The moral superiority of Seattle jaywalkers

If you can't take the heat, get out of the car. Pedestrians rule in this town.

Seattle is the only city I know where pedestrians routinely launch themselves into traffic without looking both ways, or even one way. Heads held high, gazes fixed on some distant point ahead, they convey an aura of magical immunity: No car could possibly hit them, so long as they don’t acknowledge its existence by looking at it. 
 
In every city, people on foot have their strategies for managing encounters with cars. When I lived in Chicago, I learned a war dance of fierce looks and gestures: It’s my right of way, goddamn it! In New York, walkers pride themselves on their skill at nimbly weaving through the gaps in traffic, rules be damned. In Cairo, I’ve seen pedestrians pounding with both fists on the hoods of cars nosing like sharks into the crosswalk.
 
But Seattle has a uniquely passive-aggressive solution to this universal problem. Instead of facing drivers or shouting at them, Seattle pedestrians terrorize drivers by looking the other way, placing their own lives in drivers’ hands. When I drive, as I have to confess I sometimes do, I’m afraid of pedestrians because at any moment any of them might punish me for generating planet-destroying emissions by forcing me to hit them with my car. 
 
It’s clear in the casual contempt of walkers who refuse to dignify auto traffic with a glance: Jaywalking is an act of civil disobedience. A righteous 120-pound human is stronger than a 170-hp engine paralyzed by guilt. Soul force trumps the power of the combustion engine.
 
This is especially clear at four-way stops, where no one follows the rules printed in the instructional booklets from the Department of Licensing. You can tell when an out-of-towner is at the stop: they’re the ones who barely tap on the brakes before zooming through the intersection, out of turn. Seattleites don’t mind, because the sooner the lout is gone, the sooner those who remain can get down to the fascinating calculus of deciding who gets to determine the order of traffic movement.
 
A decision like this can’t be made by a bloodless rule. Deciding who goes when is a serious matter, a civic privilege awarded to whoever of those present has the most moral authority.
 
Walkers always have more moral authority than drivers. I keep forgetting this, which is why a man in Fremont almost had to punch me out one night. I was driving again! and was stopped at a stop sign, waiting for him to walk across the street, as he was entitled to do. It was his right of way. 
 
But he didn’t want to walk. He wanted me to go first. He motioned to say so. 
 
Mistaking this for a friendly gesture, I smiled and shook my head. I was happy to wait my turn. But he became annoyed, and motioned again with more emphasis.
 
Now I was irritated, but only because I was failing to appreciate my role in a complex social system of exchanges and compensations. My privilege, tolerated by him, was to have a quick (though ecocidal) way to get home in the rain. His privilege, which I was flagrantly violating, was to be the honorary king of the crosswalk, in recognition of the fact that he was sacrificing his comfort for the good of the planet. 
 
The encounter escalated to threats; I drove home with a vivid memory of him shaking a fist at me and looming his way toward my window, which is how he finally convinced me to take his advice and go first. 
 
When I’m on foot myself, I still prefer to act as if I were walking in Chicago or New York. I catch drivers’ eye before I step out in front of them. I look for gaps in traffic, and see jaywalking as a game of getting where I’m going without disrupting the flow. At intersections, though, I appreciate drivers who respect my right of way. 
 
But when I’m in a car, I try to remember that I’m in Seattle. My car is an older Toyota Corolla, without hubcaps, so I have more moral authority than a shiny new SUV, but less than anyone on a bicycle or a scooter. And any pedestrian always rules us all. So when a stranger on the sidewalk gestures for me to run through a stop out of turn, I try to do so graciously, even when it defies common sense in a way that would earn jeers in New York. 
 
And when I drive through pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods like Capitol Hill and Fremont, I do so with the fear of God in my heart. Like a gazelle at a watering hole, I strain my peripheral vision, alert to a threat that can come from any direction without warning. Please, O King of the Crosswalk, I pray, don’t make me hit you today.

Carol Poole is a psychotherapist in private practice who also enjoys writing about depth psychology in popular culture. Her writing has appeared in BenBella Books' Smart Pop series.


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Comments:

Posted Fri, Aug 17, 7:43 a.m. Inappropriate

I never have been able to figure out why Seattle is so bloody passive aggressive in traffic matters. My own worst peeve is the folks who don't give any visual clues at all about what they're about to do. Are we standing casually on the corner checking our iphone? Are we about to step out into traffic? Are we perchance able to fly? Is that high tech stroller equipped with airbags? I have a nerve, and you have touched it. Good article.

RWM

Posted Sat, Aug 18, 10:07 a.m. Inappropriate

"Please, O King of the Crosswalk, I pray, don’t make me hit you today."

Yes, I agree. The passive agressive methods of certain pedestrians who seem to want to make drives hit them is a constant source of amazement to me. If you can't avoid hitting the wayward ped who won't signal his/her intentions, and won't use a crosswalk, don't feel badly when you run into them. Just don't do it on purpose, that's against the law ...

