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Pedestrian Math

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pedestrian math

I occasionally  (every five minutes or so, when I’m walking down the street) think of the possible benefits and activities of a Proactive ( a polite word for “aggressive”) Pedestrian Movement. This train of musing derives from two observations:

1) The modern world’s obsession with owning a car so it can individually drive to the corner store when it’s raining is arguably the biggest thing destroying the environment (think tire dumps bigger than towns, Gulf of Mexico, and the Earth’s new Asphalt coating) , and

2) People are often stupid and dangerous when operating a vehicle other than their legs.

I’ll happily recognize we live in a world that has been unintentionally but completely shaped to make motor vehicle use fairly crucial, especially in places like Canada where you have lots of large, cold, empty spaces separating places you may want to be.  But they’ve become over-used and over-important, central symbols and enablers in the whole consumption/self-absorption set of  issues we (or at least those of us who care to examine the question) know have to be addressed.

So, a set of some suggestions for pedestrians in dealing with common vehicular annoyances . . .

PROBLEM: Able-bodied adults riding their bicycles on the sidewalk.

This is an issue all around because it alienates pedestrians from cyclists, two groups that should be united in their relatively benign approach to transportation, compared to cars. The level of self-absorption and lack of awareness of others needs demonstrated by riding your bike on the sidewalk without due cause (i.e., being too young to ride on the road) ranks such people up there with motorists.

Passive Solution: Walk in the middle of the sidewalk to obstruct their easy passage.

Active Solution: Suggest to them that they should walk their bike, or just leave the bike at home if they don’t feel like riding on the local roads.  Experience has taught this will occasionally lead to a rude response from the individual, at which point you can point out it’s actually against local by-laws to ride a bike on a sidewalk,  fines varying by your municipality, or you can opt for one of the Over-Active Solutions, below.

Over-Active Solution #1: Air-horn or similar loud noisemaker device as they pass you or are facing you, about to pass.

Over-Active Solution #2: “Clothesline” ’em, or make like you’re going to (stick your arm out at neck level, then withdraw it at the last moment. They’ll probably slow down and/or stop, at which point you can pretend you were pointing at something and didn’t see them).  As successfully “clothes lining” a rogue cyclist may result in injury (them and/or you) and/or legal action, this should be done with extreme caution.

PROBLEM: People who advance over crosswalks to make sure they can turn when their turn comes (which for many drivers means the same as “When i can likely get away with it”).

A direct result of poor planning and an over-inflated opinion of one’s own importance/importance of one’s current mission, and a comparatively harmless but blatant example of the whole “I’m in a bubble where only *I* matter” mentality of a human in a car.  Forces pedestrians to walk out into intersections, between cars in a line-up, etc. Jerk.

Passive Solution: Walk very slowly in front of the car.

Active Solution #1: Gesture or otherwise indicate how the driver should be correcting their behavior – i.e., wave backwards, make “I’m tryin’ to walk here!” type motions, and so on.  I like to gesture at the stroller or toddler I’m frequently walking with.  It doesn’t matter if another self-absorbed driver has filled the space immediately behind the offender where they should back up, since they are unlikely to follow your advice anyhow. In fact,  given the general sense of entitlement most North Americans have which is always hugely magnified by being allowed to operate a motor vehicle, they are likely to come back at you on the offensive.  Usually the best thing to is to move on, as hopefully the self-inflamed dork will stew in his/her own anger juices and feel bad later. Of course, if you like causes, don’t have a job that requires a respectable presentation, or have any place to be, escalating could be good – generally, the law *is* on your side in such a case.

Active Solution #2: Stick a flyer or other printed matter in their wipers that goes on about friendly driving.

Over-Active Solution #1: Kick the front of their car, gesture aggressively, etc.  There is a small risk that they’ll be crazier than you and run you over, but like I said, small. They may also get out of the car and try and take up the issue, but again, the law is on your side. I have done this on occasion, and for me it has only resulted on looks of puzzlement, concern, and the occasional rude gesture or comment.

Over-Active Solution #2: Air-horn. Hey, if motorists can activate a loud noise-making device when they feel someone has impeded the operation of their vehicle, why can’t a pedestrian?

Over-Active Solution #3: Take down their license plate number and report them for reckless driving. You may need a pretty good imagination, since the cops will probably ask you what they were doing that was reckless – Saying they pulled up onto the crosswalk just as you were walking out into it may or may not suffice. The cops will likely dismiss it, as generally our society looks down its nose at pedestrians, but it will inconvenience the driver and make them think of the time some idiot pedestrian reported them for sitting on a crosswalk and therefore reduce the likelihood of them doing it again.

