You Wait On The Side Walk And Wait For The Little Man Signal

Written by Boston Biker on Aug 04

I never thought I would see the day when car drivers are now no longer the main source of frustration in my daily commute…Pedestrians we need to talk.

I feel like there has been a lot of effort to get cyclists and motorists to act less like assholes, and to my untrained eye it seems like it is working.  I see far less rule breaking from these two road using classes than I did 5 years ago.  The change has been slow, and we certainly have a LONG way to go, but its working.

There is one user group however that hasn’t kept up with the “new normal” of road use here in Boston, yes I am talking about you pedestrians.  If anything the more orderly traffic patterns, and more well behaved motorists and cyclists seem to have emboldened you to act even worse.

In the same way that cops will pick an intersection and hand out bike tickets, and motorist tickets its time for some targeted enforcement of pedestrians.  Even written warnings will do.  The time it takes the cop to write out the warning is enough of a punishment to get most peoples attention.


Until that starts to happen, here are some tips for pedestrians, please stop doing the following.

These people are in traffic, you can see the cars going by in the background, they just kept inching out.  The light didn't change for another 2-5 minutes.

These people are in traffic, you can see the cars going by in the background, they just kept inching out. The light didn’t change for another 5 minutes.

Wait on the sidewalk for the light to change, do not stand in the street:

Cyclists need every inch of road we can wrestle from cars and if you are standing in the road it forces us into conflicts with much bigger more dangerous things.  If its a choice between hitting you and getting hit by a car the choice is clear.


Don’t walk from between parked cars:

I feel like this is street crossing 101, but for fucks sake do you want to be hit by something?  What is worse is that you are putting other people in danger with your foolishness.  You will eventually be hit by something doing this, its just a matter of time.  Please don’t be a jerk, don’t hurt yourself or others, walk the extra ten feet to the cross walk and cross with everyone else.


Just because the car traffic is stationary that doesn’t mean the cyclist traffic is: 

Cyclists move down the bike lane, or down the right hand side of the road, just because the cars are stopped doesn’t mean the cyclists are.  Playing frogger through a bunch of car traffic that isn’t moving is the same thing as jumping out from behind a parked car.  You will be hit, it will hurt, you will break something.   Oh by the way, just because the cars are not moving now doesn’t mean they wont start moving in a second.


If you must J walk, look both ways first!

Knowledge is knowing the street is one way, wisdom is looking both ways anyway.  You might think nothing is coming, you might not hear anything, but you can’t be sure unless you look both ways.  Cyclists don’t make much noise, but it will still hurt if they hit you.

You have to wait your turn:

If you want motorists and cyclists to stop at red lights, and stop signs you can’t just go when the red hand is up.  Whats worse is when you look both ways,  see a bunch of traffic coming,  and walk out anyway.  Its exactly the kind of behavior that would frustrate you if you were in a car or riding a bike, but you seem to have no problem doing it when you are walking around.  You are needlessly putting yourself and others in danger, and being a jerk at the same time.

I don’t think these are unreasonable demands.  Nor are they burdensome to the pedestrians that want to use the street.  I understand signal timing can be wrong, or that walk times are too short, but none of that has anything to do with what I have mentioned above.

In short, stop being such an asshole and start being more invested in your own safety and the safety of those around you.

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Posted in Bike Business | 12 Comments »

12 Responses to “You Wait On The Side Walk And Wait For The Little Man Signal”

  1. By Charlie on Aug 4, 2014 | Reply

    Yes x1000

    (And I know as a pedestrian yes it can be excruciating frustratingly to cross many of our streets with walk signals that require you to press a button at some times and not others, that count down too early, or that make you wait 3 minutes for a trickle of car traffic to go by. But that’s not excuse to completely abandon all common sense.)

  2. By Danny on Aug 4, 2014 | Reply

    I totally disagree. As a cyclist I feel like cars should have a duty to watch out for me, as a more vulnerable road user, and I feel the same way about pedestrians.

    “If its a choice between hitting you and getting hit by a car the choice is clear.”

