Saturday, July 15, 2017

Berkeley pedestrians take the high ground

Distracted walking

Michael Lewis on Berkeley pedestrians (Greece Saunters Across the Autobahn):

A few years ago, the Berkeley Police Department applied for and received a grant from the state of California to improve the behavior of local drivers. The grant came on the heels of data showing that Berkeley was perhaps the most dangerous city in the state in which to cross the street: The previous year more pedestrians had been struck by automobiles in Berkeley than in any of the 55 other comparably sized California cities.

But as anyone who lives here knows, the drivers aren't really the problem. Or rather, they aren't any more of a problem than they are any place else in California, and probably a lot less of one.

The Berkeley pedestrian, on the other hand, seems bent on his own destruction. In daylight hours you can find him sprinting from behind tall bushes into busy intersections, ear buds in place to ensure he remains oblivious to any danger; at night he dons dark clothing and slips, ninja-like, from shadows onto poorly lit streets. 

It's California law that a pedestrian, when he arrives at a crosswalk, must stop and make eye contact with any approaching driver: Hardly anyone here pays that law any attention. If the Berkeley pedestrian glances up at all, it's to glare at any driver moving slowly enough to notice his sudden, almost magical appearance in the middle of the road.

Behind that glare lies the source of the peculiar danger on Berkeley's streets. The Berkeley pedestrian is propelled not just by his desire to get from one place to another but also by his sense that he's doing it in a morally superior way. He believes---even if he might not quite put it this way---that it is the duty of all fossil-fuel consuming, global-warming promoting, morally inferior users of the road to suffer on his behalf. 

He's not suicidal. He doesn't want to be run over by a car. He simply wants to stress to you, and perhaps even himself, that he occupies the high ground. In doing so, he happens to increase the likelihood that he will wind up in the back of an ambulance...

Rob's comment:
See also Distracted Driving Blamed for Increase in Pedestrian Deaths, which, with its usual crude bias, Streetsblog describes as "Distracted driving is causing increase in pedestrian deaths, but National Law Review still finds a way to blame pedestrians."

As the article points out, "pedestrians are as distracted as drivers":

While much attention has been placed on distraction behind the wheel, researchers are finding that pedestrians themselves are often distracted as wheel, with their eyes glued to a device as they walk to their destinations. This may cause them to walk across the street when they do not have a crosswalk or traffic signal to protect them. Not being aware of their surroundings is becoming a contributing factor for many pedestrian injuries and fatalities...

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"Lie after lie after lie"

Mother Jones

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