Seattle needs income. Seems good to have the police writing jaywalking and more pedestrian and bicycle tickets. I was waiting at a red light, at a full stop, when a bicyclist came and deliberately rammed into the side of my car. I have no clue why, but called 911 to report it, but the biker was long gone by the time police showed up. It was bizarre, and frightening.

Posted Sat, Aug 18, 3:35 p.m. Inappropriate

Where in town did this happen? How do you know it was on purpose?

NotFan

Posted Fri, Aug 17, 7:58 a.m. Inappropriate

Wow! When I moved to Seattle in 1977, I was warned NEVER to jaywalk because I'd get ticketed. What happened?

Posted Sat, Aug 18, 3:39 p.m. Inappropriate

There's been a population turnover. "Progressive" yuppies, and their poor cousins, the hipsters, love to jaywalk.

NotFan

Posted Tue, Aug 21, 6:42 p.m. Inappropriate

Yes, the mores of walking have changed.

The old rule was never to jaywalk. The traditional image of the Seattlite was someone standing at empty street crossing, no cars anywhere, waiting for the signal to turn to walk.

At the same time, if you were to cross in the middle of the street...even a big one like 45th, the drivers on both sides would slow down and stop to let you pass!

jabailo

Posted Fri, Aug 17, 8:02 a.m. Inappropriate

I'm not sure the author quite grasps the meaning of the term "jaywalking".

"Jaywalking" is a term used for crossing a street illegally -- against a "don't walk" sign, in the middle of a block, etc. In Seattle, we ticket you for that. It's one reason why Seattleites, unlike residents in almost any other large city, will stand and wait for the sign to turn "Walk" despite no vehicle traffic for a mile in either direction.

(Ticketing violators to create a culture of safety is a lesson that might be applied to our 'impolite' cyclist problem, frankly. Alas, a topic for another time...)

It isn't jaywalking when a person is standing at a corner waiting to cross, even (especially) if that corner has no painted crosswalks. The state and city law is clear: Drivers (and cyclists) must still yield.

It isn't a crosswalk that signals a requirement to yield, it is the existence of a corner.

If the author is getting glared at by pedestrians, my bet is she's not stopping at unmarked crossing places like she's supposed to.

ddmiller

Posted Fri, Aug 17, 12:47 p.m. Inappropriate

I'd say "it isn't paint that indicates the presence of a crosswalk, it is the existence of a corner."

stinky

Posted Sat, Aug 18, 12:01 a.m. Inappropriate

In Seattle, we ticket you for that. It's one reason why Seattleites, unlike residents in almost any other large city, will stand and wait for the sign to turn "Walk" despite no vehicle traffic for a mile in either direction.

This us much less the case than it used to be. The old Norwegians are dying off, and being replaced by snotty yuppies who want to turn Seattle into Manhattan.

A few months ago, I was on the sidewalk outside the U of Washington's Roosevelt clinic and watched a young woman cross the street against the light and stroll directly in front of a city bus. When the driver honked at her, she gave him a middle-fingered salute. In classic Seattle fashion, no one said anything to her, figuring that icy stares would do the trick. I doubt they did.

NotFan

Posted Fri, Aug 17, 8:05 a.m. Inappropriate

Clever article. As a driver not originally from Seattle, i like the Alphonse and Gaston act with pedestrians in our city. When driving in other towns I have learned my Northwest lesson and stop to let folks cross the road, often even before they fully enter into it, even if at first they might be bewildered by this act. I think of these encounters as not passive aggressive, as drivers need always keep an eye out for the unwary crosser, but a rare chance to have me in my sealed machine engage with those in less rarified air.

Posted Wed, Aug 22, 4:33 p.m. Inappropriate


"RCW 46.61.235
Crosswalks.

(1) The operator of an approaching vehicle shall stop and remain stopped to allow a pedestrian or bicycle to cross the roadway within an unmarked or marked crosswalk when the pedestrian or bicycle is upon or within one lane of the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling or onto which it is turning. For purposes of this section "half of the roadway" means all traffic lanes carrying traffic in one direction of travel, and includes the entire width of a one-way roadway.

(2) No pedestrian or bicycle shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk, run, or otherwise move into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impossible for the driver to stop."

http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=46.61.235

jabailo

Posted Fri, Aug 17, 8:07 a.m. Inappropriate

Please come see us in Vancouver to see it taken to a slightly greater extreme. The shame of being a motorist is a bit more severe there. As it should be. Driving a car is a selfish and destructive act, particularly in a densely-populated city where practical if slightly less convenient alternatives abound.

I think Seattle pedestrians and motorists have it about right. Motorist behavior is such that when pedestrians have the right of way they can pretty much count on being able to safely exercise it. That's both just and efficient. What's not to love about that?

Where things break down here is in law enforcement, where pedestrian infractions are targeted far more aggressively than motorists failing to yield the right of way. We gotta fix that.

stinky

Posted Fri, Aug 17, 11:56 p.m. Inappropriate

Driving a car is a selfish and destructive act, particularly in a densely-populated city where practical if slightly less convenient alternatives abound.

