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.