Dear Excessively Polite Drivers

Stop trying to prove your decency to pedestrians and cyclists by yielding your right of way to us when we are waiting to cross a street. You have to knock that shit off.

This may come as a surprise to you, but there are other vehicles coming the other way, or roaring up behind you, who don’t know (or care) why the fuck you are stopping. By waiting for us, you are putting everyone at risk, you included, but us most of all. Accidents happen when traffic is unpredictable, and you are forcing us to make a snap decision about whether or not it is safe to cross when we do not have the right of way, at the same time that you have made the whole thing less predictable.

Plus, we often aren’t even totally sure that you’re actually stopping for us. Maybe you’re just playing Pokémon Go, or texting your BFF. Another layer of uncertainty.

Your gracious stopping applies weird social pressure. It feels awkward to refuse. If I wave you on, suddenly it seems like I’ve somehow inconvenienced you. I’ve actually had drivers react to being spurned with an angry honk and a rude gesture (rare, but it has happened more than once). I’d rather be unjustly perceived as rude than be roadkill, so I usually have to wave you people. But the human mind is a funny thing, and sometimes I succumb to the pressure and scurry across the road just because I didn’t want to seem ungrateful for the “favour.”

It’s just not a good idea.

Yes, of course, it is acceptable to occasionally yield the right of way on a really quiet street. By all means, fine, go ahead and stop for us if the situation is slow and simple. But it’s rarely slow and simple enough, and I have seen MANY of you pull this bullshit on fast multi-lane roads, and in that situation I have to question your sanity and your intelligence. (You really need to knock that shit off.)

Just follow the damn rules of the road, rather than trying to make yourself feel good about how generous you are. You’re not actually helping.

Sincerely,
Cyclists & Pedestrians Everywhere

Reinforcements: I am not alone in my exasperation

This was a quite a popular post on Facebook. Here are some selected comments:

Complications: are these boneheads actually obeying the law?

I expected no dissent. This is straightforward, right? But it seems like there is no such thing as a simple or uncontroversial topic! No matter how cut-and-dried I think something is, there’s always a rabbit hole I didn’t know about. Another commenter:

You would hate living here in San Diego. Drivers get fined if they don't stop for any pedestrian that looks like they are about to cross a street. Pedestrians have absolute right of way.

Say whaaaaat? But, but … that’s insane! And then another pointed out this Reddit discussion which seems to suggest that the same is true here in Vancouver, BC:

Every end of a city block is a crosswalk whether marked or not.

And then he quotes the law, which say that "crosswalk" means this:

(a) a portion of the roadway at an intersection or elsewhere distinctly indicated for pedestrian crossing by signs or by lines or other markings on the surface, or (b) the portion of a highway at an intersection that is included within the connection of the lateral lines of the sidewalks on the opposite sides of the highway, or within the extension of the lateral lines of the sidewalk on one side of the highway, measured from the curbs, or in the absence of curbs, from the edges of the roadway;

But that doesn’t actually clear this up for me. Granted, the language is dense and I am not the sharpest tool in the shed, but I don’t really see how it implies the concept of an “invisible crosswalk.” I can see how the law makes it clear that if a pedestrian is already crossing a street at an intersection, they have the right of way, which seems sensible, since the alternative is to mow them down.

But I do not see any implication that drivers are obligated to yield to a pedestrian who might want to cross the road… which is clearly downright dangerous. To say nothing of being really fucking irritating.

So I just don’t know. It would really blow my mind to learn that these people are actually obeying the law — however stupid a law it might be. I’m sure someone on the internet will set me straight. I await enlightenment, and I will update this post when enlightenment arrives.