How To J-Walk, A Guide For Idiots

Written by Boston Biker on Oct 18



Pedestrians, lean in, its time we had a chat.  I have said many times that no one user group is any worse at using (or abusing) the rules of the road, there is one difference.  There seems to be a lack of education/enforcement when it comes to dealing with pedestrian scofflaws.   Both motorists and cyclists have been the recipient of a whole raft of education and enforcement measures lately (and they even seem to be having positive effects), but pedestrians have been left out.

Not anymore!

Now I don’t have anything in particular against J-walking, but there is a right way to do it, and a wrong way.  This is called the idiots guide, because if you are doing it the wrong way, you’re an idiot.

Before I get to the steps, let me just take a moment to try and help you re-frame the way you think about traffic.  Right now you probably think about traffic as something “IN YOUR WAY!!”  I think this is why people are so angry all the time.

Try to imagine instead.  The streets are a public utility designed to move people.  These people have many different ways of moving, some in cars, some on bikes, some in buses  some on foot, etc.   These people move best when they work together, following some simple rules designed to keep them all moving.  Traffic isn’t something in your way, traffic is a dance.  An intricate and lovely series of steps.

When performed well, no one has their toes stepped on.  If you do the wrong dance steps, you fuck it up for everyone else.  With the added bonus that people can get seriously hurt.  So the next time you start doing the electric slide, while everyone else is doing a waltz think for a moment, you could be about to seriously injure or kill someone else because you can’t remember what tune is playing.

How to J-Walk, a guide for you idiots:

Step 1.

DON’T!  Seriously how fucking hard is it to wait another 20 seconds for the little walk man to come on, or to walk 5 more feet to the crosswalk, or to wait on the FUCKING SIDEWALK instead of waiting in the damn street?  Huh? I see people all the time who are clearly big wig top of the company CEO types who can’t figure out how to cross the damn road!

Step 2.

Assuming you must j-walk, follow these simple rules to get across the street without killing yourself or others.

Look both ways:

Its been said a million times, but it really is the foundation of safe j-walking, LOOK BOTH WAYS!  Not once, not twice, but the ENTIRE FUCKING TIME you are crossing the street.  You are cutting in, adding another dance partner to the mix, its your job to watch out for stuff  You can’t just assume that what you saw when you started crossing the street will be like that when you get half way across.  This is a dynamic system, and if you want to subvert it by crossing in the middle of the road, you need to be on your A game and keep your head up and your eyes open looking around you the entire time.  Traffic will change, and you might have to adapt to new situations.

Get off your phone:

This city is too damn crowded for you to be looking at your text’s while walking out into multi-lane traffic.  Seriously don’t be the dumb ass who gets run over by a bus because you were reading a Facebook update about what someone had for breakfast.  Life is just too short for that sort of foolishness.

Take a moment to learn the traffic patterns:

Sure, those cars look like they are stopped, but did you notice that the light just turned green.  The cars and cyclists certainly did.  Maybe now is not the best time to walk into the damn road?  Traffic is not a stationary solid state object, it is a dynamic ever changing thing.  If you can’t predict what traffic is going to do in the next 30-60 seconds, you are basically gambling with your life.  Is it worth it?  Whats worse, is you might be gambling with someone else’s life as well.  Could be mine, I might dodge you and end up under the wheels of a bus, or I might crash into you and we could both die.  Learn how traffic works, learn to predict it well, you have decided to J-walk, this skill might literally save your life.

Look Left:

Just because traffic is moving one way doesn’t mean that someone might be going the wrong way down the street.  Don’t just assume that because all the traffic is moving right that you don’t have to look left.  This is your body we are talking about, take a moment to do some common sense checks before thrusting it boldly into a bunch of moving vehicles.  Also pro-tip, this will also help younoyice people turning onto your street, pulling out of drive ways, and other totally legal shit that you didn’t even think about before you stepped into the damn road.

Don’t Follow The Herd:

If billy jumped of a bridge would you?  If billy got himself two broken ribs and a punctured lung because he walked out in front of a cyclists going full tilt down the street (even though the cyclist had a green light and you were not supposed to cross then)?  Just because someone else is walking doesn’t mean you should.  Make sure you evaluate the situation your damn self before j-walking.  Do you trust those other morons with your life?

