Friday, March 30, 2007

That's Pedestrian

Walking with an Ipod in ear, talking on a cell phone, and wearing $70 torn jeans is a common sight downtown Madison. But there’s another a big trend: walking out in front of and taunting cars as they drive down roads.

The clashes between drivers and walkers aren’t pretty.

As I drove down Wisconsin Avenue early Sunday morning, for example, four men in their 20s crouched like NFL linemen in the middle of the road. They dared me to speed ahead as they stood in the crosswalk, but I turned instead.

One of them even chased me down a side street shouting obscenities, apparently frustrated that we didn’t have the chance to play chicken. I politely declined my Darwinian opportunity to take him out of the gene pool. Though my bets are on my Saturn.

Despite similar occurrences --usually around bar-time-- drivers take a lot of heat for pedestrian safety. It’s no surprise after March 11’s hit-and-run at the intersection of Regent and Park Streets put a man in critical condition. But the path to traffic safety is a two-way route.

In a Wisconsin State Journal article, Safe Community Coalition project director John Bauer blames Madison’s driving culture for an estimated 100 pedestrians struck per year. Drivers simply don’t bother yielding to pedestrians. What isn’t mentioned is jaywalking culture and general misbehavior.

The linebacker numbskulls mentioned before have company. All too frequently, girls flash cars on Langdon Street and boys smack car hoods as they stroll through the crosswalks. Almost every driver has had to stop for State Street shoppers who wander out in front of vehicles that have a green light. The best part is when they give the finger or yell at drivers who honk the horn.

I am no saint when it comes to jaywalking, but I try to remember at least one valuable lesson that I learned at age five: look both ways and make sure that no cars are coming before crossing the street. I’m struck by how many people forget that.

If a large, moving automobile has a green light, don’t run out in front of it. Not only is it against the law, but also the driver likely won’t be held liable deaths or broken legs.

Pedestrians and drivers have to work together to ensure that the number of crashes decreases. They ought to know when they have right of way and yield when it’s their turn to do so.

For pedestrians who have right of way in a crosswalk but still want to make a scene, such as my linebackers from Wisconsin Avenue and thong flashing girls from Langdon Street, it’s unfortunate that there is no law against being a prick.

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