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Educating pedestrians on the dangers of road traffic

Original post made by Walker on Jul 5, 2008

As someone who has spent time walking around Palo Alto as a means of getting from A to B and also done the same in other countries around the world, I am shocked by the attitude of some of my fellow pedestrians.

It seems that the average pedestrian feels that they can step out into traffic because they have the right of way without looking and without any responsibility. As a young child I was taught that all traffic is dangerous and I should always give way to it because it was bigger than me and took longer to stop than me. This idea seems to be irrelevant around here.

When I cross the street anywhere, I use my eyes and ears before I step into the street. I wait for cars to stop before I put a foot into the road and if a car is there, I wait until I know the driver has given me attention. If a car is waiting I will most likely walk behind the car unless there is a stop sign or light. If a car is reversing out of a driveway, I will stop and let him go unless he has made it clear that I can go.

Likewise, when I see bicycles, I treat them as vehicles, expecting them to stop and obey traffic signs, but still realise that their riders may not see me and so I am careful of them.

What I do tends to make me feel safe. I was taught this behaviour as a child living in the suburbs with busy roads nearby. I have taught my kids to do this from an early age, always holding their hands when we cross together and getting them to tell me when it is safe for us to cross so I know that they are learning the lessons.

Unfortunately, most pedestrians I see walk around with their heads in the clouds, expecting all traffic to see them, stop for them, and if they don't and they get hit, their self righteous assumption that they were in the right even if they stepped from dark shadows and should have been seen, is more important than the couple of seconds it would have taken to let the car go by and then step out safely is more correct.

I would like to see more pedestrian safety taught and awareness discussed. After all, it is better to wait and be safe than in the right and dead.

Comments (11)

Posted by Jenny, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 5, 2008 at 9:34 pm

One of the big deterrents to walking in Palo Alto is all the overgrown landscaping that grows over the sidewalk and the tree branches that hang down and hit your face.

Residents are supposed to cut back all bushes, trees, and ground cover that sprawls over the sidewalk. And, all overhanging branches should be cut so they are 8 feet off the ground.

There is not a sidewalk in Palo Alto where two people can walk side by side without overgrowing vegetation pushing one of them out onto the street.


Posted by dave, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 5, 2008 at 9:50 pm

Unfortunately too many will not think Walker's comments apply to them. Good luck to those heedless people who, like children, think they are invincible.


Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community
on Jul 6, 2008 at 12:20 am

If Palo Alto pedestrians could learn the skills shown here, they would be safe.

Web Link

There's only one "rule of the road" in Sai Gon. If you're in an accident, the larger vehicle is at fault.



Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 6, 2008 at 7:20 am

Walker forgets that pedestrians have the right of way in California, even crossing the street mid block. It is up to the driver to be watching out for pedestrians.


Posted by Walker, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 6, 2008 at 2:06 pm

Resident

Your attitude is exactly what my summing up meant. Too many people put the responsibility on the drivers and no responsibility on the drivers. Of course pedestrians have right of way (whethere that is right or wrong could be debated) but as a driver I know how difficult it can be on these bright days when there are dark shadows into the roads and I am wearing sunglasses, and pedestrians just walk in the shadows into the street. Or in the dark when they are dressed in dark clothing and step out into the street. Or with children and they teach them not to bother looking before they step out into the street.

Yes, having the right of way is the law. But common sense means that you still look before stepping into the street. After all, it is better to be cautious and alive than in the right and dead.


Posted by Walker, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 6, 2008 at 2:08 pm

Resident Sorry, I have rewritten my first sentence to make sense.

Your attitude is exactly what my summing up meant. Too many people put the responsibility on the drivers and no responsibility on the pedestrians. Of course pedestrians have right of way (whethere that is right or wrong could be debated) but as a driver I know how difficult it can be on these bright days when there are dark shadows into the roads and I am wearing sunglasses, and pedestrians just walk in the shadows into the street. Or in the dark when they are dressed in dark clothing and step out into the street. Or with children and they teach them not to bother looking before they step out into the street.

Yes, having the right of way is the law. But common sense means that you still look before stepping into the street. After all, it is better to be cautious and alive than in the right and dead.


Posted by Giraffe, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 7, 2008 at 10:06 pm

He was right, dead right, as he walked along,
But now he's just as dead as if he'd been wrong.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 4, 2010 at 9:38 am

thanks for writing this - I am from NYC where the underlying ethic is to keep the flow going. There are laws and then there is common sense. I've picked up there is a real animosity between pedestrians and drivers so those who step off may have an agenda. Stepping into the road to send a message creates bad karma (I'll use your terminology) and it sent my hot coffee all over the carpet - nice work people - you got your right of way - I am now prepared to keep my eyes on people on the sidewalk who may decide to cross at any moment. Nice.


Posted by Steve, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 4, 2010 at 9:48 am

Pedestrians have to realize that a large percentage of California drivers do not stop at stop signs or even red lights. This is especially true at right turns. Remember that a car running a red light to make a right turn is often going to come up from behind the pedestrian in a crosswalk, so you have to make an extra effort to see it. "I had the right of way" is a terrible epitaph.

I have seen some pedestrians carrying rocks or bricks in the crosswalks; I assume to give a "love tap" to cars that come to close. I wonder if that is effective?


Posted by Steve, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 4, 2010 at 9:50 am

And parents need to teach their kids that a green walk signal does not mean "go". It means you need to watch carefully for cars that are running red lights.


Posted by resident, a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 4, 2010 at 10:48 am

I just spoke to the traffic police they referred me to the following.

Steve, I believe the issue regarding folks that do not stop at red lights and the pedestrians carrying rocks for love taps is an independent(but important) idea. I am talking about the pedestrian who suddenly leaves the curb because they have this "right of way" mind set(seems like they do have some responsibility based on the traffic code below) - the one that caused the coffee all over the car. The rocks and the love taps thing is more cultural knowhow - thanks. Nice. It's so ungreen and anti environmental to make cars stop and start unnecessarily - imagine all the fuel that is wasted. I drive a hybrid so it's all good, but I view folks that cause these unnecessary stops to be anti-environment - makes me want to carry a rock. nice.


Right-of-Way at Crosswalks

21950. (a) The driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, except as otherwise provided in this chapter.

(b) This section does not relieve a pedestrian from the duty of using due care for his or her safety. No pedestrian may suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard. No pedestrian may unnecessarily stop or delay traffic while in a marked or unmarked crosswalk.

(c) The driver of a vehicle approaching a pedestrian within any marked or unmarked crosswalk shall exercise all due care and shall reduce the speed of the vehicle or take any other action relating to the operation of the vehicle as necessary to safeguard the safety of the pedestrian.

(d) Subdivision (b) does not relieve a driver of a vehicle from the duty of exercising due care for the safety of any pedestrian within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.
Amended Sec. 8, Ch. 833, Stats. 2000. Effective January 1, 2001.


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