Saturday, June 07, 2008

Slow down for the crosswalk

The Chicago Tribune reports that the Chicago police will start publicizing the crosswalk laws this week. It's about time! There are so many crosswalks at small intersections or in the middle of a long block—without stop signs or traffic signals. Most drivers seem to assume that these crosswalks don't give pedestrians the same right of way that they're granted at corners with stop signs or red lights. But it's not so. If a pedestrian has entered one of those renegade crosswalks, he or she does have the right of way, and the driver is required by law to cede the right of way and wait for the pedestrian to pass safely.

The cops will be crossing the street in some of those crosswalks and issuing warning tickets to people who don't yield to them.

Now, those of you in places like Wisconsin, Minnesota, and California may find it odd that drivers wouldn't naturally slow down to let people cross the street. But Chicago drivers tend to keep plowing through, even though slowing for a pedestrian is a minor inconvenience.

So if you're driving in Chicago's neighborhoods, pay attention. If a pedestrian's in the street, don't play chicken with them. Slow down, let 'em cross. Even if you could zip past before the walker reaches your lane, slow down and wave them across. Some pedestrians will insist that you go, and others will be pleased as punch that a Chicago driver's actually being nice.

Jaywalking is technically illegal, but I suspect the law requires drivers to ease off the gas pedal and not try to run over jaywalkers.

Imagine the karma points that you'll rack up, letting people cross the street in front of you. Extra bonus points in crappy weather or hot, muggy weather, when the pedestrian just wants to get where she's going and you're comfortably ensconced in your climate-controlled vehicle.


Anonymous said...

I grew up in Illinois but left in my mid-20s and moved to the Northwest for thirty years. I can't vouch for big-city Seattle or Portland, but in Spokane if a pedestrian steps into the street all the cars in sight come to a halt to let him or her cross.

Then I went back to Illinois five or so years ago to be an on-site grandma and damn near got myself killed (actually more than once, until I learned not to be so trusting) in small-town Urbana by assuming (WRONG!) that the drivers would stop for me.

So I'm pleased to learn that Chicago is going to set an example for the Midwest by teaching drivers that pedestrians (at least in the crosswalks) have the right of way. What could possibly be next --- sharing the road with bicycles?


The Absent Minded Housewife said...

Same baloney in SLC/Utah counties. They've put containers with flags on certain crosswalks. You wave your flag frantically while you cross the street so you're seen.

Utah has never been known for it's walkability though. If you can't get there in a car it ain't a place worth going. Public transportation is a new convenience. One of my favorite places to shop has zip in the way of sidewalks. There is a Walmart, Target, Sam's...but walking to each of them is taking your life in your hands.

Elissa J. Hoole said...

I remember when the police in nearby Wisconsin were stopping motorists to ticket them if they didn't stop for a pedestrian, but if you DID stop, they pulled you over then, too. Except, instead of a ticket, they gave you a T-Shirt! :)