Banning plastic grocery bags is a selfish and destructive act. And so is the typical "progressive" dismissal of elderly and disabled people who can neither walk nor ride bicycles. The Brave New Stinky hipsters want to unfit to curl up and die.

NotFan

Posted Sat, Aug 18, 10:10 a.m. Inappropriate

NotFan, and the new brave stinkys don't want visitors who dare to drive into town and spend money either.

Too many close minded people minding other peoples business instead of MYOB. Manners have descended too low.

Posted Fri, Aug 17, 8:30 a.m. Inappropriate

Apparently the author has never been to Boston where we take the art of jaywalking to extremes. The streets are narrow here so why walk to the corner to cross? Also, why wait for the Walk-Don't Walk sign to indicate it's safe. They are superfluous here.

Posted Fri, Aug 17, 8:59 a.m. Inappropriate

Alongside jaywalking pedestrians, the increase in bicyclists makes driving in Seattle even more challenging, if you're hoping to avoid hitting someone or being hit. I'd like to suggest that the next time the Seattle libraries run their "What if everyone in Seattle read the same book" program, they consider the "Washington Driver Guide."

sandik

Posted Fri, Aug 17, 9:03 a.m. Inappropriate

Commenter ddmiller is spot-on; it's apparent the author doesn't know the meaning of the term "jaywalking."

Jaywalking is somewhere between sport and an art, best practiced by professionals. I can attest to this being a New York City native, though happy to call Seattle home for the past 7 years. The hyper-vigilence of Seattle PD in enforcing this (must be the PacNW's version of "broken windows" policing) is more laughable than laudable.

About three years ago I received a jaywalking citation that I successfully protested at municipal court and now have a warning on my "record." Makes my acts of civil disobedience crossing in the middle of a block that much more daring. Woe is me if I get caught again.
n

tfrommer

Posted Fri, Aug 17, 9:04 a.m. Inappropriate

Is this the first in "The Moral Superiority of Seattle" series?

BlueLight

Posted Fri, Aug 17, 9:18 a.m. Inappropriate

@ddmiller and @tfrommer, I think you're misreading me. The guy who got so mad at me was angry because I was stopping for him, at an intersection, where I recognized his right of way. I'm sure there are things I said that are worth taking issue with, but I never said that pedestrians at an intersection are "jaywalking."

Posted Sat, Aug 18, 7:37 p.m. Inappropriate

Carol, the threats you mentioned aside, I think the pedestrian was confused, and rightly irritated, by the game you played.

He did what he'd been trained by experience to do: He walked defensively and made eye contact. He waved you through, and you saw him do it. He probably waved you through because there was no one behind you, and he wanted to cross the street without having to feel as if he'd need to hurry. Or maybe he just wanted to cross a nice, empty street.

But it really doesn't matter why he waved you through, nor is there any reason to psychanalyze it. What actually matters is that he did wave you through, and that you understood exactly what he was doing. There wasn't any ambiguity: he stood there and made a mutually-understood gesture that means, "After you, driver." You should have driven through, and waved thank-you.

If you still don't get it, consider a different example.

You're on the freeway in heavy traffic. There an obstruction ahead, and it's all going down to one lane. Someone was nice enough to let you into the right-hand lane. You (hopefully) wave thank-you, and then you figure you'll do the same thing for someone else. Take a penny, give a penny.

You slow down enough to create a nice big space for someone to merge into. You got a favor, and you'll give a favor. You hold that space open for a good 30 seconds, but the damned cars keep passing it. They're angling for an opening farther up. Now tell me, has this ever irritated you? If you say not, you're lying.

It was the same deal with the pedestrian. He does a favor for you, and makes sure you understand what's going on. And you won't let him do it. It's not a matter of self-righteousness at play. It's a matter of predictability, order, and maybe some symmetry.

You messed with the guy's serenity. You should've gone ahead when he waved you through. You were in the wrong. Now, he didn't need to scream at you, if in fact he really did and you didn't simply invent that part of it for the sake of storytelling. But make no mistake, the initial error that set off the chain was yours.

I said above that there's no need to psychanalyze. But what the hell, it's always fun. He's probably forgotten all about it by now, but at the time he might have been thinking, "Geez, no good deed goes unpunished, does it?" And, even though it would have been self-righteous of him to do so, he'd have been right. You were the first clod to that particular clod-fest.

NotFan

Posted Tue, Aug 21, 11:04 a.m. Inappropriate

Exceptionally well explained by NotFan:

"He (the pedestrian) did what training and experience recommend: Walk defensively and make eye contact. He waved you through, you saw and understood this action. If there were no cars behind he may have simply wanted to walk across a nice, empty street without a need to hurry.

It doesn't matter why he waved you through, nor is there much reason to psychanalyze it. What matters is that he did wave you through, and that you understood exactly his intent with no ambiguity. He stood still and made a mutually-understood waving gesture that clearly meant, 'After you, driver,' and you should have driven through."

