at fault, but honestly, I don't think it can ever be proven either way.

In the grand scheme of things, getting righteously angry at cars isn't really that big a deal. But I feel like a lot of the justification behind it is driven by this idea that things aren't as arbitrary as they are, that simply not seeing something is morally equivalent to the actions of an aggressive driver who threatens a cyclist's life. I'm not so confident in my own abilities as a driver, or a pedestrian, or whatever, to think that I won't ever make a minor error that could suddenly have dire consequences. As a pedestrian, I guess I could get myself killed and probably screw up the driver's life. As a driver I guess it could be the other way around.

Really, I guess I sort of intruded on this thread with my own baggage. I definitely get where people are coming from, but I just can't see things the same way.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 11:12 PM on January 24, 2018 [7 favorites]


Toxic car culture is like, the big reason why I don't feel good about having to learn to drive. The worst part of it is, my family and extended family, friends keep laying it on me "are you learning to drive? How's your lessons going"? In their minds, their constant talking about it at that level is supposed to be encouraging, except it doesn't help because I cannot seem to convey to them my actual worldview and value system that includes nurturing a progressive and critical attitude about these personal-social-environmental-structural choices and their ramifications.

It's like everyone around me is so embedded in "car ideology" that they cannot begin to fathom what my seeming problem with it is. Like, I can see the necessity and practicality of learning to use a car, but what would go a long way towards actually helping my efforts is if someone actually showed empathy with what my qualms are, and helping me to articulate that. And that absence has made it a pretty alienating and oppressive experience thus far.

Also, being a pedestrian is just generally crappy, it's just so normalized otherwise. "Share the road" is kind of bullshit for obscuring the externalities of personal cars in the first place. The only time being a pedestrian is actually really enjoyable is in car-free zones.
posted by polymodus at 11:25 PM on January 24, 2018 [13 favorites]


I nearly got run over by a woman who was turning into the road I was crossing at a speed that would've been dangerous regardless. I had to run to avoid her. I don't run. I felt sick and shaken. She pulled over, presumably to apologise but when I tearfully yelled "you stupid idiot, you nearly killed me!" she hopped back in her car and drove off. I bet in her version of events, my not gracefully accepting her apology and yelling made me the bad person. If she'd stopped a moment while I shook and cried, at least I would've felt she had some humanity. But no, she was clearly in a hurry and didn't give a shit. Jesus, does having a car make people lose their soul? I've seen people sick or injured on buses and everyone helps.

(Note, while being yelled at by a pedestrian you almost hit might been seen as threatening in some places, she had nothing to fear from a crying overweight woman at this time in this location. It's Australia, I couldn't shoot her)
posted by kitten magic at 1:16 AM on January 25, 2018 [9 favorites]


> Assuming someone will get out of your way because you've got a car pointed at them really isn't any morally different than assuming someone will get out of your way because you've got a gun pointed at them. One's just more common and socially acceptable in out society.

Illustrated nicely by the Brick Safety Twitter account. Everyone, brick-throwers and brick-dodgers share responsibility for not being hit by flying bricks!
posted by anthill at 2:13 AM on January 25, 2018 [11 favorites]


A good anti-petextrian framing whose originator I wish I could remember was:

"When you read 'texting pedestrian', substitute 'grandma looking down for ice'".

Walking is a human right, for young and old, fit-strong or differently abled. Condemning anyone who can't make perfect judgments with sub-second reaction times to rare events happening in a 270 degree field of view is professional negligence by road designers and enforcement authorities.

Compare to the Dutch who realize that old people cycling have trouble turning their necks... and therefore design all intersections to cross at right angles and have safe visibility without having to look left or right.
posted by anthill at 2:20 AM on January 25, 2018 [18 favorites]


I don't tap or slap cars that go past, because there's no time. One second I'm about to cross the street, then suddenly a car is whipping around the corner, and then they're gone. I've had four close calls since the beginning of September, and saw it happen to some other people once who were about twenty feet ahead of me on the sidewalk. Every time it scares the heck out of me, because if I'd been walking a little faster, then... Smack. And none of those drivers seemed aware that pedestrians were about to cross at all.
posted by Kevin Street at 2:22 AM on January 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


The crosswalks at UNCA are all sidewalk height. It works. Same at the airport.

What doesn't work is downtown Asheville, the most dangerous city for pedestrians in NC. My biggest fear Lyft/Ubering is hitting someone who darts out in front of me in dark clothing and not in a crosswalk. Or the night bicyclist with their coattails covering the rear reflectors.

I do stop and say something like "Buddy I couldn't see you at all." No trace of anger in my voice. They generally look kind of surprised and thoughtful.

I think the surprise is that I'm not cussing them out which is the response of many drivers to the amygdala hijack that comes with the adrenaline rush of not running someone over. Puerile response.

Not too long ago a fireman got pissed off at a bicyclist towing his toddler and shot at him. The bullet grazed his helmet. Fireman got off lightly. Probation if I recall. Should have been attempted murder.

