Look Both Ways Before Crossing the Street

(Sincerest of apologies as this may be more of a rant rather than an informative blog post…)

We learned this in kindergarten, right? Why all do adults now seem to forget or ignore this simple rule? The DC area is filled with crosswalks. The kind of crosswalks without a stop lights or stop signs connected to them. It is my contention that the safety conscious “Yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk” law has mutated into a very dangerous “Stop immediately and abruptly for pedestrians who look like they may have a slight inkling to cross the road at some time in the future”.

This morphed rule is annoying to runners: Street runners use pacing to cross intersections relatively smoothly and easily. If there’s a car coming we might slow down approaching the intersection in order to keep moving until the car passes, or speed up to cross safely in front of it. Drivers, please just keep driving normally, abiding by the rules of the road, as if we were not there. We’ll make it across on our own terms without having to wonder “is he gonna stop at this crosswalk because it looks like I might want to cross?” or “Man, that car is stopping but I wonder if the car behind him will also stop…crap…now he’s waving me across…must sprint NOW!” Just because we’re at an intersection does not mean we intend to cross in front of you or immediately or at all.

This morphed rule could be deadly for pedestrians. It fosters a false sense of power, that mind-power being “I can stop traffic by just thinking about crossing the street!”

I witnessed a dangerous scenario this morning as I was running. George Mason drive is a 4 lane road with a median and has a speed limit of 30mph (cars routinely go 35-40 easy). A woman pushing a stroller started crossing the road. She made it half way and stopped at the median when a giant SUV approached in the left lane. Said car stopped in the left lane to let her pass. The traffic in the right lane, however, did not stop. The right lane cars could not see the woman/stroller behind the left lane stopped SUV until it was almost too late. A small car screeched to a halt, narrowly missing the woman/stroller and nearly getting rear ended by the car behind it. Thank goodness no harm was done, but this is crazy!

Pedestrians need to take more responsibility to look both ways and not count on cars to stop at crosswalks. We are teaching our children (and retraining ourselves to think) that pedestrians have the power to stop traffic simply by putting a big toe out in the road. This is not safe. Remember kindergarten and look both ways before crossing the street, people!

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