Don’t do any of the following:

  • Don’t cross from between parked cars.  Duh moron no one will see you until they run into you.
  • Don’t thread through stopped traffic.  Stupid that traffic is only stopped for a moment, what are you going to do when it starts again and you are in the middle of the road with no where to go?
  • Don’t walk out in front of cyclists.  They move just as fast as the traffic, and having a wheel embedded into your sternum will hurt just as much if not more than bouncing off a plastic quarter panel.  Plus you are going to hurt the cyclists.  Not cool bro.
  • Don’t wait to cross IN the street.  As a cyclists I sometimes am forced to use the entire road to get away from crazy drivers.  If you are in the road waiting to cross, you have cut off one of my escape routes, a route that might save my life.  Don’t do this.
  • Don’t Run/Jog in the road.  Especially during rush hour.  I don’t ride on your sidewalk, you don’t jog (with your headphones on no less), in the street.  Your cardiac fitness is not worth it.  Also you make me have to move way over to avoid you, see above. Dumb.
  • Don’t use your children as armor.  Nothing is more scary than seeing someone blindly walk into the street with kids.  You panic every other road user, causing a righteous cluster-fuck.  Your little spawn might make it through alive, but what about everyone else?  Think with your brain stupid, you’re supposed to be teaching them good behaviors.

Following these simple steps should allow you to cross that street at high speed, save yourself 20 steps to the corner, get to that T-stop faster than anyone else, all without causing a huge fucking disaster for every other road user. Good luck, and HEADS UP!


Did I miss anything, leave tips for pedestrian J-walkers in the comments below.

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Posted in education | 6 Comments »

6 Responses to “How To J-Walk, A Guide For Idiots”

  1. By crankycoffey on Oct 18, 2013 | Reply

    something tells me you’re going to lose your audience after the first fuck, so to speak.

  2. By Rachel on Oct 18, 2013 | Reply

    I second crankycoffey. Seriously, I’d like to link to this article, but the F-bomb renders it “not work-safe.”
    Otherwise, great article – how ’bout posting a clean version so the rest of us can link to it?

  3. By Jeff C on Oct 21, 2013 | Reply

    I’d like to emphasize “Don’t trust your ears only.” I know that many people have very squeaky chains on their bikes but I don’t. At my best me and my bike only sound like tires on a road – a very quiet sound, and during these times pedestrians like to assume I’m not there ’cause they can’t hear me. It’s not cool.

  4. By JonT on Oct 21, 2013 | Reply

    I agree with the other comments about the f-bomb.

    Your dance metaphor isn’t bad, but as someone with two left feet, I tend to think of traffic in terms of the simple turn-taking we all learned in kindergarten. If you have a green light (or for pedestrians, a walk signal) it’s your turn. If you have a red light, or a steady don’t walk sign, it’s not your turn. A blinking don’t walk sign means your turn is almost over.

    If it’s not your turn and you’ve checked carefully that there’s no one else anywhere nearby whose turn it is, there’s nothing particularly immoral about going through the intersection as long as you’re very careful about it. On the other hand, if you get in the way of someone whose turn it is, even if nobody even comes close to getting hurt, you’re a jerk who has robbed someone else of time, a commodity you’ll never be able to replace. If you cause someone to miss a green light they would have otherwise made, you’ve robbed them of a significant amount of time.

    One problem with most Boston traffic signals is that there are large blocks of time when it SHOULD be a pedestrian’s turn, but isn’t. The walk signs often turn to a solid don’t walk a long time before opposing traffic gets a green light (note that this doesn’t seem to be a problem in Cambridge, at least not in the Kendall-Central-Western Ave corridor I sometimes ride through). Bostonians tend to rebel against this arbitrary authority and cross if it seems safe. I think the city could do a lot to help pedestrians simply by making the walk/don’t walk signs be an accurate reflection of when it’s safe to cross, the same as just about every other city does.

  5. By zimbob on Oct 26, 2013 | Reply

    Advice is really unlikely to be considered when delivered via f-bomb and insult – are you really trying to improve pedestrian behavior or just venting spleen? Sounds like the kind of rant that car drivers write about inconsiderate bikers.

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