UMV's will not be an option here as long as all gps systems think getting to certain places is best accomplished by making a right off a scenic overlook or hitting the runaway truck ramp instead of the exit.

So some of us drivers are really trying. We get the drunks most likely to hit pedestrians off the road.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 3:13 AM on January 25, 2018 [8 favorites]


I once took off a motorist's side mirror for passing too close to me on my bike!

In the sense that he hit me from behind with his side mirror, which then broke off.
posted by tobascodagama at 5:31 AM on January 25, 2018 [8 favorites]


That 20 mph the vision zero folks are so often trying to get driving speeds reduced to? They also say that one out of ten pedestrians hit at 20 miles per hour will be killed. That's a safety goal. Fewer deaths, and a changed culture.

I think it's the responsibility of people who drive to work on understanding these issues. Just like racism can't be solved when only people of color are working on it, you can't have streets that are safe for everyone when the only people working to make it safe are the people who don't drive.

It's hugely important - if we want to see a broader shift towards safer driving and infrastructure - for people who drive to start thinking more about this, which means we need to keep them in the conversation.
posted by aniola at 5:33 AM on January 25, 2018 [6 favorites]


In the sense that he hit me from behind with his side mirror, which then broke off.

This happened to me once... standing on a curb.
posted by uncleozzy at 5:39 AM on January 25, 2018 [4 favorites]


like you can do absolutely nothing wrong, and all it can take is someone in a car getting suddenly distracted by a loud noise, and they'll look away just long enough to not see you in time.

Yes, that is why nearly everyone in pedestrian/bicyclist advocacy is advocating that city planning needs to force cars to SLOW DOWN in areas where they share space with other road users.

The remarkable thing about watching that video from San Francisco pre-quake is how all of the vehicles are going barely faster than pedestrians.
posted by muddgirl at 6:00 AM on January 25, 2018 [7 favorites]


The Government Highway Safety Association does a pretty good annual report on pedestrian deaths. The most interesting part is how much the rate varies by state.

74% of fatalities are at night. It seems like adding lots of streetlights at intersections might help....

It will be interesting to see if pedestrian safety improvements for cars (like collision warning sensors) start to have any effect as they trickle in.
posted by miyabo at 6:06 AM on January 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


As someone noted above, I'm only a fragile flesh bag when I walk to get to work, to get to the radio station, to get groceries...you know, living my life.

So I guess it sickens me to see how drivers are more concerned with the actions of cyclists/pedestrians and especially their precious cars than, say, a person who might die or be grievously injured for life because being a driver is much more important than being a good one.
posted by Kitteh at 6:22 AM on January 25, 2018 [12 favorites]


Relatedly, I'm really skeptical that autonomous cars will lower pedestrian deaths. Autonomous car sensors are not infallible, and although they can react quicker than humans the car still has a stopping distance. Contrarily I think that by removing the human from the car and adding car networking it will be a good excuse to decrease obstacles to speed such as stop signs, traffic calming, etc. because the mandate will be for efficient, uninterrupted flow.

This TED talk from a logistics guy at UPS imagines a future where autonomous cars are like blood cells in the traffic network. There is no place for non-passengers in his future.
posted by muddgirl at 6:26 AM on January 25, 2018 [5 favorites]


The Netherlands has a bunch of great ideas for getting drivers to slow down naturally without requiring enforcement. A couple of my favorites are, if you're driving and your path out of a driveway or off a side street crosses a bike lane or side walk, those areas are elevated so they look kind of like somewhere you maybe shouldn't be driving and trigger motorists to pay attention. And also there are no stop signs anywhere. It's counterintuitive, but it means that everyone has to slow down and look at every intersection, so overall speeds go down. For major streets with fast car traffic they use traffic lights, and in some areas they have arrows (shark teeth) painted on the ground to indicate right-of-way, but if neither are in place it's understood that you need to be slow and pay attention. And anywhere with a traffic light also has a bike signal.

They also put their bike lanes up on the curbs whenever possible, which makes riding there feel a lot safer and reduces conflict between vehicles going different speeds. But it also means sometimes tourists assume the bike lane is part of the sidewalk, but that's a minor thing.

The worse infrastructure by far is the cyclist-protected parking lane (aka a door-zone bike lane). Like, why should I be protecting your private property that you've left out on a public road with my life? NYC has them switched in places to create parking-protected bike lanes, but these often fail by having a merge lane that cuts into the bike lane to help cars speed around corners. If they were serious about safe infrastructure they would get rid of those merge lanes and force cars to go all the way to the intersection then do a sharp turn. It makes cars slow down. To make it even better, raise the bike lanes on the avenues so that cars turning onto crosstown streets have a further incentive to slow down and look first.
posted by antinomia at 6:26 AM on January 25, 2018 [7 favorites]


if you are familiar with the concept of white privilege, perhaps it would be helpful to consider those commonplace institutional and media biases and extrapolate them to motorists. (yes, intersectionality)

motorists seldom get much more than a citation (if that) for killing someone on foot or bike (much less jailtime) provided they are sober and use the magic words "i didn't see them."

news reports are invariably report on crashes using the word "accident" (though this is changing with pushback), use weasel words ("a car struck" instead of "a motorist struck") and talk about whether the victim was wearing hi-vis clothing / helmet

(yes im sure its a bummer killing a stranger with your car, but its not nearly as much of a bummer as it is being dead or knowing/loving someone who was killed by a car)
posted by entropicamericana at 7:05 AM on January 25, 2018 [14 favorites]


also: walking while black
posted by entropicamericana at 7:07 AM on January 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


Condemning anyone who can't make perfect judgments with sub-second reaction times to rare events happening in a 270 degree field of view is professional negligence by road designers and enforcement authorities.

