Bicycles are the bane of every flagger. But on residential roads, there is an even bigger obstacle to keeping everyone safe: pedestrians. Frankly, I think some people are trying to get run over. I see people on their mobile phones looking down, not up, while they play bingo or angry birds. At the very least, there seems to be some confusion over whether or not pedestrians have to obey traffic laws.
So do pedestrians have to obey traffic laws?
The short answer is: yes, they do. Anyone in the road has to obey all of the laws of the road. A stop light means don’t go. If you do, you are breaking the law. More importantly, you are opening yourself up to being in an accident.
Many “pedestrian friendly” cities don’t help on that front. Boulder, CO requires that motorists yield to pedestrians in a cross-walk. That made running a one-lane road in down-town Boulder really fun, because cars would stop for people crossing but would then cause traffic to get backed up through the intersection on the other side of the road.
Even worse, is Princeton, NJ. Princeton has a law that says that pedestrians have the right of way. Period. If a pedestrian walks out from behind a parked car, 50 feet from the crosswalk, it is the driver’s fault. Sheesh!
Here are some things that every pedestrian should keep in mind when walking near a roadway:
1) You have a shorter reaction distance and stopping distance than a car.
On foot, you can go from a full sprint to a dead stop in a couple feet. A car going just 25mph will take 85 feet. From the time a driver sees you stepping out in front of them to the time they even start to put their foot on the break, they will have traveled 55 feet. So if you step out in front of a car less than 55 feet away, you are going to wind up as somebody’s hood ornament!
2) You can see traffic better than traffic can see you.
You can see them better than they can see you. Here, the problem is two-fold. The first is a matter of size. Cars are a lot bigger than people. Makes sense, since that is what cars hold. As we evolved in the African plains, our predators were larger than us. So we got good at looking out for things larger than us.
The second problem is again speed. A car doing just 25mph is moving 36 feet every second. At walking speed, you are moving about 4 feet in the same second. A person on foot is just gone in the wink of an eye to a driver, but you will see the car coming a long ways away.
3) That goes doubly at night.
A lot of pedestrians make a very big mistake when walking at night. They assume that drivers can see them! They think that their vision is the same in a car as it is on foot. It isn’t. The fact of the matter is, unless you are wearing reflective clothing, a driver isn’t going to see you until they are right on top of you. More than once, I’ve nearly hit a teenager wearing all black in the middle of the night that I didn’t see, even though I was looking before pulling out from a side street. Without something to reflect light off of you, you are basically invisible at night.
PEDESTRIANS SHOULD NOT WALK DOWN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD!!!!
If you take nothing else from this post, please remember this warning. Too often, when we have the sidewalk closed and part of the road, pedestrians simply walk around the closed off section, down the middle of the road through live traffic instead of walking the extra 10-15 feet to the opposite sidewalk. As a flagger, if the road is not clear of all obstacles, I can’t let traffic go. If you are standing in the middle of the road, you are impeding the flow of traffic.