    That’s the same logic drivers use when when to explain why they get too close to cyclists, or even hit them: “it was either that or swerve into oncoming traffic!!” Well, no; another option would have been to slow down for a second. An option which of course is also available to you on your bike. Where are you going in such a terrible hurry?

    I could go on, but I think you get the idea. If as cyclists we can’t be careful–and kind–around other road users more vulnerable than us–even if they are clueless at times–how can we expect any better treatment from drivers?!

    (Which is not to say I don’t enjoy your writing! I guess I only comment when I disagree.)

  3. By PaulCJr on Aug 4, 2014 | Reply

    I agree with Danny, I don’t agree with this post. The ped is the most vulnerable user and demands our respect. Also, a great deal of the time I’m a pedestrian too and do many of these things because they make sense, like walking out between cars because it probably is the most convient place to cross the road.

  4. By bibliotequetress on Aug 5, 2014 | Reply

    Tell you what: as a pedestrian, I’ll keep other pedestrians from stepping off the curb when waiting, if you guarantee that no cyclist will ever go the wrong way down my one way street again, or will ever again ride on a sidewalk.

    Or we could all learn to watch out for each other, but where’s the self-righteous fun in that?

    Good luck!

  5. By Boston Biker on Aug 5, 2014 | Reply

    paul and danny: I honestly can’t tell if you are serious? Do you really think its a matter of slowing down? If you jump out from behind parked cars, or weave through stopped traffic no one can see you, everyone is going to slow down if they can avoid a crash, but when you just appear its impossible because you have no time.

    I honestly can’t tell if you are trolling, or really think this is a good idea?

    Biblio: You don’t have to worry about anyone but yourself.

  6. By Danny on Aug 5, 2014 | Reply

    Trolling?! Good heavens. No, I’m not trolling.

    It’s like this. Yesterday I was hanging out with 14 kids between the ages of 4 and 9, and they were all riding bikes on our little street. It was a little chaotic. I told them that they needed to watch out, and that whoever hit someone else would have to take a break for a couple minutes. The older ones naturally complained: “but what if someone swerves in front of us? What if someone stops suddenly?!” No. Go as fast as want, but only so fast that you’ll be able to deal with any situation that arises around you.

    Your photo is Park Street… if you’re riding through that intersection, what percentage of your total ride does it involve? You can see ahead of times spots where people are likely to cross, and slow down to a speed where no one will be able to surprise you and cause a collision. (As an aside, 5 minutes?! No wonder they were inching out.) If you hit someone who jumps out from between parked cars you’re in the door zone, and should be cautious anyways; if you hit someone weaving through stopped traffic doesn’t it mean you’re weaving through stopped traffic yourself?

    Look, we don’t really disagree that much. I wish everyone were more careful, generally. But that includes myself! So in any collision or near-collision I’m going to check myself for something I could have done better. And that goes double (quadruple!) for a collision with a more-vulnerable road user. We’ve all had countless interactions with drivers who got super mad at us after they almost hit us, which seems ridiculous–but it seems to me like the same impulse you’re feeling here. To most drivers, cycling in the street is inherently dangerous; when they almost hit us their reaction is, to quote your OP, “for fucks sake do you want to be hit by something?” That’s a jerky thing to say as a driver, and it’s jerky as a cyclist talking to a pedestrian.

    So yeah, tell people to be careful, but also be careful yourself. And if you hit someone–or almost hit them–how bout just saying sorry? Maybe if we teach that to all the 9-year-olds it won’t be so hard for adults.

  7. By Charlie on Aug 5, 2014 | Reply

    I feel like you guys are disagreeing about different points. Boston Biker is saying to pedestrians to stop being rude by standing in the street or walking out in front of bicyclists who have the right of way. You guys are saying bicyclists should travel slow enough where pedestrians are likely to do this as to not be in danger of actually crashing into each other. You’re both right, but I agree with Boston Biker that pedestrians are just as rude and law-breaking as the bicyclists they often complain about, and if everyone is going to hold bicyclists to such a high law-abiding standard, then pedestrians should be held to the same standard.