I think that's what gets me about these issues ever being framed as pedestrians not paying enough attention. When I cross a street with a light on foot I look:

1. over my left shoulder to see if anyone is making a right turn where I am about to walk
2. across the street to see if anyone is making a left turn where I am about to walk
3. to my right side to see if someone is going to make THAT right turn where I am about to exit the crosswalk back onto a sidewalk

Whenever I am making this triple check (repeatedly during my crossing) and there is a person behind me, particularly a black man, I want to say "I'm not keeping my eye on you, I am looking for cars that might hit me!".

I also want to develop an alternative to a hi-vis vest, which tends to get covered by my backpack, so it would be a hi-vis mesh shirt so that I would have reflective sleeves. But man am I tired of putting on my vest over my big coat appropriate for Minnesota winter.
posted by Emmy Rae at 7:49 AM on January 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


For a long time, my pedestrian pushback trick has been the most passive-aggressive habit that I'm aware of engaging in. When a car has stopped halfway into the intersection and I'm walking across the crosswalk, especially if I have to squeeze or adjust my path to get by it, I think the word "insouciant" and drag my fingers slowly across the hood & hood ornament if there is one. Not scratching the paint or anything--in fact I'm usually getting road dirt on my own hand--just getting in their space the way they've gotten into mine. This enrages car owners* if they're paying attention and puts me in the right frame of mind for the brief altercation that follows one time out every four or five:

"Don't you fucking touch my car!"
"Oh, did you stop your car in the middle of the crosswalk? Where people are walking?" (etc.)

I work in midtown Manhattan and this was a near-daily interaction for years. But over the last few years--since the election, especially--I've backed off from doing this regularly. It feels less safe to pick fights, even tiny & justified ones, and it's increasingly wearying to carry around righteous indignation.

Manhattan, man: it made me an asshole, then it made me exhausted.

*I notice I've never really done this with cabs, moving trucks, delivery vans, etc. Those are dudes (it's usually dudes) who are literally cutting corners at work, and I find I have some instinctive solidarity with people who are bending the rules in their own demanding workplace. I don't like being rude to people who are on the clock. If a cab is being unsafe I'll yell at it. But for a car that's stopped in the intersection, it feels satisfyingly rude, a personal affront, to smudge the hood of the newish BMW of a solo driver, while I expect a cab driver in the process of driving his car into the ground would be like (shrug).
posted by miles per flower at 7:49 AM on January 25, 2018 [10 favorites]


The GHSA report backs up a gut feeling that my partner holds the complete opposite opinion on. She's from Florida, where I moved after living in Massachusetts for almost ten years. We then moved back to Massachusetts together.

I've always insisted that Florida was a far, far more dangerous place to be a pedestrian or cyclist. She, I think a bit shocked by Massachusetts driving habits and the admittedly terrible layouts of many of our streets and especially highways, always insisted that Massachusetts is more dangerous. Massachusetts drivers may be aggressive, says me, but at least they are aware that pedestrians and cyclists actually exist.

Of course, even though I have the data to back up my hunch, I'm not stupid enough to tell her "I told you so", but I am going to privately feel a little bit smug about it for a while.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:43 AM on January 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


You're both right; for ped/biking/etc., they're both dangerous places. I am not aware of any state that isn't.
posted by aniola at 9:06 AM on January 25, 2018


Guiding a very fast and heavy machine past us easily mangled people should come with more oversight. It would be cool if your car monitored your driving and ratted you out to your insurance company and the police for speeding, running stops, failure to signal, and other symptoms of aggressive or inattentive driving.
posted by pracowity at 9:22 AM on January 25, 2018 [7 favorites]


My road-crossing skills were honed by a couple of years in Mumbai, where no-one is ever going to stop for a pedestrian.

I got so used to walking into the road and letting the cars go round me, being hit by the occasional wing mirror when they got a bit close... I occasionally find myself doing the same in London, where it scares my wife - and the odd motorist.

Mind you, unlike the feeling I've had many times in the US, in India they weren't actively trying to kill me, and pedestrian-versus-motorist was treated as a bit of a game.
posted by 43rdAnd9th at 9:31 AM on January 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


Guiding a very fast and heavy machine past us easily mangled people should come with more oversight.

