Spend enough time in any place populous enough to sustain crosswalks and you’re likely to witness a confrontation between a pedestrian and a driver. Recently I witnessed—via the auditory sense, mostly—such an incident here in New London.
“You [expletive]!” I heard someone scream. “You [EXPLETIVE]! You saw me and you didn’t stop! Next time, STOP!”
I turned to see that a woman standing in the middle of the street, delivering the profane lesson to a car that had apparently tried to keep going as she crossed. She may also have been trying to let everyone in the immediate area know that this driver was an [expletive], considering I was a block away and could hear every word clearly.
As someone who drives through New London frequently but often heads downtown or elsewhere on foot, I can kind of sympathize with both sides. When I’m in my car, I’ll always be annoyed if I’m waiting at a light and see no one take advantage of the “walk” signal because the person who requested it already crossed against the light, leaving everyone else to idle. Of course, it’s not as bad as trying to make a right turn at a place like State and Eugene O’Neill and getting stymied by pedestrians crossing the latter street. And though I don’t begrudge people for traversing at places other than the crosswalks, it always irks me when they saunter across at a sluggish pace, or seem to be crossing at a nearly perpendicular angle, or do either of those at night while wearing clothing that renders them practically invisible.
That said, it’s not like the drivers don’t sometimes have a bit of verbal abuse from pedestrians coming. As long as there’s not a signal specifically for pedestrians, the people on the sidewalk have the right of way at a crosswalk. And though I know there are exceptions, most drivers have apparently forgotten this particular lesson from driver’s ed. Quite often a car will roar off in annoyance after I cross, as if in a desperate effort to make up the five seconds I cost the driver in getting across the street.
In my experience, there are two crosswalks in New London that are a little daunting to take on. One is at the intersection of Bank Street and Golden Street. Two lines of vehicles make their way up to a stop sign, driver’s take a cursory glance to make sure no one’s around, and traffic rolls right on through. Add a pedestrian into the mix and drivers often seems to think that they can keep on going unless the person is bold enough to actually walk into the street to call their bluff.
The verbose pedestrian I encountered was at the crosswalk across Eugene O’Neill Drive at the intersection of Masonic Street. The traffic here is funneled off the interstate and a little faster as a result, and just as adverse to full stops as the Bank Street flow. And no, you can’t blame the damn kids and their baggy pants for every irresponsible driver. My closest call at this crosswalk came when a driver came to a full stop, but more out of form than anything. As I started to cross, he kept staring straight ahead and took off just as I was about to cross in front of him, nearly flattening my foot. The guy looked like he was in his 60s.
People are people, so there will always be irresponsible pedestrians and drivers alike. But please, drivers, make sure no one’s crossing in front of you and yield to pedestrians like you’re supposed to. And walkers, there’s a reason some crossings have a button and a walk sign.
Also, maybe don’t shout obscenities at drivers at the top of your lungs. Maybe that guy really was an [expletive], but you can tell him that at a more reasonable volume.