Problem: “Piggybackers”

Drivers who believe their innate importance permits them to tack themselves onto the tail end of a bunch of cars going through a light or making a turn as the signals change, resulting in them hanging out into an intersection or making fast turns through a pedestrian crosswalk where the pedestrians actually have the right of way.  Jerks. Many of them will insist that “I didn’t know this was going to happen, ” or “the drivers behind me were being pushy,” but that’s lame – being allowed to drive  a car assumes your predictive abilities are pretty good, and you can simply ignore the jerk leaning on his/her horn because hitting you would be costly for him/her legally and financially.

Passive Solution: Similar to those people who end up standing on crosswalks – walk slowly in front of them so they can’t easily pursue their oh-so-important mission.

Active Solution: If they’re turning through the pedestrian’s right-of-way period, cross and time your pace so they have to stop and let you by. I find this works quite well.

Over-Active Solution: Chase them screaming profanities. Naturally this can be dangerous, as the driver may be more tightly wound than you, another car may accidentally or intentionally deal with a pedestrian so obviously trying to upset what they perceive as the “natural order of things,” etc.

Problem: Non-Signalers

“Hey, I turn here every day at this time, what’s your problem? You should know I turn here every day around this time.”  Despised by drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists alike, the yahoo who doesn’t bother using their turn signal because they know they’re going to turn and they’re the only person who’s important in the situation is worse than the other end of the scale, those people who never turn their signals off.

Passive Solution: Assume everyone is going to behave exactly as they’re signaling, and never try and assess their true intent – if you’re waiting to cross an on-ramp and three cars are coming with no signals on, assume they’re all not going to use the on-ramp.  There are some perils in this approach, of course.

Active Solution: As above, but be ready for somebody to suddenly make an unexpected (to you, you foolish non-psychic loser) turn, and jump when and as required.

Problem: Drivers using cell phones

This is a crazy bad problem, as it takes two attention-sucking, self aggrandizing activities and rolls them into one huge ball of obliviousness. Such enemies of civilization will make all sorts of dum errors that jeopardize lives and property of drivers, pedestrians, cyclists, you name it.

Passive Solution: There isn’t one. Such people are so wrapped up in the grand little tale of their own self-importance they’d probably have difficulty noticing a bleeding corpse landing on their windshield. If they’re standing somewhere, you can gesture the naughtiness of their activity, but given their toxic level of self-aggrandizement in the moment they’ll probably be rude.

Active Solution: Where I live, using a cell phone without a hands-free getup while driving is illegal. Get their number and report them for reckless driving. Honestly I suspect a hands free cell phone is almost as bad, but the advance of human micro-involvement, technology and consumerism can’t totally be prevented, I guess.

Problem: Dangerous old people driving cars

OK, I appreciate that the world we live in is to some large extent the result of historical work now-old people did way back whencivil infrastructure was built, children put up with, stuff was invented, industry was developed leading to the standard of living we all currently enjoy and is destroying the earth, wars against true villains were fought and won, etc etc. This is no excuse or negation of the fact that, as you age, your faculties start to lose effectiveness. Driving is a trust relationship where (so I’m told)  drivers behave in a responsible and predictable manner and depend on the other drivers around them to do the same. It is no place for an expectation of entitlement or precedence – just because you’ve “been driving on this road since before any of you were born” does not entitle you to sloppy and slowly slew out into traffic, cut people off, and stuff like that. Old people (and anyone else) should be regularly and honestly tested and if they don’t make it, the driving privilege should be removed. Sure, it may degrade the quality of their life and bum them out, but how does that weigh against all the other people whose lives may be degraded by a dangerous driver.

Passive Solution: Politely discourage potentially dangerous old people in our circle from driving. Help them get stuff done.

Active Solution: Work on getting tougher legislation regarding driver testing passed in your area.  Since old people often vote and are frequently very jealous of what they believe are their earned entitlements (in this case the entitlement apparently being “the right to scare the bejeezuz out of you little ingrates while i go to and from the club,”)  and seniors who are safe drivers will see this as jeopardizing their driving abilities, this may cause some backlash.

Over-Active Solution: Get hit by a dangerous old person driver, which in your author’s experience generally causes a storm of debate over rules regarding aging, testing, and driving. Unfortunately for you it has to be a fairly serious hit or it’ll be brushed off. It also has to look real, don’t be throwing yourself on the hood of a stationary car with a senior at the wheel and start screaming – many seniors are good and conscientious drivers, and you may just make a fool of yourself.

Conclusions

. . . I should probably point out a lot of bad human behavior, including crappy driving, can be mitigated or prevented entirely by being proactively pleasant. For instance, when a driver has the right of way to zoom down an on-ramp but stops to gesture you across, it’s a good thing to gesture some sort of “thank you” back, a wave or a nod. This lets them know it’s rewarding and a good source of warm fuzzies to be nice to people instead of pretending they don’t exist, something they probably know in theory but may have forgotten in the moment.

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