My mother-in-law is an extremely nervous driver and passenger. Any sudden turn or braking will make her exclaim and disturb her. I think she is self-conscious about this, and indeed I can easily imagine someone being mocked by their peers for not have sufficient nerves for driving. But...she's right! If you're cruising along the highway at 70 mph (and probably lower speeds too), you're basically always maybe 3 seconds away from dying, or killing someone, or otherwise ruining lives or incurring great expense. I think being aware of this on some level is part of what makes people so angry on the road, but we're still incredibly casual about it.
posted by ghharr at 9:44 AM on January 25, 2018 [6 favorites]


I do that. Twice now the driver (both males) has stopped the car and jumped out with the apparent intent of beating me up for it - once I was on a bike and could get away, once I happened to be walking directly into a store from the crosswalk and he didn't see where I'd gone. It's definitely dangerous.

On vacation in DC, I was almost run over while crossing on a walk signal by a guy in a new-looking car. We were making eye contact as he pulled into my path.

What he didn't see was my buddy, 350 lb and three steps behind me. Phill put a three-inch-deep dent in the rear quarter panel with his knee.

We kept on walking, serenaded by the driver screaming after us from his car window.
posted by notsnot at 10:19 AM on January 25, 2018


news reports are invariably report on crashes using the word "accident" (though this is changing with pushback)

The AP style guide officially changed its policy on this in 2016 (yes, due to pushback by advocates). It's still not perfect, but it's much better than it was.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:31 AM on January 25, 2018 [4 favorites]


guys, when you're banging on cars in the crosswalk, it is vital you do not forget the traditional "HEY! I'M WALKIN' HERE"

The AP style guide officially changed its policy on this in 2016 (yes, due to pushback by advocates). It's still not perfect, but it's much better than it was.

i'm assuming local action news typically doesn't use ap stylebook, because it is still endemic there
posted by entropicamericana at 10:35 AM on January 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


I also want to say - the part of Vision Zero (the street redesign philosophy) that's so compelling to me is, it accepts the fact that human error will always exist.

So many other campaigns to reduce traffic fatalities have a philosophy at their core that ultimately assumes we can never get to zero traffic fatalities until individual road users all become perfect human beings. But it's just not so.

Every city or town has 'that one intersection' or 'that one stretch of road' that everyone knows is dangerous, where people die at higher rates, yet the responsibility for not dying there is typically shifted to the people using that road, rather than the people who have the power to make it safer for everyone.

If it's too self-linky, feel free to delete - but the nonprofit where I work has an advocacy arm called Families for Safe Streets which is sort of like MADD but with the goal of pushing for Vision Zero policies. Its members have all either been injured or lost someone in traffic violence. The main branch is NYC-specific but spinoff groups have started popping up in other cities over the past couple of years. I think and hope that it's going to continue to grow.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:41 AM on January 25, 2018 [14 favorites]


The Oatmeal: Motorist cutting each other off Vs Pedestrians cutting each other off.
posted by amanda at 4:45 PM on January 24 [2 favorites +] [!]


Which brings up an interesting point: drivers, pedestrians and cyclists are the same people (although, so few drivers cycle that you could properly say that, to the extent that cyclists suck, it's because they're drivers on bikes, but not vice-versa.) So what is it about cars that makes normal people violent and stupid?

Hitting a stranger's car - no matter how justified you believe it to be - is insanely stupid and could get you killed.
posted by grumpybear69 at 5:32 PM on January 24 [1 favorite +] [!]


What if I hit a stranger's car because they're about to run me over and it's my only way of bringing my existence (however temporary they seem to want it to be) to their attention?
posted by klanawa at 11:06 AM on January 25, 2018


43rdAnd9th: "My road-crossing skills were honed by a couple of years in Mumbai, where no-one is ever going to stop for a pedestrian.

I got so used to walking into the road and letting the cars go round me, being hit by the occasional wing mirror when they got a bit close..."


When driverless cars get to India, will they have to program them to follow this behavior? It seems like they'd have to, because if the cars made full stops for pedestrians they'd be rear-ended immediately. So in that particular use case it might be safer overall to make them slow down like the human drivers do.
posted by Kevin Street at 11:34 AM on January 25, 2018


The_Vegetables: "Police were encouraged to blow loud whistles and host mock trials for Californian pedestrians who were simply behaving as they had for decades"

And even the Boy Scouts were pulled into shifting cultural norms, which started with significant public outcry at pedestrian deaths due to inattentive or untrained drivers. Previously: The Invention of Jaywalking and the Rise of Car Culture.


entropicamericana: news reports are invariably report on crashes using the word "accident" (though this is changing with pushback), use weasel words ("a car struck" instead of "a motorist struck") and talk about whether the victim was wearing hi-vis clothing / helmet

showbiz_liz: The AP style guide officially changed its policy on this in 2016 (yes, due to pushback by advocates). It's still not perfect, but it's much better than it was.

