Monday, April 10, 2006

This is why everyone in America is fat.

Today, I almost got hit by two different cars in the same crosswalk, one after another.

It was double plus unfun. For whatever reason, drivers driving through that particular intersection tend to be exceedingly oblivious to pedestrians in that particular crosswalk - and it's only drivers turning left into the crosswalk (it's an intersection of two one-way streets). I hate crossing that intersection and I have to do it twice every day on my way to and from work - and in the last 3 years I can't even count how many times someone has come *this close* to hitting me, hitting another pedestrian, hitting a dog, etc. I am RIGHT IN FRONT OF PEOPLE who are turning left, and I MAKE EYE CONTACT, so I know they see me, and they STILL turn and almost hit me sometimes. One time I was across the street and I saw someone get hit in this intersection, and he flew like 20 feet. I can't imagine how wonderful it felt to be that guy. I had my phone out immediately to call 911 but there happened to be a police officer right there to take care of it.

This isn't the only superdangerous intersection in Denver, or even in downtown Denver. There's one intersection where there's a protected left turn AT THE SAME TIME AS the walk signal, so the drivers who are trying to turn left get really pissy and honk and swear at you as you try to cross the street while they're trying to turn left. I'm not even counting the intersection where the Hulk got hit by a truck turning right into the crosswalk while he was walking - luckily, the truck was at a dead stop and accelerating, so the driver didn't have time to be going very fast before he hit him. Though from what I could tell, being hit by a truck at any speed isn't a particularly pleasant experience.

I've been a pedestrian for far, far longer than I've been a driver (only had my license for just over a year and a half now, and yes, it was nearly 10 years later than most people get theirs). I've seen drivers do so many shitty things to pedestrians and bicyclists. One of the worst was when this big semi pulled all the way through the crosswalk before stopping and a whole bunch of people who were trying to cross the street had to walk out into traffic they couldn't even see coming because the semi was in the way, including a woman with a baby stroller.

I think that people spend too much time in their cars, in their own little worlds inside those metal boxes. Those metal boxes get you from point a to point b, sure, but many people spend more time in their cars than they do with their children or loved ones in a given day. Americans seem to have this great love affair with their cars, one that completely ignores all others who might be trying to use the same road. I almost got hit a couple of months ago by someone hauling ass through one of the alleys to a street and if I hadn't heard him (like, if I'd had headphones on or been deaf or something) I wouldn't have known he was going to hurtle across the sidewalk right in front of me and into the street at a much higher-than-safe speed. And what if I had been walking a dog or pushing a stroller?

Drivers drive along in their own little worlds. It's way too easy to get used to only paying attention to what other cars are doing, and that only sometimes, and completely ignore things like traffic laws that are IN FAVOR of pedestrians. Pedestrians are not surrounded by metal death boxes; therefore, in pretty much all circumstances, they have the right-of-way. But do people actually LOOK for pedestrians coming the other way before they pull out in the direction they want to go? What ever happened to looking left, right, left, or whatever it was? I think people forget; it's too easy to forget what it's like to walk places if you never walk anywhere.

If I were queen of the world, every 5 years or so I would make everyone who wants a driver's license have to go without a car for a week. Maybe that would make people actually realize that hey, the roads and sidewalks are used by walkers, runners, bicycles, people with babies, people with small children, people with pets, skateboarders, roller bladers - you name it. And none of these people have metal death cages around them. Plus, it wouldn't hurt people to get some damn exercise - and maybe people would be less likely to design suburban areas to be so unfriendly to pedestrians. Last week we were walking through a neighborhood and came upon a 6-block stretch that didn't even have a sidewalk on one side of the street - and that was in urban Denver! I've been through many a suburb where there wasn't a sidewalk on either side, so you either walked in the road or you drove.

If you are reading this, and you drive a car - at all, ever - think about this the next time you are driving that car. Are you paying attention to all the people who are using the roads and sidewalks? Or just the other cars? How badly would you feel if you turned right without looking both ways and hit someone in the crosswalk? How much more badly would you feel if you hit a dog on a leash or a baby in a stroller? Driving your car is awesome, and lets you do all kinds of shit, but, as Uncle Ben (of Spiderman fame) would say, with great power comes great responsibility. Don't be that asshole. In a pedestrian vs car scenario, car always wins - even if driver of car loses. Taking that extra few seconds to let a pedestrian cross the street keeps everyone that much safer and happier, and you can make up that extra few seconds by, like, running the next light when it's yellow or something.


Monkey McWearingChaps said...

I'll top don't know how many times the light rail train I ride has had to screech-neck break to a halt because people TRY TO BEAT THE TRAIN ACROSS THE TRACKS. So they sneak in under the rails coming down on one side but not on the the train has to stop to not hit them. They have to back up etc. etc. Fucking SoCalians. I've noticed many of them are on their cell and blankly yapping on it NEVERMIND THEY JUST NEARLY KILLED A TRAINFUL OF COMMUTERS.

Monkey McWearingChaps said...

Also, I vote you write in to the city about that intersection to see if they change the coding or whatnot.

Eden said...

Oh yes. People are heinous. I think you are right about the car theory - I am guilty of forgetting what my life was like as a pedestrian pretty much up til my first official car, first year of law school. And then since the comatos'ing of Old Glory I have reverted back to bus, pedestrianism, and biking.

Drivers suck asshole.

Anonymous said...

Well said, Em. I hate it when a car won't slow down while I'm in a crosswalk even though we have made clear and direct eye contact. I would shake my fist in righteous ire if I wasn't afraid they'd mow me down.

On the other side of the coin, though, is the street thugs who cross against the light and go about negative 5 mph, strolling along like a senior citizen pushing her walker through a field of daisies in slow motion. Everyone--cars and drivers--should have more respect.

MLE said...

Yeah, but Leah, you live in the People's Republic of Berkeley, where pedestrians revel in their ability to make cars screech to a halt whenever possible. Berkeley is the only city I've ever been in where this is the case; everywhere else, the pedestrian better watch his ass. Of course, I don't like oblivious or inconsiderate pedestrians, either.

Respect one another!

Oh, and Monkey? Those people are the worst kind of idiots. Hmm, you think your metal box will protect you from the train that weighs a lot more and is full of people just waiting to be killed by your stupidity?

Don't they have crossing guard things down when the light rail goes by? I think they do in some parts of Denver, but not all parts.

Monkey McWearingChaps said...

They do, that's the thing. The lights start flashing and the sound starts dinging but these morons think they can sneak through while the rail hasn't come all the way down. I seen cars with the rails stuck on top of their hoods. But most of the time what happens is that they just make it pass the rail on one side of the tracks and then the train is too close so they brake...right in front of the tracks. The train conductor sees them on the wrong side of the crossing/safety rail and then comes to a screech neck halt just in case the imbecile decides to mosey on over to the other side of the tracks. After which the train will then slowly go past the car. At that point both rails go back up and they can go on.

As someone who has been in the situation of running late and speeding (never in town, but on the highway yes)...I would never, ever, ever think to "beat" a train. I'd rather just be late...what is wrong with some people sometimes????

Monkey McWearingChaps said...

That should be

"have seen"

and "past"

Sorry, my anger at these people renders me incoherent.