Richard K. Rein’s column of April 15 makes some well-chosen observations about driver and pedestrian responsibilities when it comes to crossing the street. And that should mean any street, not just the ones in Princeton, although I realize that the ones in Princeton are supposed to be the “best” ones.
But even in Princeton there is no shortage of stupid behavior on the part of both drivers and pedestrians. Yes, pedestrians, too — they can be stupid just like drivers. How about the group that is so involved in their own conversations as they cross the street that they act as if there are no vehicles waiting to get out of the intersection even though they have a green light. Or individual pedestrians who never take a look to see if there are any vehicles coming from any direction. The attitude that “I’m a pedestrian — no-one would dare hit me” is the height of stupidity — even if the little “walking man” sign is on. Listen, dummy, as long as cars are bigger, and faster, and harder than you are, stay out of their way. It’s your responsibility to see them coming.
And as for drivers, the best thing to remember is that pedestrians are there to get in your way, so give them the benefit of the doubt. They’re entitled to get across the intersection safely, even if they don’t do their part. And running into one is a very bad thing to do.
Remember, walking across the street is not supposed to be a competition, so it’s up to both pedestrians and drivers not to make it into one.
I’m reminded of a very disturbing incident on Harrison Street about a decade ago that illustrates my point about oblivious pedestrians. I was driving east toward Route 1 one evening when I noticed a woman on the sidewalk on the other side at the intersection with Southern Way. She appeared to be waiting to cross Harrison Street, so I came to a full stop to let her cross. But she didn’t move. After I had waited for probably 15 seconds — that’s a long time under those circumstances — I got the impression that she didn’t want to cross. So I started to speed up a bit to get out of her way. But after I started to move, she decided to start crossing — and I had to make a very sudden stop — with screeching brakes. I didn’t hit her, and she never even glanced in my direction. It was as if she was never aware that my car was there. She finished crossing in front of me and started walking down the sidewalk on the other side.
Drivers should be aware that pedestrians can be oblivious, too. Their “untouchable” attitude goes just so far.