Heck, even within departments of transportation, it's still a struggle to remind people to not call such incidents "accidents," and remind roadway engineers that pedestrians and bicyclists are valid system users, and in fact, bicyclists are generally to be considered just another vehicle, albeit a slower one. I was recently talking to someone who said referred to an "active transportation division (within their state transportation agency) for people who walk and bike," as if they were separate classes of user, instead of a near universal default. Almost everybody walks to a car/ truck/ van/ motorcycle, or a bus, or even walks before and after riding on a bicycle. The notion that roads are for motorized vehicles was an invention of the car companies to shift the blame from drivers to non-drivers, because everyone realized that cars are inherently dangerous to everyone.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:35 AM on January 25, 2018 [5 favorites]


klanawa - I love that "carry a whistle" idea suggested above.
posted by aniola at 11:40 AM on January 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


When using a crosswalk, I find that staring directly into the eyes of someone in an approaching car often does cause them to slow down. I never assume that they will, though.

Very aggravating is the way the crosswalks will finally stop the traffic to let pedestrians cross, only to immediately begin the countdown signalling how much time the walker has left to get to the other side. I've had it where you have to be running to get to the other side to make it in time, and even then you risk being run over because someone in a car just can't stand it that the light hasn't *quite* turned green yet. I've been gesticulated at, yelled at, in-a-cloud-of-dust-and-exhaust-roared-past in big menacing pickup trucks, which is actually quite scary. Some of those trucks are outfitted with these extremely loud horns that sound like they belong on on a freight train, not a passenger vehicle. I almost got run over once because the jackass behind the wheel used it on me when I was crossing the parking lot to get to the grocery store. Doing that is bullying plain and simple, if you ask me, and if I had it my way no passenger vehicle would be allowed to have a horn like that.

I found it was much easier to cross streets in Rome and Florence than anywhere in the United States. I had the sense that people in cars were used to looking for random pedestrians and were also okay with not terrorizing them.

In the US I miss walking culture a lot, since I don't live in the few cities that allow for it. Impossible in places with urban sprawl and common endorsement of the above-described practices.
posted by Armed Only With Hubris at 11:59 AM on January 25, 2018 [5 favorites]


Doing that is bullying plain and simple, if you ask me, and if I had it my way no passenger vehicle would be allowed to have a horn like that.

As far as I'm concerned, all horns should be as loud or louder inside the passenger cabin than outside. Possibly also equipped with a mild electric shock. If you honk, it'd better be goddamn important. It's not OK to honk to warn pedestrians and cyclists of danger when the only potential danger would be introduced by the honker. It's even less OK to honk to express general displeasure with our existence. And I hope at this point everyone who claims to have learned in driver's ed that it's appropriate to honk to let pedestrians or cyclists know that you've seen them has aged out of driving.
posted by asperity at 12:20 PM on January 25, 2018 [6 favorites]


for people who walk and bike

there was a talking point a while back about using this terminology rather than "pedestrians and bicyclists" because it is less othering
posted by entropicamericana at 1:10 PM on January 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


Which brings up an interesting point: drivers, pedestrians and cyclists are the same people (although, so few drivers cycle that you could properly say that, to the extent that cyclists suck, it's because they're drivers on bikes, but not vice-versa.) So what is it about cars that makes normal people violent and stupid?

I mean, I loathe cars when I'm walking and I loathe pedestrians when I'm driving - I thought that was normal! Drivers can just do more damage.
posted by atoxyl at 1:16 PM on January 25, 2018


As a pedestrian and cyclist (and non-driver) in a major Canadian city with terrible traffic, I frequently get road rage at inconsiderate drivers of both the two- and four-wheeled variety.

I'd *like* to take the moral high ground and say it doesn't faze me or that I forgive them, but honestly I fantasize about yelling at drivers or tapping on car hoods. IRL I just bottle up my rage instead since I'm a petite woman who has a very high likelihood of getting her ass kicked. While this means I am frustrated a LOT (I live downtown), I figure my unwillingness has probably saved me from numerous beatings over the years.

I envy those of you who correct (tap on cars) or vent (yell at those who desperately deserve it) with impunity.
posted by dendritejungle at 1:23 PM on January 25, 2018


Klanawa: Which brings up an interesting point: drivers, pedestrians and cyclists are the same people (although, so few drivers cycle that you could properly say that, to the extent that cyclists suck, it's because they're drivers on bikes, but not vice-versa.) So what is it about cars that makes normal people violent and stupid?

Maybe it's vehicles, since cyclists can be pretty terrible too? (And I say that as one of them.) Sort of the transportation version of the general human equation of person + more power = worse person?
posted by dendritejungle at 1:28 PM on January 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


drivers, pedestrians and cyclists are the same people

I'm frequently all three on the same day! The idea that a human being is not a pedestrian ever is... weird? Maybe that's just a function of where I live. Most of my friends and neighbors drive, and also cycle, and also do a fair amount of walking around town.
posted by soren_lorensen at 1:48 PM on January 25, 2018 [3 favorites]


So what is it about cars that makes normal people violent and stupid?

