When I was little, I was taught to look both ways before crossing the street, and take safety into my own hands. I’m not sure if people are teaching their kids the same thing these days, because they seem to have no concern if they’re in the middle of street and a car is coming straight at them.
In fact, I think pedestrians in general need a little bit of tutelage in Chicago.
The biggest mistake we could have made was putting crosswalks all over the city. They confuse people, and have made dumb people think that if there are white lines on the street in any formation, they constitute a crosswalk and cars must yield.
There is a big difference between a crosswalk — where traffic must stop to accommodate pedestrians — and a crossing area — where one walks when no traffic is present, or when traffic is halted by a stoplight, because vehicles are not required to stop for pedestrians when the light is green. There is a LEGAL difference, people. Figure it out!
I do my part to avoid killing people, but really? If I’m driving the speed limit (generally 35+. Okay . . .or more) and a stupid person decides (against all logic) to cross the street right in front of my car because there is a single white line drawn perpendicular to the passageway, I can only predict the perilous outcome of that situation.
Pedestrians take for granted that cars will actually stop. In some cases, this is a BIG mistake. If a speeding car is coming directly toward the crosswalk it would be best to make sure that the driver actually SEES the crosswalk, before you can go sashaying your stupid ass out in the middle of the street.
I love the pedestrians who glare at the driver with much attitude, to indicate that they have the right of way and will occasionally scream in the direction of the car. Usually something about a lawsuit. Apparently so that their heirs can benefit from their idiotic relative that refused to move out of the way of a speeding vehicle.
Here’s the thing. Yes, pedestrians have the right of way. Of course they do. However, common sense and the right of way are a better combination. There are hierarchies on the road, like it or not. And the hierarchies are based on the ability to harm. The onus is on you to get out of harms way, because you can’t speak to the attentiveness of the person operating those vehicles, and you, the unprotected pedestrian have the most to lose.
The road food chain is as follows:
1. Trucks. Sure, trucks should use their mirrors at all times because they’re generally behemoth road hazards that can’t possibly have a handle on their surroundings, but when I’m driving near them, I make sure to stay out of their blind spots — and stay away from them in general. Whether or not they should be looking out for me, it’s the smart thing to do. If I don’t think a truck driver can see me, I make sure that I’m out of striking range. Because I will be crushed like a tiny bug!
2. Utility vehicles. If you don’t know better than to stay away from people who rent U-Hauls and generally aren’t trained to drive them? You’re in your own way.
3. SUVs. They’re bigger than me. Case closed.
4. Cars. They weigh more than two tons. On foot or on two wheels, I’m no match for one of them. I guess the recourse is that you could sue one of them, but I’d much rather be able to walk and breathe. I’m actually more wary of the Zip Cars or Go Cars, because their operators aren’t regular drivers, and in some cases have been some of the worst drivers I’ve ever seen in my life. I avoid them like the plague. Also? If you see a Zip Car in Chinatown? Go nowhere near that vehicle.
5. Motorcycles. The driver is unprotected, but they have weight and speed. When out of control, they can access areas that cars can’t. I’m always looking out for them.
6. Bicycles. Bike riders are some of the biggest road menaces, and so many bikers are downright hostile about their rights to bike — yet few of them follow the rules of the road. I think that many of them have determined that emulating bike messengers is the way to go. Not so much. This city has spent millions of dollars creating bike lanes, and in some cases giving them their own stop lights. Yet, there are they, some of them . . . floating around in drivers’ blind spots like little gnats . . . running lights . . . dodging in and out of traffic. I’ve also seen bizarro accidents where bikers hit pedestrians. Those accidents never end well. Just be mindful.
7. Anything else on wheels. This includes scooters, skateboarders, rollerbladers, etc. One bump in the road, and these people could hit anything in their path. At a pretty good speed. And most of them have no insurance, so a lawsuit is futile.
8. And finally . . . the pedestrian.
See how that works? Be careful out there. You are the only person you can trust with your personal safety.