I have spoken before about my walking commute to and from campus. It is truly something I look forward to every day, mostly because it gives me time to be in (relative) nature and essentially meditate while moving. Unfortunately, I occasionally find my calm contemplation interrupted by motorists who are hurrying about their day with little care for who they mow over on their way. Fortunately, the majority of the people I encounter are kind, courteous, and respectful. But a lot of people do things that I am sure they do not realize are extremely threatening and rude to pedestrians. Similarly, some pedestrians do not follow general etiquette, endangering themselves and annoying motorists. So here is a list I made of things that both motorists and pedestrians can do to make everybody’s lives a little more peaceful.
How to Respect Pedestrians and Be a Respectful Pedestrian
If you are in a vehicle: Stop at a crosswalk if you see someone waiting. Especially if it is pouring rain – you are in a warm, dry car, and they are likely getting soaked. Don’t expect them to hoof it – they have the right of way and not all disabilities are visible. Especially do not inch forward as though you are likely to run them over if they do not hurry up. If you have this kind of sentiment, you need a serious attitude adjustment.
If you are on foot: Use crosswalks. Do not leap out into the road unless a car has suitable distance to stop. Sure, you have the right of way, but vehicles cannot stop on a dime. Do not dawdle when you cross. Do not expect to be seen at night, even with high-visibility clothing on.
If you are in a vehicle: Try to avoid stopping in crosswalks. Do not try to turn as quickly as you can to avoid having to wait for a pedestrian, thereby making the pedestrian feel like you would rather run them over than wait.
If you are on foot: If a car is stopped in a crosswalk, say at the end of a road waiting to turn, make it clear that you intend to walk around behind them so that they can turn more promptly. Make eye contact (and if you’re in Maine, secure a wave) before crossing in front of a car that is waiting to turn. Chances are they will not see you otherwise.
If you are in a vehicle: Try to avoid honking at people you know unless you are certain they know your car. A wave or an “I saw you walking today!” phone call are preferable. If you don’t know them, then do not honk at them unless somehow your honk will save their life. Honking will likely scare the ever-living sh*t out of a pedestrian if they are anything like me. This is in the same category of “do nots” as catcalling, throwing bottles, and generally hollering. Find something else to do with your time.
If you are on foot: …I’m not sure there is anything you can do to avoid this. Some people are just rude, I guess.
If you are on foot: Use the sidewalk if there is one available. If there isn’t, walk on the side of the road that is against the flow of traffic. You will be more visible to cars this way, and they will likely give you a wide berth.
Really, what it comes down to, is try to be compassionate. If a car nearly runs me over in its haste to turn right, I allow myself the initial annoyance and then try to explain to myself that perhaps the occupant’s spouse was in labor or some similar emergency. If you find yourself late for an appointment and racing down the street to try to beat the light, try to keep in mind that the person waiting at the crosswalk also has places to go and things to do. Your objective may seem the most important to you at the time – we all get stuck in this mindset – but you may find that taking the time to view and treat others with compassion lessens the number of annoyances in your life.
Is there anything you wish pedestrians/motorists did differently? Weigh in on the discussion in the comments below!