Vincent Safuto’s Weblog

Notes and observations

Time to walk in the street?

Since moving from a community where I could walk nearly anywhere without having to worry about car or bike encounters, I’ve had to make the adjustment to Gainesville.

It’s part of my daily routine to walk around UF once a day, and twice a day on my days off from work, but sometimes I wonder if it’s time to just buy a treadmill and stay inside.

From my first walks, I had to deal with bicycle riders on the sidewalks, even when there were bike lanes, and I got “clipped” a couple of times by riders who were using my “lane” instead of theirs. One fellow even stopped his bike in front of me on the sidewalk to panhandle me.

Today, Monday, June 27, 2011, I nearly got clipped from behind. I listen to NPR as I’m walking, and I suddenly discovered someone trying to pass behind me. I shouted a four-letter obscenity out of surprise, and made like I was going to call the police. He rode off, still on the sidewalk.

As a car driver, I learned early on the rule that pedestrians have the right of way in crosswalks here, but while most drivers appear to have gotten the word, a few have busted it, including one on an afternoon who not only failed to signal but then turned toward me in the crosswalk.

Those white lines may signify something, but when it’s a 3,000-pound car versus me (my weight is a military secret), I’ll yield to the car every time.

Even though I’m usually listening to NPR podcasts, the Beatles, ELO or Chicago on my walks, I try to pay attention to the situation around me. Unfortunately, I nearly got clipped by a bicycle another time when a rider approaching me from behind fell off the curb. I reminded her that I was in my “lane” and she should be in hers.

I’ve noticed that most folks want absolute zero-tolerance traffic law enforcement on others, but wail and gnash their teeth when they’re pulled over. It reminds me of a story I read one time about a community on Florida’s east coast that demanded increased police patrols and more citations because “outsiders” were running stop signs and speeding on their streets.

The police department obliged and began stricter enforcement of traffic rules, which resulted in many traffic stops – of community residents who were speeding and running stop signs. The community came out, this time to demand an end to the overbearing enforcement, which wasn’t what they said they wanted – for them, at least.

There are those who would institute massive punishments for minor infractions, and I confess that I’ve wished bad things after a bicycle rider has passed me on the sidewalk and nearly hit me when there’s a perfectly nice bike lane just a few feet away, or when a driver has run a stop sign or turned right on red when they’re not supposed to, and I’m in the crosswalk.

The important lesson is that while the right of way is enforceable by law, it’s something that is yielded by one vehicle to another, and is not a right. And I, for one, am not about to challenge the laws of physics to demand that right.

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June 27, 2011 - Posted by | Living in the modern age | , , , , ,

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