By Morgan M. Hurley
Two weeks ago there was another pedestrian hit in Hillcrest. This one in a string of several over the last few years, two of which ended in death.
We talk a lot about bicycle safety and discuss issues about making bike lanes and paths safer for riders but rarely do we talk about the safety of pedestrians.
Every one of us is a pedestrian throughout our normal busy lives.
I am a pedestrian for a great part of each day, since I take public transportation. I’ve been doing so for about two years and I must admit, I fear for my life way more often than I should.
The drivers that put me in danger do so for a number of reasons. I’ve categorized them as either distracted, impatient, or just obnoxiously aggressive.
I’ve been living on the Ocean Beach side of Point Loma for over two years now and every day I walk to the No. 35 eastbound bus stop nearest my house at the corner of Adrian Street and West Point Loma Boulevard.
At least three times per month, as I walk in the crosswalk toward the bus stop with the WALK sign flashing, I have been nearly hit by a vehicle that is turning west onto West Point Loma Boulevard.
I’ve gotten quite animated on most of these occasions and sometimes I’ve jumped up and down or screamed at the driver who on some occasions was so close I could touch their hood. Some of the drivers have yelled back at me.
Last year, the city painted a “high visibility” crosswalk there, so apparently, I was not the only person experiencing this test of mortality. Unfortunately, despite the big thick white bars in the crosswalk, it has not made a bit of difference and in fact, matters seem to have gotten worse.
What I do know is that I try hard to make eye contact with them before I step off the curb, even though the car facing me is quite a distance away. The point is, the light is flashing and I am in a crosswalk.
I’ve also come close to being hit in the same crosswalk as cars that are traveling east on West Point Loma approach the right turn onto Adrian Street. As I walk past cars that are stopped for the east-bound light, these cars zip right up, literally into the crosswalk, prepared to do their California stop and nearly hit me, every time.
I am here to tell you, nine times out of 10, cars turning right do not stop before turning, regardless if the light they are facing is red. These drivers usually seem more embarrassed by the experience and avoid my gaze.
This same situation happened to me in Hillcrest two Fridays ago. I was crossing University Avenue at Fifth Avenue in the crosswalk with the WALK sign flashing and a car that was traveling north on University turned right, and right into my path. Luckily I was able to long jump to the curb, but it was quite a scare.
There are several other times at that same corner I’ve had cars whoosh past right in front of me or just behind as I finish crossing the street. Again, with the WALK sign still flashing.
I can’t tell you how often I am making my way across any street in San Diego and someone is waiting to turn. The second I get past a certain point they screech out around me, as if I am a burden to them and they want to make that point. I can usually even feel the breeze caused by their car. Still on other occasions, impatient drivers whizz right in front of me. Three seconds more and I’d have been safely across.
Can I blame the drivers being distracted by their phones? Maybe by the current political climate? Are they late to work or late for a date with someone? I don’t know. What I do know is that I deserve to continue living. To me, the old adage, “treat those how you’d like to be treated” is key.
Personally, as a driver, if that WALK sign is on and anyone is in the crosswalk, I wait until everyone finishes their trip across.
Common courtesy aside, what is the law?
California Vehicle Code 21950 — called the California Crosswalks Law — states the following, which is common sense. I lifted this from leginfo.legislature.ca.gov.
(a) The driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, except as otherwise provided in this chapter.
(b) This section does not relieve a pedestrian from the duty of using due care for his or her safety. No pedestrian may suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard. No pedestrian may unnecessarily stop or delay traffic while in a marked or unmarked crosswalk.
(c) The driver of a vehicle approaching a pedestrian within any marked or unmarked crosswalk shall exercise all due care and shall reduce the speed of the vehicle or take any other action relating to the operation of the vehicle as necessary to safeguard the safety of the pedestrian.
(d) Subdivision (b) does not relieve a driver of a vehicle from the duty of exercising due care for the safety of any pedestrian within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.
Here are a few requests. Pay attention. Take a couple extra seconds to make sure there is no one in that intersection when the flashing light is on before you turn. Let people cross the entire street before you take that huge hunk of murderous metal and fly past them. There is no excuse for treating pedestrians as if they are making your life miserable when they are merely walking across the street and minding their own business.
—Morgan M. Hurley is editor of Gay San Diego. Reach her at email@example.com.