..But that wouldn't be much fun in Carol's game of blaming the pedestrian as an incendiary inversion of fact and truth. Rightwing individualism in principle enables the blaming of others as if our constitutional guarantee of individual liberty is an entitlement to avoid taking personal responsibility.

PS: I watched the 2011 movie "Atlas Shrugged" this week. Good movie, but like the novel, it exaggerated governmental regulation to draconian level. The climactic high-speed train scene was really great, but like the book, Rearden Metal rails could not physically enable the trainset (diesel-electric locomotive) to reach speeds over 150mph, let alone average 200mph on the 300 mile trip.

Wells

Posted Tue, Aug 21, 9:22 p.m. Inappropriate

I didn't watch the movie, but I did read the book. All 1,000-plus pages, even the laughable 35-page lecture. To be honest, in an earlier era it might have been banned for its barely concealing sadomasochism. "Dagny Taggart," i.e. Ayn Rand, was one kinky babe. As soon as the (more accurate) X-rated verson appears, let me know.

I mean, geez, between Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, the "women only wanna get raped" industry ought to have all kinds of material. Freud would've had a field day with Ayn Rand.

NotFan

Posted Fri, Aug 17, 9:58 a.m. Inappropriate

Committed pedestrian here - 28 years old this month and have never driven a car. I wish Drives Edu could morph into Commuting Edu (ped/bicycle/car) and have it be a standard in the K-12 curriculum (I've got other thoughts on school year length) .

I do jaywalk a lot, but not during rush hour. I would walk so many extra miles per year if I went out of my way to use a cross walk to get to my grocery store. My grocery store is on 15th Ave NE. In my neck of the woods it is 4 lanes + turn lane. Sometimes a driver in one of the lanes will stop to let me pass - I wish they'd never do this. This is very dangerous. I'm fine with waiting until there is a big enough gap, which is most of the time outside of commute hours.

I kind of wish large blocks of strip malls (Northgate) would centralize their driveways. So many cars darting in and out of traffic mixed with the freeway congestion. I used to walk to work through Northgate (15th ave NE to Stone Way), it was so stressful during rush hour.

On 12th Ave NE a friend and I tried to transport some of her stuff from 70th down to 45th - it was college and we were moving her stuff in shopping carts. There is a serious lack of wheel chair ramps along that route. Sometimes one side of the street will have them and the other wont.

Up where I live, there are no side walks on residential streets (NE 120th). If you find a sidewalk it is prolly in front of a new apartment development. I am very happy with the NE 125th St road diet. Before the diet it was fairly easy to jaywalk to get to the bus that goes to downtown. We're not extremely congested up here. Though the area is ful of houses, houses and more houses - but that means people, people, and more people. I was kind of taken aback when I heard that auto speed averaged 12mph above posted limit pre-road diet. That's dangerous too! But since then they took out 'my' primo bus stop and now the closest ones are near marked crossing (I'm sensing rhyme to that reason).

I have recently bruised my tail bone. I cannot take large steps. My stride is maybe less than half of what it is when I am healthy. At some cross walks it takes me the entire 'walk time' to cross. Trying to live my regular life with this injury has put into perspective the energy and stress that must be involved for the elderly or the disabled. But I have seen an old lady with a walker hight tail it across Roosevelt as she jaywalked.

When there is much of a traffic volume, I will use cross signals as to always make sure my soft bodied self is in the right-of-way.

DONT PULL UP IN FRONT OF THE WHEELCHAIR RAMP IF YOU ARE IN THE FAR RIGHTHAND LANE. Twice in Northgate I've seen a wheelchair bound person get stuck in the cross walk because someone did that and then couldn't go into reverse because the car behind them already pulled up.

Posted Sat, Aug 18, 10:14 a.m. Inappropriate

No offense, internetjim, but you are an unwitting drain on the economy, and your own freedom.

Posted Fri, Aug 17, 10 a.m. Inappropriate

I love the 4 way stop behaviors that we have in the PNW. Simply following the rules to keep things flowing isn't good enough. We all have to decide who made it to the intersection a fraction of a second earlier than everyone else. We all sit and watch until someone breaks down and goes first. Add a pedestrian to that mix and it can be 10 minutes before anyone moves. Thanks for the morning laugh!

nwsrdr

Posted Fri, Aug 17, 10:08 a.m. Inappropriate

Some good comments here. People already pointed out that an unmarked intersection is automatically a crosswalk where pedestrians have the right of way.

And this city enforces backwards. We crack down on pedestrians but not cars blocking crosswalks at lights, an epidemic in this city. And certainly not on red light runners or cars that don't stop at crosswalks. The City talks a pedestrian-friendly game but doesn't act in accordance. We let sidewalks get blocked by signs, cars, and restaurants (like the 18-inch sidewalk at a certain spot on First), take crosswalks away at lighted intersections to smooth car traffic (my one major qualm with Mercer II), and let even arterials stay without sidewalks because we barely fund such things.

mhays

Posted Fri, Aug 17, 11 a.m. Inappropriate

Carol, this was a romp. I've never been east of the mountains but I've lived in West Coast cities from San Diego to the Canadian border. I've been in Seattle for 23 years and I've concluded that it's not an assumption of moral superiority. That takes more ambition and energy than most natives here have. It is, instead, a faith in a natural order of things that extends to the relationship between those who walk and those who drive, with pedalers behind the hybrid in between. We assume and usually correctly, that motorists are not going to run over us. In this town, most don't even honk. We, as pedestrians, also don't push the privilege. We don't plunge into the stream of traffic like a big bear looking for a salmon breakfast. It's simple, easy and direct social contract. And most of all, it's been working for us real well since horses and wagons were all the rage.

