Monday, January 14, 2008

Cyclists, Pedestrians and Traffic in Victoria

I've been thinking about this for the past week or so and the longer I wait the more material I get for this post. Victoria is certainly the most pedestrian/cyclist friendly city I've ever lived in. There are bike lanes that are well marked and they are well used. Because tourism is such a large industry, pedestrian crosswalks are plentiful and you don't always have to walk to a corner to use one. Most have overhead lights to ensure people can cross safely and some have traffic islands with flashing lights at a 4 foot level to ensure pedestrians aren't at risk as they cross the street.

While all of this is very good, it's also created a false sense of invincibility for pedestrians and cyclists alike. Here's what I mean. About 6 weeks ago I was driving the kids to school on a rainy and foggy morning. As I'm going down the street a pedestrian wearing a long grey jacket steps out from between two cars in the pouring rain and fog and proceeds to step out in front of me. To complete his ensemble, he's also using an ipod as evidenced by the telltale white earbuds he was wearing. I wavered between swerving and accelerating to miss him vs. putting the car into a 4 wheel skid and sliding into him. There was no time to lay on the horn, not that it would have mattered as the music he was listening to would have drowned out any warning that my horn might have given him.

On Friday afternoon, I watched another pedestrian literally run out into the crosswalk and successfully stop traffic so that she could take a picture looking up Douglas Street. Hello??? Does anyone stop to think that crosswalks are for crossing and not for photoshoots? On Saturday afternoon, I watched a guy cross in the crosswalk while traffic had a green light and proceed to gesture profanely at the driver in front of me who blew his horn and didn't stop because he actually had the right of way.

On Saturday night (at the same location) another young lady chose to create her crosswalk 30 feet from the marked one. This isn't hard people. If you want to jay walk, (not that I am endorsing this...) do it within the flow of traffic so that you aren't creating a problem for drivers. Don't just step out and assume that traffic will part like the Red Sea just because you are there.

This behaviour could only be trumped by the cyclist on Friday morning who chose to swerve out of her lane (without signalling) because her lane was blocked. This may be rocket science to cyclists but the general rule of thumb is that making way for larger and heavier objects (of which I qualify on several counts....) is generally a wise move in light of the basic laws of physics. The heavier object always does greater damage to the lighter one, but if you don't believe me, keep doing what you are doing and I'm sure you will find learn this lesson the hard way.

Finally, when I learned to drive, a yellow light meant 'slow down and prepare to stop'. There are times when you can't stop safely so it's permissible to proceed through the intersection with caution. Apparently in Victoria, a yellow light means proceed immediately with a left turn regardless of oncoming traffic. Intersections are probably not the place to play "I was here first."

In the grand scheme, 'Welcome to the Jungle' would hardly be the best song to describe traffic in Victoria, but 'Here Come the Clowns' might be.

Anyway, I feel better.... Drive safe, look both way and cross at the corners when the light is green...


Danica said...

Oh my.
Was that a rant?
From Tim?

Junah said...

lol. That is kind of funny. Not really funny, but so true.

Crazy pedestrians come in all ages. I was reading in today's paper that an 82 year old man was slightly injured after attempting to jaywalk at a busy street in Burnaby after he was struck by a car.

Junah said...

Its amazing how hard people will go out of the way to avoid exercise. The 41st street bus stops at both sides of the street Granville street. During busy periods the bus usually fills up on the West side of the street. Pedestrians will wait for 3 or so buses on the East side because they don't want to cross the street. A week or two ago, they must have been waiting particularly long because they fingered the bus driver for not stopping the crammed full bus for them. With all the energy they put into yelling and cursing at the bus driver, you would think they could cross the street.