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Jun 06, 2006: Sidewalk Rage

WARNING: narcissism ahead

Completely unrelated to information architecture, user experience, book publishing...

Last Saturday, four of us were walking down our busy street's sidewalk, and had just begun crossing a quiet side street. Just then some wingnut pealed down the side street, almost plowed through us, ran the stop sign, and zoomed away going about 50mph in a 30mph zone. The other, more level-headed members of my party didn't say a word, but I was screaming and sputtering at the driver long after he was out of earshot.

This is getting to be a regular occurrence here in supposedly pedestrian-friendly Ann Arbor. I've almost been run over about ten times in the past year, half of those times while pushing a stroller. For crying out loud. I imagine it's far worse for pedestrians in more car-centric communities.

I own a car, and drive a couple times a week. But the day that gas hits six bucks a gallon can't come quickly enough. I'm really tired of cars and their drivers. We're actually looking for a new house because the road noise on our street has become intolerable. And hey, I'm not even getting into how the demand for petroleum has screwed up life on this planet in countless ways.

Venting aside, are there practical steps that a community can take to make its streets safer from distracted, careless, suicidal, and homicidal drivers? My gut is that the combination of a cell phone ban and a no right-on-red rule on downtown streets would at least reduce unintentionally bad driving behavior. Not sure what'll mitigate against the maniacs. In any case, if you know of any good resources for reducing sidewalk rage and helping drivers and pedestrians coexist, I'd be grateful if you'd post them here.

At least please let me know that I'm not alone...

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Comment: Mark Smith (Jun 7, 2006)

First we learned defensive driving and now we have to practice defensive walking (pedestrians must watch out for the distracted drivers and the maniacs). Perhaps this is all another symptom of how self-centered people have become?

Comment: CCEddie (Jun 7, 2006)

We had the same problem in our subdivision (25 mph zone with 50 mph driving). One of the neighbors called the police and they stationed an officer on the street for a few days. During my 30 minute morning dog walk, I noticed that the officer had pulled over at least two or three people a day. It seemed to help traffic behavior for a while. While not a solution, there is a bit of vindictive satisfaction.

Comment: Walter Underwood (Jun 7, 2006)

Report it to the police. You need to get some description of the driver, because the driver is the one committing the crime, not the car. A description of the car and even a partial license plate should be enough.

A photo helps, too. If you have a kid, you have a camera with you at all times, right? I have an old Casio Exilim that is smaller than an iPod.

Comment: Jim (Jun 8, 2006)

Lou - since I moved to Germany 8 years ago, I've not owned a car. If I can't walk to where I'm going, I ride my bike. And of course public transportation is amazing. Many of our friends also don't have cars.

And pedestrians rule. Cars stop on a dime to let someone across the street. Though Germans drive dangerously fast on the highway, they drive slow in town: residential areas - 20 mph; all other city streets - 35 mph.

BTW Germany is currently AHEAD of the Kyoto Protocol in terms of reducing emissions.

You a definitely not alone...

Comment: Kristine Yun (Jun 8, 2006)

You're not alone, although my experiences of being nearly mown-down haven't involved right turns. In Ann Arbor it's been left turns through crosswalks, and in San Francisco is was straight through crosswalks on red lights.

So far the best thing I've managed is to give the rear quarter panel a good smack with the palm of my hand as the car passes by. It makes a lot more noise than you'd expect, grabs the driver's attention, but doesn't do any actual damage to the car. Granted, it's probably not feasible with a stroller in front of you.

Comment: Lou (Jun 8, 2006)

I've done the rear quarter slap, which seems slightly less confrontational than the one-fingered salute, which I used to be much more willing to use. But I'm more than a little concerned about escalating things; I've seen some uber-angry nutjobs on the road get out of their cars and do something crazy (and probably wouldn't be deterred by the presence of a two-year old). So I'm looking for a more peaceful way to deal with these situations.

Eddie and Walter: cops help, but can only do so temporarily. I'm hoping there's a chance to affect a more systemic change.

Jim: Munich is especially tempting...

Comment: Amos Lakos (Jun 9, 2006)

Some points - banning use of cell phones would help a lot - but I am not sure it coud be enforced - at least not here in Los Angeles - where traffic will just get worse.

Banning Right on Red may not work either - example - rate of traffic accidents and deaths in Israel - where such a ban is in effect - I shudder to think what would happen if the allow this.

I am not sure there are any real solutions, with the exception of a complete "culture" change -
like - lets be civil
breath deeply, wait 5 seconds before you react, etc.

have fun with this... Amos

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