Posted Fri, Aug 17, 11:07 a.m. Inappropriate

As a driver with no more moral authority than that given to me by inertia, I would like to add that a pedestrian's moral superiority dissolves when they step out into the crosswalk against the light while texting. I does however seem proof of Darwinian selection.

Posted Fri, Aug 17, 12:10 p.m. Inappropriate

I was born in NYC and grew up in the environs, where as stipulated, jaywalking is an artform. When I was very young, Things My Mother Told Me included, "Look both ways before crossing the street", and here still functioning 70 odd years later, it must have worked. The implication was, "Let the car go first, the car that has passed by can't hit you". And after all, it is more ecologically sound to wait 5 seconds than to make the car use energy braking and then accelerating. The corollary might be, "Engage the driver, even if he has stopped, eye-to-eye before crossing".

Are you sure that the driver passing you has not been momentarily distracted by a short skirt across the street, or is, at that instant, checking his rear-view in preparation for making a lane change? And when the driver in the inside lane has stopped, that can be a sucker trap, because the car in the outside lane can't see you, and who knows, the driver who stopped may be just checking an address or picking his nose. Assumptions can be deadly, even when encountering the most conscientious of drivers. Duh!

I don't think that the Seattle pedestrian it thinking "moral superiority" -- more like clueless stupidity, not thinking at all, in disregard for one's own health that is a great set-up for a "Darwin Award" (Google it) that is handed out to people who off themselves in the process of doing egregiously inane things.

We are outraged at the hit-and-run perp, but I have sympathy for (many of) them, because it hardly matters whether the hitee fell out of a tree in front of your car, or ran out from between two parked 18-wheelers, you are going to take the fall for it, lacking three credible witnesses who are not wearing Cascade Bicycle Club pull-overs.

SDOT doesn't help by removing cross-walks on the theory that, "It gives people dangerously false confidence in the assumption that cross-walks actually work", so people are encouraged to just cross the street anywhere.

As for the "cars are evil" crowd, I can go from N 145th Street to Virgina Mason (the best damn medical facility in a very large area) in literally 15 minutes (when the Express Lanes are open); getting there by bus is a matter of an hour plus, after a quarter mile walk on vascular diseased legs and standing in the rain by the library waiting for a transfer. Slightly less convenient? My...

Amen, Carol!

kmeyer

Posted Sat, Aug 18, 7:24 p.m. Inappropriate

You have diseased legs? Need a car for medical reasons? Can't walk, ride a bike, or take the bus? Uh-oh, the Seattle "progressives" have plans for you, I'm afraid.

NotFan

Posted Fri, Aug 17, 12:15 p.m. Inappropriate

There are some who think that all notions of laws regarding pedestrian behavior are stupid and optional. The flip side is that drivers then consider laws regarding their treatment of pedestrians to be optional. Those people generally have moved here from somewhere else. Like the somewhere else of DC which has the situation of so many not following any pedestrian laws that it is likely an angry driver (usually with suburban plates) will turn right and hit you when their green light and your walk sign comes on. I experienced this daily when I lived there.

I would prefer more 4 way stop signs at certain intersections, and yes first come first served, and if both arrive at the same time, car on the right has the right of way. All is after considering pedestrians crossing. If there are no stop signs, it IS a four way stop. Certain byways (John running down to MLK) come to mind where drivers oblivious to this law plow right down the hill and threaten anyone even attempting to cross. How anyone can have a drivers license and not know this is beyond my comprehension. I guess we really do live in a world where 'how I wish it to be is how it is'. I would also prefer more 'all walk' times at major intersections.

But, on many streets, crossing in the middle of the block is not jaywalking. Just don't do what we are not allowed to do, and then have fun walking where you will - safely! http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/pedrcw.htm

Posted Sat, Aug 18, 9:46 a.m. Inappropriate

I must be living in a different Seattle. When I walk around North Seattle I would estimate that at each pedestrian crosswalk without traffic lights less than 1 in 10 cars stop (of the other 9+ about half don't see you and the others cannot be bothered to hit the brakes). Even when a car stops, you often have to wait midway across for somebody to stop in the other direction. Often to get anyone to stop, you have to walk out into the traffic, ideally armed with one of those silly flag the city sometimes provides (as an alternative to a serious campaign of enforcement), but I have never witnessed anyone other than indolent youths doing so without making eye contact.

If you are trying to cross at a junction with no marked crosswalk one will wait all day unless you are lucky enough to have child with you.

