27 August 2008

Pedestrian Skills

In surveys conducted by traffic engineering groups, a consistent fallacy occurs: everyone thinks they are a good driver. In fact, as many as 90% of the population think they are "above average to good." Basic statistical principles say that this is impossible, and it is one of the many reasons economists poke fun at survey data. I am sure if you asked people similar questions, you would see the same bias; I have met way too many people who said they were good at soccer or basketball, only for me to be shamed that I brought them to play.
So like the mundane task of driving, which we are all above average to good at, we must all be experts at walking. After all, I learned how to walk before I learned how to take my pants off (and NOBODY would EVER say they were bad at that). However, walking around downtown, Hollywood, Century City, Santa Monica, etc, I constantly observe people walking terribly. And I am tired of it!
What is it that people are doing wrong? Jaywalking. Now, I know that it sometimes takes a little more time, because crosswalks aren't always located directly beween Pinkberry and wherever you need to go next to get your car, try on cute shoes, or whatever it is you do after Pinkberry. But is it THAT much trouble to walk a half a block to the crosswalk? In all reality, you are doing everyone a service, including yourself, by going to the crosswalk.
First, you are protected. If you are in the crosswalk, you can pretty much play hopscotch in traffic and not be found at fault should a car collide with you. Even though you are technically protected by law anywhere in the road, all you need is an eyewitness saying you were darting in and out of the street trying to get hit, and a jury of your non-pedestrian peers may find YOU at fault for whatever damage you may have done to Mr. Smith's Nissan Sentra. And this brings up the second point: you are more protected in the crosswalk, physically. Most function in concert with traffic lights, which get a lot more respect now that cameras are attached to them. Those that are not are flagged with anything from flashing lights, caution signals, and refelctive strips in the road.
Not being a jaywalker is part of being a good citizen. Crosswalks have been placed, somewhat strategically, in order to allow the natural flow of traffic. So whenever someone darts across Melrose from Marc Jacobs to Alexander McQueen without using the crosswalk, a bottlekneck is created. For every time delay that the first driver experiences, the delay is multiplied by 4 to the traffic as a whole. Therefore, wherever you are going should be 4 times as urgent as all the places everyone on the road is going as a whole to justify your jaywalk.
Finally, a jaywalking ticket sucks. It doesn't stay on your record, but you do have to pay a fine. To paraphrase Sheldon Brown: "if you are in a hurry, why are you walking?" The extra bit of time it takes to use a crosswalk is offset by the safety and order maintained. It helps to eliminate the stereotype of Americans as a lazy, self-centered people. Using the cross walk costs you much less than it benefits everyone else on the road. Do something refreshing; do me a favor: jaywalk one time less today. I bet you won't mind it more than a few seconds.

1 comment:

emKem said...

Awesome. I have to say, I have become a better walker lately, mainly because those traffic cops at Vermont and Wilshire handing out tickets installed the fear of god in me. They were giving tickets to people who started crossing after the hand started flashing ... so now, when the hand starts flashing, I stop like I'm on a leash. Sometimes I feel silly being so law-abiding!