I think it's similar to Internet anonymity for many people. The car is a safe space that (while not totally disconnected from the outside world) can quickly carry people away from the consequences of bad behavior. It's safe and it's theirs. When the outside does intrude on the interior of the car it comes as a shock, and people tend to react the same way they would if someone was trying to enter their house.
posted by Kevin Street at 1:51 PM on January 25, 2018 [3 favorites]


It's really easy when driving to think that nobody else can see you, but I'm not sure it's all that conscious a belief. Which is why you can be doing the stop-and-go thing and look to your left or right and you'll probably see somebody not twelve feet away from you picking their nose with great gusto.

The effect seems even more pronounced for people with tinted windows and windshields, who both get extra-pissy when you indicate you can see them using their phones when you're right next to them, and get strangely confused and angry that you can't see whatever hand gestures they're making from across an intersection. Like, y'all paid for that crap on your car that's illegal in better states, why are you surprised to learn how it works?
posted by asperity at 2:13 PM on January 25, 2018


There's also the thing where automobile cabin soundproofing has gotten much, much better over the last decade or two, so drivers often can't hear you speaking to them outside their windows. This can make what could be a friendly word to another road user escalate to "what is that person yelling about?"

I'm trying really, really hard to stop trying to interact with awful drivers and just take pictures or video, though I'm not sure what'll ever come of it beyond maybe setting up a shaming blog someday.
posted by asperity at 2:34 PM on January 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


Very aggravating is the way the crosswalks will finally stop the traffic to let pedestrians cross, only to immediately begin the countdown signalling how much time the walker has left to get to the other side. I've had it where you have to be running to get to the other side to make it in time, and even then you risk being run over because someone in a car just can't stand it that the light hasn't *quite* turned green yet.

I remember approaching a major intersection in Portland (the city in the US that's among the best at this sort of thing!) where the countdown wasn't enough time for a person to cross in their wheelchair, and the light was turning back. And someone HONKED at them! I mean, I'm sure if you use a wheelchair, this isn't news, but I just had so much righteous indignation.

Or, this: It's not OK to honk to warn pedestrians and cyclists of danger when the only potential danger would be introduced by the honker.
posted by aniola at 3:25 PM on January 25, 2018 [5 favorites]


there was a talking point a while back about using this terminology rather than "pedestrians and bicyclists" because it is less othering

I guess the reason I say "pedestrians" is because even though it's got foot in the root of the word, it's easier to imagine that language including people in wheelchairs, on rollerblades, etc., than it is if I say people who walk.
posted by aniola at 3:44 PM on January 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


active transportation was the in language for a while, but I think it's on the way out again because it's too jargony, but I forget what replaced it?
posted by aniola at 3:47 PM on January 25, 2018


I think it's similar to Internet anonymity for many people. The car is a safe space that (while not totally disconnected from the outside world) can quickly carry people away from the consequences of bad behavior. It's safe and it's theirs. When the outside does intrude on the interior of the car it comes as a shock, and people tend to react the same way they would if someone was trying to enter their house.

That's the standard answer in car psychology, that road rage is caused by a distancing effect combined with an individualized, psycho-behavioral model of the road user's cognitive state, and for example in the British Columbia official driver's guide this is basically the explanation that's implicitly offered, using simpler words.

Thus, I think the answer has to be more radical than that, for example more in line with what the Baffler article was getting at. I think the fundamental reason is because toxic car culture reproduces the capitalist excess wherein people become socially alienated and reduced to capitalist agents in the worst sense. It's why drivers become assholes. It's a bigger picture explanation and that's why it's valuable in terms of thinking about relationships and societal interventions.
posted by polymodus at 4:09 PM on January 25, 2018 [3 favorites]


> There was an FPP recently about people who have accidentally killed someone, and most of them had accidentally killed someone while driving. It's agonizing for them.

Yes, this is one reason everyone should be fervent supporters of Vision Zero efforts. Even if you are not worried about the possibility of being killed by an automobile, the possibility of killing or injuring someone else is terrible to consider as well.
posted by flug at 4:14 PM on January 25, 2018 [4 favorites]


I'd never think of driving/walking in Mexico as safe, but even in a lot of places without sidewalks traffic speed control is actually pretty good.

People tend to slow down in the future after hitting a half-meter high sidewalk or a row of topes once, and that's good for walking.

DC is full of distracted Ubers dodging distracted cyclists while picking up distracted pedestrians, and all of them are trying to kill me.
posted by aspersioncast at 4:19 PM on January 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


Justinian: You could write an article titled "motor vehicle fatalities PLUMMET IN LAST DECADE" by pointing out they were 1.42 in 2006 and fell all the way to 1.18 in 2016.

Yeah, this really doesn't hold up at all.

#1. Even in 2012, one of the lowest years in traffic fatalities in the U.S., we were still way up in the top of fatality rates internationally.

#2. Though fatality rates in the U.S. have indeed been declining over time, they are declining at a far, far lower rate than in our peer countries internationally.