Even at traffic lights with pedestrian crossing signs, you still has to be very wary of cars turning right though a walk sign - Except for a very few locations, Seattle still is not progressive enough to provide all way pedestrian crossing times in light cycles.

Seattle lacks a serious program of enforcing trafic laws all around (motorists, cyclists and pedestrians) which has led to a decline in courtesy and awareness but because of their destructive power to others the most dangerous element are the drivers. If Carol Poole really lives in fear of hitting a pedestrian who is not sufficiently in fear of her, perhaps that is a sign that she should stop driving or take a refresher class.

Posted Sat, Aug 18, 10:09 a.m. Inappropriate

Carol Poole's falacial 'moral superiority of pedestrians' is a flagrant sneer at their actual vulnerability; obsequiously reinforcing the fact that pedestrians do NOT rule Seattle whatsoever.

SDOT could construct pedestrian infrastructure that subconsciously signals typically reckless motorists to slow down and cross intersections safely, but SDOT instead obediently conforms to specific municipal codes which stipulate motor vehicle passage according to quantity & speed instead of safety for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists. SDOT spends more public funds formally denying their notorious incompetence than spent constructing adequate pedestrian infrastructure - curb extensions and medians to reduce street-crossing distances, signal timing that doesn't encourage motorists to speed, etc.

This opinion piece is just another Crosscut-approved rightwing deceit to delightfully entertain Seattle's upper-class whose notion of superiority is not to be challenged. The automobile is their whorish cash cow - parking, insuring, financing, advertizing and instill physical fear to oppressively establish elitist domination.
Downtown Seattle is a giant pedestrian pee-peehole. /^:

Wells

Posted Sat, Aug 18, 3:41 p.m. Inappropriate

I loved your screed, Wells. Yes, we rightwingers hate you, and lurk in the shadows waiting to flatten you into the pavement. You make such a satisfying "crunch."

NotFan

Posted Sat, Aug 18, 4:56 p.m. Inappropriate

HA HAAH!

Thanks 4 that NotFan.
Comedic relief an effort
I make 4 your sake.

Seattle Parks Dept shows very little Park Knowhow.
Know what I mean? You better.
Take it easy on political slams & shorten 4 brev-clarity,
reducing the insubstantial inflammitory....
Say pee-peehole instead of Sh*thole.
Somewhat sorry about that I may be, not sure. HAH HAAAHhh!

Wells

Posted Sat, Aug 18, 5:41 p.m. Inappropriate

It'd be interesting to know how many of the "pedestrian rights" types walk as much as I do on the sidewalks of Seattle. I doubt many of them do. For a great many of these people, it's just another excuse to bash the automobile.

Look both ways before crossing the street. Make eye contact with the driver(s) if possible. Stand back from the edge of the curb. Don't assume anyone will obey the signals.

Those are age-old common-sense rules. Frankly, the biggest danger is bicycles. They come out of nowhere. You can't see them. Their riders tend to be righteous and reckless, at least if they're on the sidewalk to begin with, where they shouldn't be. And those bells? You can't tell where a high frequency is coming from.

As a pedestrian, I'd much rather deal with cars than with bicyclists.

NotFan

Posted Sun, Aug 19, 7:37 a.m. Inappropriate

NotFan writes "As a pedestrian, I'd much rather deal with cars than with bicyclists".

Personally I am okay with cars but more wary of the drivers.

I also suspect NotFan would rather deal with a bicycle than a car if he/she is destined to collide with one.

Posted Sat, Aug 18, 10:48 a.m. Inappropriate

The longer I live outside of Seattle, the less I understand all this animosity about transportation. You would think that drivers, cyclers, and pedestrians were Jews, Christians, and Muslims fighting over the Holy Land. All I want to do is legally walk from Point A to Point B without being threatened or harassed, and I would be interested if the tea partiers here will provide a cogent explanation as to why I can't have that. Just this morning, on my way to the office, I was nearly hit by a driver who was on the cell phone and made a left turn without paying attention to where she was going, and last night I was shouted at, while on the sidewalk and nowhere near an intersection, by a bunch of rednecks.

Posted Sat, Aug 18, 3:46 p.m. Inappropriate

All I want to do is legally walk from Point A to Point B without being threatened or harassed, and I would be interested if the tea partiers here will provide a cogent explanation as to why I can't have that.

If you're physically able to walk but are unable to do so, I'd guess that you've got a personal problem. Maybe you're so obnoxious that everyone is aiming for you. Otherwise, whether you're in a car, on a bike or motorcycle, or walking, you need to do so defensively. Do what they taught in grade school: stop, look, and listen.

There, it wasn't so hard.

NotFan

Posted Sun, Aug 19, 7:21 a.m. Inappropriate

No, I think that when one of the Confederate Flag types throws a beer bottle at me from his pick-up truck, while I am on the sidewalk and not even attempting to cross the street, that is him being obnoxious, not me.

Posted Sun, Aug 19, 12:16 p.m. Inappropriate

Surely it was a Hempfest type throwing an old bong at you from the window of his microbus.