  8. By Boston Biker on Aug 5, 2014 | Reply

    Danny: The scenario you lay out sounds ideal until you actually think about it. People who use the road system have a shared responsibility to all other road users, not just the ones who are more vulnerable than them.

    Its also not like if there is a bike/pedestrian collision one person will be unscathed and the other will be hurt. Both will be hurt, they are both basically vulnerable to each other.

    If my foolish behavior puts any other road user at risk (or even if it just puts myself at risk) I have an obligation not to do it.

    If all road traffic had to be going a speed at which they could instantly react to any situation (such as someone crossing between a parked vehicle) then all road traffic would go 0 mph, because that is the only speed at which all such situations could be avoided.

    It really doesn’t matter if this sort of behavior only happens for 10 feet or 1000 feet, or once every 10 miles, its the kind of behavior that is inherently unpredictable, therefore YOU CAN’T PREDICT IT. The park street example just happened to be a place I could take a picture, this sort of thing happens randomly all over. Your tip about avoiding the door zone is a good one, it is also something that goes out of the window when bus passes you too closely and you are forced into the doorzone, or if there is a pot hole, or glass, or a million other reasons you might have to ride close to parked cars.

    Road users should not have to drive with the assumption that every single parked car has a person lurking behind it that is going to jump out right in front of them and therefor only travel at 1 mph. If this was the case our road system simply wouldn’t function.

    I am disappointed that you feel that the more vulnerable the road user the less responsibility they have for their own and others safety. That is not how the real world works, and if you believe that it does you are going to get hit by something. Knowing you are “right” is not the same as being safe. I too often see people walk into the street as if they are protected from on high, only to be super surprised when they are almost killed. What did they think was going to happen when they give on-coming traffic 0 time to avoid them?

    I can think of no ruder act than to cause an accident by my own stupidity. If I knowingly do something stupid, and it results in the injury of another person I certainly wouldn’t demand an apology I would prepare myself for a lawsuit.

    The examples I state above have nothing to do with poor infrastructure design, they are examples of stupid behavior (not ignorant, stupid), and if anyone participates in that behavior they are putting themselves and others in danger and should be punished for it, even if its a written warning.

    You can find examples in other cities where this sort of behavior is not rampant, in fact I have been to cities where it is almost non-existent, this is a Boston problem, and is fueled by the kind of ideas you seem to hold.

    Good luck out there, and look both ways before you jump out from between parked cars.

  9. By Danny on Aug 5, 2014 | Reply

    I wouldn’t demand an apology if I was hit, either by my own stupidity or not, but I would offer one if I hit someone, no matter how stupid they had been.

    Our area of disagreement is small. I think we agree on what should actually happen: everyone should be careful so everyone else can move without running into them. Just as you say.

    But I’m reacting to your tone, which strikes me as supremely unuseful. I’m opposed to calling people assholes (or, to be more charitable to your meaning, for telling them they’re acting like assholes: it comes to the same thing). Very few people react well, and change their behavior for the better, when they’ve just been called an asshole.

    The only sure way I have of making the world a better place is by being calm and kind. I don’t always manage it, but it’s a goal; and if everyone else did the same I think the world would be a nicer place.

    Good luck yourself, and keep having fun riding!

  10. By rw on Aug 7, 2014 | Reply

    Pedestrians, like everyone else, should not only have to follow the rules, but use common sense.

    Often, they do neither.

    Being aware of this, cyclists should bike more defensively, both for his/her own safety and for the pedestrians.

  11. By Andres on Aug 10, 2014 | Reply

    I dunno. If peds can safely stand in the street like that without being at risk from cars.. That tells me that there should be a curb bulb there. Obviously it’s wasted street space that can be taken back from cars. Build a curb bulb. Plant a tree in it. Make it more pleasant for everyone.

    Yelling at natural human behavior rarely succeeds. Engineering with human behavior in mind works much better.

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