This is a very well studied thing and you have to put your rationalization machine into hyperdrive to even generate a few weak arguments that we are somehow not terrible.

We are, in fact, terrible.
posted by flug at 4:19 PM on January 25, 2018 [6 favorites]


Also, your piece of private property is not sacrosanct, it is ON A PUBLIC STREET AND IT IS A POTENTIAL DANGER TO EVERYONE AROUND IT.

I don't slap cars because I don't think it's worth it, but I am increasingly tempted to start carrying a spark plug around just in case someone seems like they need their windshield shattered by something other than my head.
posted by aspersioncast at 4:25 PM on January 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


klanawa - I love that "carry a whistle" idea suggested above.
posted by aniola at 11:40 AM on January 25 [1 favorite +] [!]


1) You can't hear a whistle inside your car with the stereo up.
2) I have to use my hands to control my bike. I can't ride around with a whistle in my mouth -- I'd inhale it or drop it.
3) We're short-skirting around the issue: it's not how I respond to violence that's important, it's the fact that there's violence to respond to in the first place.
posted by klanawa at 6:32 PM on January 25, 2018 [4 favorites]


People tend to slow down in the future after hitting a half-meter high sidewalk or a row of topes once, and that's good for walking.

I hit a tope once at full highway speed (it was at night and totally unmarked), and was honestly surprised that I didn't break an axle. I wish that my current neighborhood had serious tope-style speed bumps installed to slow traffic; morning commuters are the worst.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:09 PM on January 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


If you mean speed bumps, they're like $30k a pop. That takes political will. Street trees are differently good for traffic calming, and may be easier to implement. (I hear the engineers don't love them, though visibility presumably).
posted by aniola at 8:51 PM on January 25, 2018


Yeah, $30K, which is bull.

The neighborhood down the road got a free 'dead policeman' on their side street courtesy of a contractor doing a driveway dumping the last of his dump truck and smoothing it over. The county wanted it removed, and the neighborhood voted to leave it.
posted by BlueHorse at 9:10 PM on January 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


I love it. Someone should totally put an app like chipdrop (which connects arborists with people who want wood chips) together that hooks up concrete contractors with city-approved speed bump needed locations.
posted by aniola at 9:28 PM on January 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


I think the fundamental reason is because toxic car culture reproduces the capitalist excess wherein people become socially alienated and reduced to capitalist agents in the worst sense. It's why drivers become assholes. It's a bigger picture explanation and that's why it's valuable in terms of thinking about relationships and societal interventions.

I agree with pretty much everything here, and yet this sentiment worries me. Because some of the most singularly divine moments of my life have involved automobiles, cars in particular. Because the advertising isn't all lies. A good car on the right road is freedom of a kind. The big problem is that most of us are on the wrong road most of the time. Within five miles of home, stuck in gridlock, hating everybody yadda-yadda.

By all means eliminate the urban/suburban automobile, but as somebody else said years ago, and I keep repeating it: "People still ride horses, because they love them, it's a beautiful thing, we just don't want them on Main Street anymore."
posted by philip-random at 10:05 PM on January 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


Of course; but I'm not worried about that. I live across an airport, and if I had the time and means (I most certainly don't at this point in my life), I'd go and learn how to fly an airplane. Or I consider some grad-school friends who were really into that space thing that's hot nowadays. But there's nothing inherently toxic about travel for its own sake. As in, men aren't bad, it's toxic masculinity that's bad. Etc.
posted by polymodus at 12:03 AM on January 26, 2018


When driverless cars get to India, will they have to program them to follow this behavior?

Oh wow... now there's a vision. And maybe also not treating red lights too seriously either, because that'll get them rear-ended as well.

They'll also have to program in the constant honking, of course.
posted by 43rdAnd9th at 3:26 AM on January 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


I think the standardization of window tints is making things worse. When you can't see drivers, the person becomes the car, and the car is, by nature, not human and therefore distanced from humans. First thing I did when I got my truck was to go at the windows with a razor blade and a hairdryer so that I could be seen at all times.
posted by sonascope at 3:43 AM on January 26, 2018 [3 favorites]


Fortunately window tinting is rare here; there's so little sun here that no one wants to make it dimmer.
posted by octothorpe at 4:40 AM on January 26, 2018


If you mean speed bumps, they're like $30k a pop.
Topes are to speed bumps as a Teacup Poodle is to a Newfoundlander - US speedbumps tend to be more of an inconvenience for anything with raised suspension, whereas a tope might well take out your undercarriage.

I can't imagine what they'd cost to install in the states, but I also can't imagine how a speed bump that would take me a couple hours to install ALONE costs $30k. There's a lot of creative billing at work in municipal traffic control.
posted by aspersioncast at 4:58 AM on January 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


By all means eliminate the urban/suburban automobile, but as somebody else said years ago, and I keep repeating it: "People still ride horses, because they love them, it's a beautiful thing, we just don't want them on Main Street anymore."