NotFan

Posted Mon, Aug 20, 2:59 p.m. Inappropriate

Oh dear. You do have problems.

You should know that liberals give off a phermone that only tea-partier types can sense. It's nothing personal. We just like messing with you.

Posted Thu, Aug 23, 8:06 p.m. Inappropriate

...The longer I live outside of Seattle, the less I understand all this animosity about transportation. You would think that drivers, cyclers, and pedestrians were Jews, Christians, and Muslims fighting over the Holy Land...

Right on, Pepper2000! I am so glad to see that I am not the only one thinking this...

orino

Posted Sat, Aug 18, 5:05 p.m. Inappropriate

Yer a mean meany! (^:

Wells

Posted Sun, Aug 19, 11:28 a.m. Inappropriate

Like many of the editorialists and commenters elsewhere who are convinced that *all* cyclists break the law on a daily basis, this article reads as if the author hasn't actually been a pedestrian in this city for some time. While waiting for crosswalk lights in downtown, for example, I'm surprised at how often people really do wait until the light is in their favor. This is on one-way streets, side streets, and up in the residential neighborhoods as well - for the most part, people follow the rules.

As a driver, the author might tend to see only those who cross her path. Certianly, those who cause us delay or confusion or who act unpredictably are the ones we remember the most - cf. the litanies against the obliviously texting pedestrian, the stop-sign-running bicyclist, and the driver on her cellphone who breezes through an occupied crosswalk.

The point is: every mode has their scofflaws, and this kind of modal tribalism and anecdotally-justified reactionary outrage that's emerged in the discussion of transportation in this community only reinforces the unhelpful idea that it's us against them, the stupid against the capable, the morally justified against the backwards. Both "sides" - if that's how you need to identify yourself - do it, as the comments here so far clearly illustrate.

But it can't possibly be that black and white. Of course, we're all above-average drivers and pedestrians here, aren't we?

Ziggity

Posted Sun, Aug 19, 4:37 p.m. Inappropriate

Obviously, this topic has a lot of energy behind it. Carol's original piece was 804 words. Comments so far have amounted to 4893 words.

I don't think traffic law is as clear as it could be. And, the driver's manual describes only parts of state law and nothing on local law. I once had a Seattle police officer, who was monitoring a crosswalk for ped (but not driver) misbehavior, tell me that peds are required to look both ways before entering even a marked crosswalk. Makes sense, but who knew?

I'd also like to echo Ziggity's comments. I am a ped, biker and driver, and my behavior in each of those modes hasn't been 100% nice or legal over the years, though I try. It's not always evident to be that other drivers, bikers or peds are trying.

I think we can all get along--but I am wary about us all making up our own variations of the rules (as I have). It's time for clarification of existing law and a serious amount of walker, rider and driver education.

Posted Thu, Aug 23, 8:10 p.m. Inappropriate

No, traffic laws are perfectly clear. It is most citizens' (in some cases, seemingly willful) ignorance of them that create the problems. I lived in Germany for 2 1/2 years, and traffic flowed quickly and freely because a) everyone knew what to expect from their fellow road users, and b) everyone knew what was EXPECTED OF THEM. So not the case in Seattle...

orino

Posted Mon, Aug 20, 11:19 a.m. Inappropriate

Pedestrians not looking 'both ways' is bad.
Worse: Bicyclist's exhibiting similar behavior. Example: residential neighborhood round-a-bouts - It's a bad combination when drivers AND cyclist's don't bother to look both way's when approaching the intersection (yes, it is still an intersection, even if it has stuff planted in the middle of it).
Even worse: neither the driver or the cyclist even slow down (bike traveling at 15-20mph, car/25-30+mph). I'm frankly surprised there are not more collisions because of this. (btw- I'm a cyclist who slows down/coasts at round-a-bouts. I also stop at red-lights - novel, eh!?)

beno

Posted Mon, Aug 20, 2:08 p.m. Inappropriate

Superb piece, Ms. Poole. Well done...and very funny.

Posted Tue, Aug 21, 7:59 a.m. Inappropriate

It's been obvious for a long time, ever since buses started bearing signs to warn other drivers that they are immune from the rules of the road, that right of way in western Washington cities is determined, not by the rules of the road, but by a social virtue hierarchy.


Pedestrian is more virtuous than bicycle (although bicyclists wouldn't agree).
Bicycle is more virtuous than bus.
Bus is more virtuous than carpool.
Carpool is more virtuous than other cars, even ones with multiple passengers.
Cars are the spawn of Satan and are automatically assumed responsible for any altercation.


I, however, am not a creature of the city, so I observe the rules of the road. And despite their performance, most Seattle pedestrians do know where the cars are. They always spin around and flip me off when my mirror passes scant inches from their butts at 35 MPH.

dbreneman

Posted Tue, Aug 21, 10:58 a.m. Inappropriate

You forgot to mention that all traffic problems are caused by suburban SUVs.

