I almost hit a pedestrian this morning.
I was driving along, listening to my “chillout” music, lost in the drone of darkness and rain. I was in the right lane. I slowed as I approached a red light on McLoughlin, but the light turned green while I was still a couple hundred feet away. I accelerated.
“That’s odd,” I remember thinking to myself. “Why aren’t the cards in the left lane moving?” There were four cars just sitting there, as if the light were still red.
Then it dawned on me, just as I was about to enter the intersection, and I braked hard before I even knew there was somebody there. And there was somebody there: a man in a hooded jacket, head down, ambling across the far crosswalk, oblivious to everything around him.
A very close call, and not the kind of fright I like first thing in the morning.
This is why you’re not supposed to cross when you don’t have the walk signal. This is why you’re not supposed to run red lights. This is why we have traffic laws.
One morning about a decade ago I was making sales calls in Salem. I was in the right lane, coming down the hill next to the library toward downtown. I was behind another vehicle. As we approached the red light at the bottom of the hill, we slowed. But just as we reached the intersection, the light turned green. The car in front of me proceeded through the intersection, just as I would have done in its place.
You see where this is going: the car in front of me t-boned a pickup that had decided to risk the yellow light.
The thing that amazed me was that the other drivers who stopped as witnesses — the drivers who were in the left lane waiting for the light to turn green — all swore that the guy in my lane had run a red light. That’s not the case. I was watching the light, too, and know for a fact that it went green just moments before we got to the intersection.
I have no idea how that accident resolved, but I fear the driver in front of me got screwed.
Have I complained about stupid bicyclists lately? Or walkers?
I have no problem sharing the road. I walk a lot. I bike a lot. But, for the most part, I follow the rules of the road, which can be summarized as follows:
- When walking on the road, walk against traffic.
- When biking on the road, bike with traffic.
- In almost every location it is illegal to bike on sidewalks.
- Bicyclists must obey traffic signs.
Eighteen months ago I wrote about seeing a bicyclist get pulled over for violating traffic laws. I wish it happened more often.
Last month I made a right-hand turn onto a side street. My view of the street was obscured by a fence and by parked cars. Imagine my shock to find myself face-to-face with a bicyclist riding on the left side of the street. (Better yet, imagine his shock!)
Seriously: when you’re biking, there are few things more dangerous than biking on the left side of the street or riding on the sidewalk. Personally, I’m guilty of not stopping at lights and signs. Out here in the country, especially, I blow through stop signs on my bike. (Someday that’s going to get me killed.) Finally, please please please don’t let your kids ride on the sidewalk. And don’t do it yourself!