Peda-quette: Simple Rules for Sharing the Road

Austin is a great place to take a walk. Sidewalk How To 7.2.12In fact, Walk Friendly Communities named Austin a Bronze-level walk friendly community because of participation in programs like Safe Routes to School and Walk! Texas. Pedestrian transportation is considered so efficient that Austin has now assumed responsibility for the regular repair and maintenance of sidewalks across town.  This initiative has brought us some premier places to walk, and the development of new Boardwalk as well as the long-standing Trail at Lady Bird Lake.

However, despite these projects, Austin saw pedestrian fatalities rise from 10 in 2010 to 26 in 2012. Ironically, Austin is a “no kill” city for pets, but hasn’t made a similar commitment to its citizens.

We (the citizens of Austin) can take responsibility and make this place safer.

Here are some common sense suggestions that anyone (pedestrian or driver) can do to make a difference.

When dealing with other pedestrians

Generally speaking, pedestrians don’t pose a big risk to other pedestrians, however, there are some basic courtesies that can be extended to make everyone’s experience more pleasant. 

  • Go with the flow: if there are a lot of people walking, then there’s a clear traffic flow – follow it.
  • Disconnect and pay attention: when walking in a crowded area, keep your phone in your pocket unless talking on it; you can afford a few minutes away from social media in order to not make everyone else move out of the way or play “pedestrian pinball.”
  • If you do bump into someone, don’t forget to make eye contact and politely say “I’m sorry” or “Excuse me.”
  • The sidewalk is everyone’s to share: if you’re walking in a group, don’t force the solo pedestrian into the street or someone’s lawn, just make some room. Be polite.
  • If you’re crossing the street: remember what mom always said and look both ways. Be aware that it’s easier for you to stop than it is for a bicycle, so sometimes it’s best to just pause for a second and let them pass.
  • And joggers:  if you’re running downtown or somewhere crowded (you know who you are), be aware that most folks aren’t moving at light speed, and do your best to accommodate them.

When dealing with bicyclists

Bicycles can travel at a higher speed and can cause injuries, rarely life threatening, but be courteous to avoid uncomfortable scenarios.

  • Pay attention: stop looking at the girls or boys you are passing or typing a txt message and watch for those really quiet vehicles called bicycles. They may be crossing in front of you.
  • If a bicyclists hits a pedestrian: it will hurt both of you . For everyone’s safety, try your best to avoid contact.

When dealing with cars

It is most important for pedestrians to be aware of cars around them. Drivers should be predictable, but sometimes aren’t so be on the defense and use street smarts.

  • When crossing the street always look both ways before crossing the street. Ideally, cross at the corner, and make eye contact with any driver before moving into the intersection.
  • Walk on the sidewalk. If there is no sidewalk (and you absolutely must walk in the street), walk facing traffic as far to the left as possible. This is especially important for runners who often run in the road while using headphones. You can’t avoid what you can’t see or hear.
  • If it’s night, wear something bright; cars can’t avoid what they can’t see, either.  When you see a car backing up, coming out of a driveway, or stuck in a blind spot where they might not see you, wait for them. It’s better than getting hit.
  • Who goes first? Sometimes you may be walking and you see a car that’s been waiting for a while to turn left, and its window of opportunity directly crosses paths with your timing. In those instances, it’s polite to just pause for a second, waive them on, and let them make the turn. Chances are someone will do the same for you someday.

Peda-quette is a 3-part series about how pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers interact, and simple ways they can get along. Stay tuned!

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