NotFan

Posted Wed, Aug 22, 11:11 a.m. Inappropriate

Interesting that Notfan's most pertinent comment was pulled; explaining why Ms Poole should have accepted the pedestrian courtesy and driven across the intersection first was respectable, except for those who wish to prove a different point, or, have a different agenda directing propaganda? Seattle pedestrian amenities and basic infrastructure is offensively underdeveloped and Ms Poole should know better.

Wells

Posted Wed, Aug 22, 1:17 p.m. Inappropriate

I love this essay. The bizarre passive-aggressiveness of Seattle pedestrians has been a constant topic of conversation and angst for my partner and I ever since we moved back here 4 years ago from Brooklyn. Driving there is hardly stress-free (and yes, I was compelled to drive for work), but at least you know what to expect. And avoiding eye contact while darting into NYC traffic is a great way to get smacked by a taxi. Here, it's like jaywalking pedestrians are daring you to hit them even as they make it hard not to. It's about time someone called them out on it.

bdnelson

Posted Thu, Aug 23, 9:33 a.m. Inappropriate

When Seattle pedestrians challenge a motorist, the easier assumption made is that a local culture's humanist fatalism has produced a reckless endangerment of innocent motorists, as bdnelson's opinion suggests. However, more often, a pedestrian challenge to obnoxious, oblivious & abominable motorists hellbent on poisoning the planet to exploit the wage-slave clothing worker-units of imperialism, is actually their proclamation of a public RIGHT of WAY, the right to cross safely.

Please do not ignore this perspective in otherwise respectable conservative thought conservatives may have once in awhile, depending upon how tolerant they feel toward libruls & pore peeple n' uthur heathunry that their highly respected men in suits with microphones tell them are bad people.

A good idea, thought.

Try thought instead of more speculative reckless coal and oil-burning waste or building another artsy-fartsy blase environmental-istic waterfront park playground overrun with traffic and far too likely to suffer life threatening damage in earthquakes and sea level rise.

BOX C/C TUNNEL-SEAWALL -- STRONGEST -- BEST TRAFFIC REARRANGEMENT.

Wells

Posted Wed, Aug 22, 5:33 p.m. Inappropriate

I lived in New York, DC, Chicago and many other cities where pedestrians, regardless of their background, are less likely to pay attention to lights or cars when they have somewhere to go. One of the things that amazed me about Seattle when I moved here last year was that it was the first city I have ever lived in where drivers actually assume that pedestrians will obey traffic laws most of the time.

Like most of the newer cities on the west coast, this city sucks for pedestrians. Pedestrians have to remember to push buttons for lights to change, otherwise minutes will pass and pedestrians will start to wonder why the traffic light hates them so much. In many places, like Northgate, pedestrians have to walk long distances just to get to the other side of the street. This especially sucks when it is raining and you forgot to wear a jacket.

But I think the worst thing about being a pedestrian in Seattle, as opposed to being a pedestrian in a city like New York with significantly more people who can relate to your situation, is that drivers here are less likely to ever be pedestrians and they expect that you will always be polite and wait your turn to cross the street even your bus is just pulling up on the other side of the street and the next bus won't arrive for another 45 minutes if you are lucky!

Drivers here are always shocked when a Seattle pedestrian actually acts like a New Yorker and says "#$^&! it. It's raining. I'm late. The cars aren't moving and I'm going to #$^&! cross the street."

Bill234

Posted Thu, Aug 23, 9:46 a.m. Inappropriate

"#$^&! it. It's raining. I'm late. The cars aren't moving and I'm going to #$^&! cross the street."


It's when they cross in front of the cars that are moving that they generate animosity.

dbreneman

Posted Wed, Aug 22, 8:42 p.m. Inappropriate

Funny article. Rememeber the movie Slackers and how a "walker" was a worthless lowlife? What's the connotation for a "driver"? How much effort is required to press on one or two pedals?

Posted Thu, Aug 23, 4:21 p.m. Inappropriate

I have seen a number of people step out into traffic, at crosswalks (marked or otherwise) and mid-block, without apparently accepting any responsibility for their own safety. They put that responsibility onto the strangers driving in cars. It represents a level of trust in our fellow man that I, personally, could not muster. Not for strangers.

The day will come when a driver will strike a careless pedestrian and we will see a real reversal when the driver sues the pedestrian for emotional distress and damage to their vehicle for involving them, unwillingly, in the pedestrian's suicide attempt.

coolpapa

Posted Thu, Aug 23, 6:41 p.m. Inappropriate

I don't know about a pedestrian, but if a bicyclist runs a red light and I hit him and kill him, I will sue his estate for the damage to my car and the psychiatrist bills.

NotFan

Posted Sat, Aug 25, 1:25 p.m. Inappropriate

Will you knock it off? You're right, but wrongly becoming a writer many people won't read, myself included. You are making real threats that could make matters worse. Most bikers are decent enough, some are reckless jerks. But, many drivers are absolutely dangerous fools behind the wheel listening to techno-fix science broadcasts promising a self-driving car to fn nowhere.

Wells

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