3-way collision

As a frequent pedestrian in our small “big” city, I sometimes come across situations where drivers, bicyclists or other pedestrians do really irritating things.

Photo by Corinna Scott
Photo by Corinna Scott

As a frequent pedestrian in our small “big” city, I sometimes come across situations where drivers, bicyclists or other pedestrians do really irritating things.

One early morning, on my way to school, I faced an example of this. It was shaping up to be a fine day: the sun was undisturbed by the usual clouds, the air was crisp and there weren’t any egregious tests on the horizon.

As I stepped into the crosswalk by the Pizza Schmizza Pub and Grub on Southwest Fourth Avenue, I noticed a lone car just starting to pull through the far-off intersection, and I decided to cross.

My bright day suddenly took on a darker hue when, just as I reached the sidewalk, the car stopped in the middle of the road. An outraged young woman with flaming red hair rolled down her window, yelled at me for making her slow down and then sped off.

Just so we’re clear, I didn’t recklessly run out in front of her car. I didn’t wear black clothing and cross in the dark of the night. I didn’t walk as slowly as I could to try to force her to come to a stop. No, she was incensed purely because she’d had to slow down while a pedestrian was crossing in a crosswalk. A crosswalk that just happened to be painted with stripes and marked with a big yellow sign.

This surprisingly inappropriate response leads me to believe that at least some Oregonians don’t know basic commuting etiquette—and by etiquette, I mean the law.

According to Oregon law, drivers must stop and remain stopped for pedestrians at a crosswalk. Moreover, any public intersection, whether it’s marked or unmarked, is a crosswalk; and any place there are painted white lines, even in the middle of a block, is a crosswalk that a pedestrian has the right of way in.

This law seems to be disregarded frequently. The Oregon.gov website states that half of the pedestrians who get slammed by vehicles are hit while using a crosswalk. As someone who is regularly a pedestrian and frequently bullied out of crossing by cars that honk, speed up or swerve around me, those aren’t comforting numbers.

Still, Miss Angry Redhead isn’t the only one who doesn’t want to follow the law. So many pedestrians in Portland seem to love casually strutting into the middle of the road, blocking traffic and generally not following any of the rules.

Portland’s city code requires that we all use a crosswalk if there is one within 150 feet, and there aren’t many areas of downtown Portland that aren’t a short distance away from one. I love frolicking in the street and causing near-accidents as much as the next guy, but it would probably save everyone time and stress if we all just walked a bit further and used the freaking crosswalk.

Then, of course, there are the beloved bicyclists. Even people who have never visited our city may have seen us on some sort of “best biking city on the country” list, and we take the title very seriously.

Unfortunately, we don’t seem to take basic traffic laws seriously as we pedal around town. Just as I’ve had to avoid being hit by a few cars, I’ve had to hop out of the way of bicyclists trying to mow me down as I cross the street—or even when I’m just minding my own business on the sidewalk.

Bicyclists, according to the PortlandOregon.gov website, are subject to the same laws as vehicle drivers, so all of those riders going through red lights or turning onto the wrong side of the street are breaking the law.

My mind wanders to some sort of three-way collision wherein a pedestrian runs out into the middle of the road right as a bicyclist runs a red light and a car cuts someone off in a crosswalk. The bottom line is that whether you walk, drive, pedal or do some jumbled mess of them all, we all need to try to help each other out. Maybe follow the damn rules from time to time.