Ask The Best And Brightest: How Do You Deal With Jaywalkers?

David C. Holzman
by David C. Holzman

In Cambridge Massachusetts and its affluent outlying suburbs, these days cars are second class citizens. Peds think nothing of jay walking, and motorists almost always give them right of way when they do. Sometimes, peds get aggressive about it, charging across the street en mass just as the light turns green, with looks of entitlement upon their faces. Across from Harvard Yard, peds parade in front of cars turning onto or off of Massachusetts Avenue, oblivious to how many cars they are forcing to wait for minutes on end. Amazingly, I haven’t seen road rage arise from this behavior. The motorists seem to turn the other cheek, or tire, as the case may be.

There was a time when I would have considered this to be the proper order, but now I often find myself waving my arms like windmills to let a motorist know that I really really really mean to let them go first.

One problem with this behavior that might concern Cantabridgians if it were to cross their minds is all the extra greenhouse gases that spew vainly into the atmosphere while cars wait for the peds to pass.

I like that motorists give consideration to pedestrians. But I think that consideration should be returned. All of which raises questions about interactions between motorists and pedestrians. What do you think?

David C. Holzman
David C. Holzman

I'm a freelance journalist covering science, medicine, and automobiles.

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  • BostonDuce BostonDuce on Dec 16, 2009

    I work in Boston and run delivery trucks. I hate pedestrians. They think they were empowered by the "must stop when in crosswalk" law. They have taken it to mean "must stop -always" . Not in crosswalk, green traffic light, northeaster spitting snow and ice? No problem, just jump out in front of the vehicle, they HAVE to stop. Not quite, but as a motorist you must always be in control of your vehicle, and pedestrians, even when wrong, trump your right of way. Just for the record, all you A-hole pedestrians- its only in the CROSSWALK where the vehicle must stop to let you pass. Green lights and non-crosswalk excursions do not entitle you to jump in front of moving vehicles. Will I hit you if you decide to play chicken with me-probably not, but if I can, I will not yield to your arrogant ass and try to go around you-and I hope its raining so I can splash your ass while I'm avoiding your jaywalkin' self. The absolute worst thing about this friggen law is that the local LEO's use it as revenue machine. They set up 'stings' where some stooge steps into a crosswalk when you're halfway by it. A few feet down the street, the "enforcement team" flags you over for failure to stop. Absolute BS, but better money that a city speed trap at $250.00 per. A close second is all the drivers that are intimidated by the law, and jam on their brakes every time some dumb ass toes the curb. I worry that some ditzy broad who is busy texting Tiger is going to wind up in my back seat. No rage, just observations from the field. BD

    • Kkt Kkt on Dec 17, 2009

      You start out complaining about jaywalkers crossing where they don' t have the right of way, but at the end I see you're complaining about tickets being given to drivers who did not yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, crossing legally.

  • Rusted Source Rusted Source on Dec 16, 2009

    Seems like the definition of "jaywalker" is a bit varied around the continent. Some people seem put off that a driver won't respect the rights and safety of a person crossing the street in a designated location, where other people are seeing people who purposely put their safety at risk by walking out into oncoming traffic with the intention of forcing cars to slow down for them. To me that's two different breeds of peds. Where I live, these young punks typically never cross at an intersection, it's diagonally across the street while most often not checking or hesitating for ongoing traffic followed up by a smile or a high five with their slackjawed buddies when they make it to the other side as they look you in the face while you drive away - that's just comptempt for their rights as a pedestrian. To boot often this happens in a situation where if they just paused for about 4 seconds there would be no traffic to impede their street crossing. Considering we have snow and ice practically half the year, that's not saying much for their sense of value for life.

  • Highway27 Highway27 on Dec 16, 2009

    Something that struck me in the article, the question of why the drivers seem to just take the bad behavior of the jaywalkers. I think this might be related to the hazards of escalation in any situation. Consider that case a few months back with the Canadian activist and the bike messenger, where one version of the story was that the bike messenger was holding on to the guy's car, verbally, and possibly physically assaulting him. The problem is that even if the motorist got mad, what can they do? They're sitting there in a valuable piece of property, that if they even make a move towards a badly behaving pedestrian would, at best, result in the pedestrian getting out of the way. If they even graze the pedestrian with the car, they are now in a world of possible legal troubles, and heaven forbid they actually injure the pedestrian. And even if there's no contact, if you make a pedestrian mad, what if they turn around and start bashing on your car, or take their book or a rock or their feet and hammer the mirrors, or the windows, or the quarter panels? Are you gonna get their name and number? Are you going to try to sue them in small claims court? Maybe, but it's an awful lot of hassle. And the BEST you could do to defend yourself is try to get away. You get out of the car, you're now in a heated physical confrontation. You try to get away, what if they jump on your car, then roll off and are injured? Who's in the crap sandwich now? You are. So that's why people take that bad behavior. The jaywalkers know they're inconveniencing you and they don't care cause it's more convenient for them. The possible repercussions to any confrontation are so lopsided in the jaywalker's favor that they feel they can do it with impunity.

  • David C. Holzman David C. Holzman on Dec 16, 2009

    @Highway27, very interesting points. I suspect this is true in most cases. but my sense is that in Cambridge, most of the drivers stop so readily for peds because they really do believe that peds should have the right of way.

    Regarding some other comments, there are definitely a lot of peds in cambridge who seem to enjoy getting in cars' way.

    Regarding comments about bicyclists, I am one; in the '80s I road nearly 40,000 miles, probably somewhat more than half of that in Washington DC traffic. One important thing to understand about cyclists, whether you are driving or walking, is that cyclists don't like to lose their momentum because of the effort required to regain it, and they will go to varying lengths to keep it. They should, of course, refrain from riding so as to endanger peds, but peds should be courteous to cyclists. As a ped, I almost always give right of way to cyclists.

    MCS: 1) I once parked at Alewife when I had to get into an event at the Kennedy School during AM rush hour. But other than that, I so much prefer to drive and it's almost always quicker for me. Being on the subway doesn't do anything to maximize my utility, and it's slower, what with parking and the wait.

    2) re cyclists: guilty as charged.