April 21, 2024
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April 21, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

We really need to think about safety tactics for pedestrians.

That word has always bothered me. Pedestrian. I always thought pedestrian was too fancy a word for someone who doesn’t own a car. Walking is not that complicated. The word for someone driving a car is “driver.” “Pedestrian” sounds like you need at least a four-year degree.

“This is my son, Jimmy. He’s studying to be a pedestrian.”


Point is, I’ve been walking lately, because I need to lose weight and stretch my back and talk to my wife without the kids sticking their noses into the conversation. I literally cannot see my wife during conversations. I just see several noses between me and her. So we go on walks, and the kids don’t follow.

“Can we come? Where are we going?”

“On a walk.”

“Oh. Never mind.”

As long as we don’t tell them we’re mainly going to talk.

And apparently, one thing I found out, in walking with my wife, is that drivers are supposed to stop for us when we’re in crosswalks. Even if said crosswalks are nowhere near an intersection. I had no idea. I mean obviously I figured they weren’t supposed to run us over. But apparently, they’re not even supposed to proceed if we’re just standing at the side of the road. They’re supposed to stop. And I’m not just talking about in Manhattan, where large herds of people cross against the light and climb over your hood without looking at you.

Of course, speaking as a driver, this doesn’t seem fair—pedestrians could walk right across the road, but when you drive on the sidewalk, suddenly you’re the irresponsible driver. Even though you clearly signaled before you hit that dog. Pedestrians can walk under the influence or when they’re distracted, and they have no minimum speed limit, especially in the crosswalk. Who said they get the right of way?

In fact, sometimes you’re tempted to get out of a car and become a pedestrian yourself. What’s stopping you?

“I could be a pedestrian. My own grandmother is a pedestrian. I choose to drive.”

So I’m not sure if we stop for pedestrians because they’re special, or because they’re so dumb that we need to give them a wide berth. At some age, their parents decided they could cross the street, and that was it. They didn’t have to take a test or anything.

But I had no idea this was even the law. At first I wrote it off, because my wife is from out of town. The town she grew up in has three street lights, total, and they turn them off at night, so people actually stop for pedestrians, because they’re not in a rush. If they were in a rush to get places, they wouldn’t live so far from those places. Or maybe it was just in her home state of Massachusetts, and it was a mainstay from the old days, when Paul Revere had to stop his horse in the middle of a poem so the British could march across the street against the light.

In fact, I frankly always wondered why there were crosswalks in the first place. Are pedestrians so brain-dead that they need lines on the street to show them how the sidewalk continues onto the next block? (“Wait! It ends! How am I supposed to get to Grandma’s?”)

So this is what the crosswalks are for, apparently. Yet drivers generally don’t stop. Except when they do, and everyone behind them provides musical accompaniment.

But the truth is it’s not really the drivers’ fault. A lot of times you can’t even see the crosswalk from far. There should be a sign at every crosswalk, so we’re aware that what we see is not just someone waiting for a ride or something. Like one of those “pedestrian crossing” signs that shows a guy venturing out into the street—against the wind, judging by his posture, trying to prevent his head from being blow off, because it’s perfectly round and not at all attached to his body. In other words, a sign that means “Stay far away.” You don’t want to make this guy drop his bowling-ball head. Then you’ll be there all day while he gropes around looking for it.

But it turns out there usually is a sign. I just noticed it, researching this article. And it’s exactly as described.

But even if someone’s standing in the crosswalk and staring in your direction it doesn’t mean he wants to cross the street. Could be he’s just staring at cars. There are other reasons a person can be standing still in the street like that. Maybe he’s trying to remember why he ventured out into the street.

So maybe pedestrians should have official hand signals, like drivers do. For example, there’s already a hand signal for, “I would like to get into a stranger’s car and only then ask if he’s going in my general direction,” so maybe there should also be a hand signal for, “I’d like to cross the street now.” Probably just a finger pointing straight across the street. Though drivers would just turn and look in that direction. (“What?”) So what’s the international symbol for crossing a road? Maybe you can stand like a chicken. Except that you usually have packages, or you’re holding “henties.” (hands) Though maybe holding henties should be a signal in the first place. Why on earth would you be standing in the street watching cars while holding your kids’ henties?

By Mordechai Schmutter

 Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia, The Jewish Press and Aish.com, among others. He also has five books out and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected].


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