When to Walk and When to Stay Put

If you look around Vancouver you will quickly see we are a city trying to attain a green life style by introducing more bicycle lanes, high density neighborhoods and pedestrian-friendly walkways.  These are considered improvements by most and inconveniences by some. 

I, for one, prefer living in an area where the single family homes do not crouch over one another with touching roof lines but instead sit on decent size lots with private backyards. Living in an area where it is still possible to walk or bike to the grocery store is considered a bonus and is the reason I live in one of Vancouver’s suburbs.  That, and the price of homes in Vancouver is a wee bit steep. 

I walk as often as a I can and one thing is for certain – life is different as a pedestrian.  Not only do you have to watch out for other pedestrians and human-powered modes of transportation such as bicycles, roller blades and scooters, you have to really pay attention when it’s time to cross the street.

As most of you know, a vehicle shall yield to a pedestrian waiting to cross the street at a crosswalk.  Sometimes vehicles stop, but in my experience, most vehicles do not.  I’ve been stranded on the center median of a crosswalk waiting to get to the other side with PSD Hondo while tracking a fleeing suspect, and it gets very frustrating when drivers pretend not to see you perched on your precarious island.  But does that mean I step out into the road and take my chances?  Uh-huh, no way, not going to happen.  I’ve seen the end result when a pedestrian and a motor vehicle meet at speed.  Almost always, the ped loses.  Waiting for a break in traffic is usually safer.

Lately, I’ve seen pedestrians move in ways that put them at considerable risk:

  • jaywalking on a dark night in the heavy rain while wearing dark clothing
  • stopping for no reason while crossing the road
  • starting across at a crosswalk when it is not safe to do so
  • not making eye contact with drivers
  • running across the street at the last minute
  • not shoulder checking before stepping into a crosswalk to ensure a vehicle isn’t turning (this happens ALL THE TIME and is one of my biggest pet peeves)

All of the above can have fatal consequences.  Even today, on my way home from work, I saw a woman crossing a major street in a marked crosswalk.  She was fiddling with her MP3 player, her attention drawn to the device in her hand and not to her surroundings.  She was pulling a child’s wagon behind her full of groceries, not kids – thank goodness for small miracles.  When she made it to the other side, she did not scoot the wagon up the wheelchair ramp to the safety of the sidewalk.  Instead, she stood about four feet off the curb out in the road, her wagon alongside her in the blind spot for a driver turning at the corner.  The entire time she kept her attention focused on her music.  Not only was she a good target for an inattentive driver, she was an excellent potential victim for a mugging.

The light eventually changed and she continued on her way, completely oblivious to what was going on around her.

Now here’s the thing – I’m not coming down on pedestrians.  There are a lot of very heads-up, traffic savvy walkers out there. It’s just that I wish more people would pay attention, because even if you have the right of way as a ped, you only stand to get hurt if you get struck by a car.  It doesn’t matter whose fault it is – you lose in the end.

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