Just in time for Memorial Day weekend, let’s talk about laws and commonsense behavior for pedestrians. Walking is the best exercise countless health articles will tell you. It is way better than bicycling by the way. But, whether you’re walking for exercise, to get to work or to stimulate creative thinking, you need to be careful because pedestrians are also the most vulnerable because of the reckless behavior of persons using other modes of transportation. So let’s review.
I discussed basic tips that will help keep pedestrians safe in an early post (the 7th post–Safety Tips Update). The only laws that apply to pedestrians in DC are the requirement that one must cross the street in the crosswalk and with the light if there is one. With the light means with the pedestrian signal. But since so many bicyclists ride on the sidewalks even where they are prohibited (in the Central Business District), it’s important that pedestrians adopt mindful habits that will keep them safe on the sidewalks as well as crossing the street.
A brief review of that early post follows:
Walking on the Sidewalk
1. Walk as far to the right as possible;
2. When coming to a corner, look both ways on the street you are turning into before turning into that street;
3. if you stop to pick something up, or need to move to the left for any reason, look behind you first.
Crossing the Street
1. Cross only in the crosswalk;
2. wait for the pedestrian signal before crossing (A Note here: There are crossings that are deceptive in that you may see traffic stopped at the red light on one side, but the other side is green, like one in my neighborhood New Hampshire and Q, or traffic crossing is still allowed to turn. That is why the pedestrian light is the only one you should follow–because it takes into account when all other vehicle traffic must be stopped);
3. As you cross still look both ways, even on one way streets, both when you first start out and about halfway across. That way you will avoid any bicyclist weaving between the stopped autos and running the red light.
A Final Note Inspired by my NYC TRIP
I was on a bus uptown and saw a sign on the bus. While I don’t know why it was on the bus since it was directed at cyclists (one guess–it might have been for young cyclists traveling with their parents or to school). But I thought to myself this is equally applicable to pedestrians, at least many I see on my walks to work and elsewhere. With typical NYC directness and panache, it rhymes and is in 5 languages:
Stay alert. Don’t get hurt. Wearing headphones, talking or reading while cycling? Watch out–Don’t tune out!
I say the same to my fellow pedestrians and ADD: Stay off your cellphone! When you’re walking, enjoy the walk. Don’t be distracted by your music, a cellphone conversation or anything but the walk. You’ll be in better shape when you get where you’re going. THEN you can call that person or listen to your music. If you must make or take a call on your way, stop first, get to a safe place, e.g. behind a lamppost or trash can, and deal with the call.
So, adapting NYC’s Motto: STAY ALERT. DON’T GET HURT. And have a happy and safe Memorial Day Weekend.