There is a syndrome running rampant throughout the walkers of this city. The syndrome is called "Superman-itis." It makes pedestrians feel like they are made from steel, faster than a speeding car and able to leap stupidity in a single bound.
I have a friend who thinks it is his right to blindly walk in front of cars, because he is the pedestrian. He shows every sign of being infected with this debilitating syndrome. The guy will blindly walk out in front of cars, completely oblivious to traffic. This syndrome isn’t just relegated to my stupid friends either. I drive downtown a lot, more than I’d like to actually, and I see people with this strange idea of invulnerability all the time. Where oh where did this idea of the invulnerable pedestrian come from?
I wondered if perhaps the problem was that people didn’t understand the rules of crossing the street. Let me help you guys out. Please draw your attention to figure A. In figure A, we see a pedestrian traffic control device. Since many of you do not know what this thing is for, let me inform you, this little device tells you when it is all right to cross the street, and when it is inadvisable to do so.
Let’s go through the symbols and what they mean. Figure A. This is a picture of a little person walking. When this picture is lit up you may walk, get it? Now let us draw our attention to figure B. This is a picture of a hand. This picture tells you not to walk. In other words, when you see this picture, don’t walk in front of my car, because I will hit you.
I can’t count the times that people walking across from Neuberger Hall have just casually walked out in front of my car as I drive down Broadway. It’s no better when I am a pedestrian on the corner waiting for the light. I’ve seen countless people just walk out in front of traffic, and actually flip off drivers who have the audacity to honk at the little morons.
So my friend with the superman syndrome informed me that any two adjoining corners have an invisible crosswalk joining them, I decided to find out what the truth was since he had to be lying, just like the time he told me that he was dating Morgan Fairchild.
I spoke with Sgt. Brian Schmautz of the Portland Police Public Information Office. I asked him what a driver’s responsibilities were to pedestrians. According to Sgt. Schmautz, the driver must wait for the person to completely cross the street before taking off. It used to be if the pedestrian was out of your lane of traffic you could take off but that doesn’t fly anymore. Drivers must wait patiently for the pedestrian to cross. However, this rule only applies if the pedestrian is crossing with the light. So your responsibility as a pedestrian is the simple one in this equation. Just cross with the light.
I asked Sgt. Schmautz if there was ever an instance when as a pedestrian you could cross against the signal. His answer was a resounding no. So drivers must wait for pedestrians to cross. That’s fine and dandy. They should, but only if the pedestrian is crossing with the light in the first place.
I did learn something interesting in my talk with the police, though. I found out if a driver hits someone crossing against the light, that the driver is not at fault and probably will not be cited, unless other factors are present, such as no insurance, speeding or DUI. So if you walk out in front of my car and I don’t see you, you’re going to get it. My eyesight isn’t what it used to be, so watch out. Or you could, I don’t know, just cross with the light. Something to think about.
Oh, and about that invisible crosswalk that my friend thinks exists between unmarked corners? Turns out he’s right. Just one more thing for him to gloat about. Though he may have the right of way in his imaginary crosswalk, when he gets creamed by a soccer mom in her SUV, I will not feel bad for him. He may think he’s an invulnerable pedestrian, but when it comes to man vs. car, the car always wins. No matter who is in the wrong.
Jason Germany can be reached at [email protected]