The Vision Zero and Copenhagen-style urban plans I've seen make a correct distinction between different road uses - between-city (cars and public transportation), inter-city (mixed use), parks or small urban pedestrian centers (non-motorized), wilderness areas (non-mechanical), etc. I don't think very many people are arguing that highways should be eliminated or turned pedestrian-friendly, any more than they are arguing that cars should drive in on forest trails.
posted by muddgirl at 5:49 AM on January 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


I can't imagine voters in most american cities ever getting behind restrictions to cars. I live right in the middle of a city in a historic townhouse district with an 85% walk score but most residents here are still strongly attached to their cars and freak out if a single parking space taken over for bike parking or a bike lane. They'll oppose any new apartment building if it has less than two spaces per unit for fear that some apartment dweller will poach the parking space in front of their house.

There was a long Facebook freakout this week on the neighborhood group because the city dared to put a "No Turn on Red (8AM - 6PM)" sign on a busy intersection. This is an intersection that has a senior tower on one side and a city park with a playground on the other but locals were still livid that they couldn't blast through a red light in their SUV.
posted by octothorpe at 6:59 AM on January 26, 2018 [3 favorites]


I actually don't think there is anything special about road rage beyond the fact that hotheads have a 2 ton weapon that also functions great as a getaway. It accomplishes both fight and flight. The same emotions are expressed in escalator etiquette, or more oddly, moving sidewalks in airports (there is a wider area right next to it that you can go your own speed - let standers ride!) and on busy sidewalks. But the fight/flight weapon is gone, which leads to pent up hostility which is better than expressed hostility.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:59 AM on January 26, 2018 [3 favorites]


I can't imagine voters in most american cities ever getting behind restrictions to cars.
My city seems to be leaning that way. Without Chaffetz Congress might not have anyone with a big enough rage-on to shit all over it this time.
posted by aspersioncast at 9:50 AM on January 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


When I was visiting Madrid and a year and a half ago, I was startled by the behaviour of drivers at crosswalks. If a pedestrian pushed the walk button, the drivers immediately stopped.

I immediately worried about what would happen to Madrid pedestrians if they visited my home city of Toronto. The unspoken rule among Toronto drivers is that when a pedestrian pushes the button to use a pedestrian crossing, the first driver always gets to go through the crosswalk - it's considered impossible to stop right away.

So I picture the poor Spanish pedestrian pushing the button, stepping out in the street - and then getting flattened by the first car going through.

Quebec City has an interesting approach: most traffic lights are three-stage:
- Stage 1: drivers in one direction go through
- Stage 2: drivers in the other direction go through
- Stage 3: all drivers stop, all pedestrians go through in all directions

This seems safer to me.
posted by tallmiddleagedgeek at 1:36 PM on January 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


Quebec City has an interesting approach: most traffic lights are three-stage:
- Stage 1: drivers in one direction go through
- Stage 2: drivers in the other direction go through
- Stage 3: all drivers stop, all pedestrians go through in all directions


I think Denver has that at some intersections. I liked it a lot.
posted by Emmy Rae at 2:28 PM on January 26, 2018


DC has also been testing this at a few intersections. No idea how well it's working, but I don't hate it.
posted by aspersioncast at 10:14 PM on January 26, 2018


It's called a pedestrian scramble. Most US cities are at least trying them in a few select places.
posted by miyabo at 9:17 AM on January 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


Pittsburgh has had them for decades, mostly in the student areas. The diagonals aren't marked but people walk across that way anyway.
posted by octothorpe at 9:23 AM on January 27, 2018


The UK has the unusual feature that pedestrians and vehicles never have a green light at the same time for any given crossing - i.e if a driver has a green light they aren't expected to give way to pedestrians, and if a pedestrian has a green man then a vehicle can only cross their path if the driver jumps a red light.

Therefore having an "all vehicles stop" phase is extremely common. The only other ways to make it work are to have banned/selectively green turns or two-stage crossings for pedestrians.
posted by grahamparks at 4:41 PM on January 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


if a pedestrian has a green man then a vehicle can only cross their path if the driver jumps a red light.

In the US, on the other hand, cars are allowed to jump red lights if they are going to turn onto the cross street - even though pedestrians currently have a walk signal to cross directly in front of them. Theoretically, said pedestrians have right of way. Ha.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 8:13 PM on January 27, 2018 [4 favorites]


I don't drive. I WON'T drive, and I don't care who tries to badger me into it. I don't have the reflexes for it, and I am frankly terrified of killing myself or someone else.

I was almost hit when I walked out of the chiropractor's office this morning - a woman in a huge SUV, yapping on the phone, looking one way, turning another. Right into the walkway I was stepping into. She screamed at me to stay out of parking spots, and screamed more when I pointed to the lines and the NO PARKING sign.

I've been screamed at, deliberately struck, threatened, and physically assaulted for being a pedestrian and a cyclist. Always by people speeding, yapping on the phone, or being otherwise shitty drivers. Car culture in the US is actively dangerous.
posted by MissySedai at 9:23 AM on January 29, 2018 [9 favorites]


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