No, really, people in Boston don't understand crosswalks

At this point, after 13 years here, I've basically accepted that drivers and pedestrians alike don't know the rules of the road, particularly as pertains to pedestrians crossing the street. For those who are thinking that everyone surely does know the laws about crossing the street, but people ignore them, I can point you to an interesting phenomenon; every time something comes up on Universal Hub about this very topic, inevitably, someone will insist that all people know about crossing in marked crosswalks and crossing only when they have a walk signal, but they just don't care. Then several people will chime in and insist that pedestrians have the right-of-way everywhere all the time, and that cars are supposed to stop on a green light when a pedestrian is walking out against a BIGREDHAND™. This of course is incorrect, and just illogical, because why would there be pedestrian signals at all if this were the case? The laws actually say that pedestrians have to wait for the walk signal when there is one (I think this is pretty universal in all cities in the world that have the lights, otherwise, again, why have them?), and that pedestrians have to cross inside the crosswalk unless there isn't one within 300 feet. 

Nonetheless, it's a pretty pervasive belief that pedestrians have the right-of-way at all times. People frequently cross against the walk signal, while the BIGREDHAND™ is displayed, then yell at drivers to stop for pedestrians or that pedestrians have the right of way. It makes me wonder; are traffic signals and crossing the street safely not taught in elementary schools here? It's one thing to not care, but it's oddly fascinating that so many people really think the crosswalks and walk signals are just there for no reason.

The thing though that I really can't understand is all of the drivers who will stop and motion me across while I'm waiting at a BIGREDHAND™with my preschool-aged child, many of whom will get aggravated when I don't cross against the light as they've suggested. I've had people with their windows rolled down tell me they're letting me go, and what am I standing there for if I don't want to cross, etc. I assume it's coming from a good place, but then why do they become more aggravated when I tell them "I appreciate it, but...", then gesture toward the HAND™ and motion toward the child next to me? 

No, really, I think people don't know what the lights are for. I mean, sure, I will cross against the HAND™ when no one is coming and I don't have my child with me, but are other people really not teaching their children basic traffic light rules while the kids are at that concrete stage where rules are rules? What happens when their kids see a segment on Sesame Street about traffic lights and ask about it? Or those street-light/street-sign posters that decorate so many elementary school classrooms? I'm honestly curious; are these families telling their children that the lights in Boston are different and don't mean anything? Or that our family doesn't believe in traffic lights? Or just telling them to shut up and walk out in front of the dumptruck?

1 comment:

Jodie said...

It was taught at my elementary school, but being from the Cape that probably doesn't count. Plus I'm old...