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The first road rule: Do the right thing, pedestrians, cyclists and motorists

A few years ago, I was in Vancouver with my husband. Lovely city. Recommend it highly.

But the most alarming thing happened to us there.

We were walking along, enjoying the sights, and saw something interesting across the street. So we went to the crosswalk, stepped off the curb and waited for the light to change.

Immediately, traffic came to a halt.

We froze, unsure of what was going on.

A motorist considered us with the kind of tolerant expression generally saved for small children and the deeply bewildered.

Now, I assure you that we were fully clothed. Our heads were not on fire. We were not littering or making odd noises.

Aha, we at last determined. The traffic has stopped specifically so we can cross!

I dare you to try that here. No, I take back the dare. I don't want you to get flattened.

In fairness, law enforcement and road officials are trying to save us from ourselves. In parts of Tampa Bay, crosswalks are more visible, thanks to striping, paving materials, signs and even flashing lights in a few places. Citations are being given to motorists who blow through the crosswalks, and pedestrians who jaywalk.

I've witnessed drivers stopping, mostly at signalized crosswalks. Elsewhere, it's spotty. And I still see pedestrians wandering across major streets as if they were in their own driveway, imperiling themselves and the motorists who swerve to miss them.

What are they all thinking?

I have to confess, I think I know. Much as I love the idea of crosswalks, I don't always use them.

Why? Well, I'm in a hurry. It's hot. My feet hurt. Anyway, if I go all the way to the crosswalk, and then nobody stops, I'm just going to get even more annoyed than I already am.

I have not had an opportunity to try this excuse on a police officer writing tickets for jaywalking, so I cannot necessarily recommend it. But, foolish as it sounds, it is how my brain works.

Nor is my crosswalk record stellar when I'm behind the wheel. I drive to work every day along a scenic route also favored by walkers, joggers and cyclists, and I go out of my way to accommodate them all.

Except when I don't.

The other day, I was driving in downtown St. Petersburg, sipping coffee and running through my mental to-do list.

After I had rolled over a zebra-striped crosswalk, I glanced in the rearview mirror. There stood a man and woman who had stepped off the curb, clearly intent on crossing the street — and didn't look at all surprised that I hadn't stopped for them.

I suspect an officer with a ticket book wouldn't have been impressed to hear why I hadn't yielded to the pedestrians: I was too busy thinking of other things.

Today our theme is rules of the road, for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. We offer these basics not for the fun of pointing out everybody else's failures, but more so we can all check ourselves and make sure we're doing the right thing. Which, after all, is the ultimate road rule, no matter how you get around.

The first road rule: Do the right thing, pedestrians, cyclists and motorists 09/24/10 [Last modified: Friday, September 24, 2010 4:30am]
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