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Is Jaywalking Safer?

The final letter in my May 4 column was from a driver worried about jaywalkers, and it proved to be a hot topic among drivers and pedestrians.

Included in the many responses was this defense of jaywalking, and I wanted to know what you thought.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:
Philip Lalka of Wheaton suggested in his letter that police should step up efforts to ticket pedestrians who fail to use crosswalks.

As someone who routinely jaywalks, I feel I have to respond. I think the public would be better served if police increased efforts to ticket the drivers who force me and others to cross streets illegally.

I have never come close to being hit by a vehicle while jaywalking. I have however, had several close calls while using properly designated cross walks. Drivers often run red lights, turn right on red without stopping, even at intersections where it clearly says "no turn on red."

Several drivers have even blared their horns at me while I am in the cross walk with the "walk" sign still on. I feel it is safer and others I have talked to feel the same way, to jaywalk rather than use the crosswalks.

Of course, one must be alert and use caution. I'll admit the practice has some risk to it but I am willing to assume that risk. I think the people who jaywalk are so used to doing it that even if we were ticketed, I don't think we would stop.
David Bancroft
Olney

I'm planning to do several more columns about pedestrian safety, because of its importance to readers. If you'd like to send in something for the column, you can reach me at drgridlock@washpost.com, but as always, feel free to comment here on the blog.

By Robert Thomson  |  May 13, 2008; 6:28 AM ET
Categories:  Safety  
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Comments

Jaywalking midblock can be safer, because you're only dealing with two directions of traffic rather than four, and at certain intersections no one is going to yield to you anyway.

Jaywalking at an intersection is dicier, but can certainly be done safely at many intersections if one is alert and reasonably speedy. It's this heedless jaywalking that's sprung up lately - this "I'm going to start walking right in front of your car, and you're going to slow or stop because you don't want to hit another human being" - that's a menace.

Posted by: Lindemann | May 13, 2008 8:51 AM | Report abuse

I think the key is that if you choose to cross illegally at midblock, you need to recognize that YOU are in the wrong. Don't stroll slowly across the street expecting drivers to stop for you. Move!!! New Yorkers may be the kings of jaywalking, but you don't see them expecting the cabbies to stop for them.

Posted by: Rich | May 13, 2008 9:00 AM | Report abuse

Jaywalk in front of me at your own risk. I'll stop for you in a crosswalk but won't even tap my brakes if you aren't.

Posted by: Woodley Park | May 13, 2008 11:57 AM | Report abuse

As someone who routinely jaywalks, I hope you die a slow painful death in the street.

Posted by: die dumbass | May 13, 2008 1:20 PM | Report abuse

I take metro most of the time, so I walk a lot. I think that many walkers need to learn how to cross the street whether in a cross walk or not. And, drivers need to realize that pedestrians in a cross walk have the right of way. If the little man is blinking, I walk and you wait. If you have a stop sign, ditto. But, when I am jaywalking I realize that the cars have the right of way. I do not expect a car to stop for me in the middle of the street, I won't walk in front of one if I am not sure I can safely make it to the other side. Too many people, both on foot and in cars, think that the world revolves around them and everyone else should just yield to their every move.

Posted by: Sweetie | May 13, 2008 2:32 PM | Report abuse

At an intersection even with the walk signal you have to worry about two additional problems. People making a right on green and people making a left on green.

Most of the right on green drivers can see you.

The left turns are a problem. The unfortunate bus pedesrtian incident on Pennsylvania Avenue is a perfect example.

As a driver who frequently makes left turns in DC I have no way of seeing pedestrians often until I am in the turn. At that point I have the risk of being tboned by oncoming traffic.

I also frequently walk in DC and I make sure to watch out for left and right turning cars. It amazes me that people will just march right out into the crosswalk without looking at major intersections.

When jaywalking away from an intersection all you have to worry about is looking both ways which I feel is much safer.

Posted by: More support for jaywalking | May 13, 2008 4:02 PM | Report abuse

Actually jaywalking at intersections has much of the same effect. You are only worried about looking both ways and not some left turning car coming out of nowhere.

Posted by: one other thing | May 13, 2008 4:08 PM | Report abuse

I agree that jaywalking can be safer, but I only jaywalk after yielding to any traffic that has the right of way.

More support for jaywalking -

I don't understand why when turning left you often have no way to see pedestrians until you're in the turn. You shouldn't start a turn until it's clear to complete a turn, and that means looking for pedestrians crossing the street and looking down the street you're turning onto as well as looking for oncoming traffic.

One other thing -

When jaywalking at an intersection, you may also have to worry about cars turning right on red, whether legally or not, or turning left on a green arrow (if the green arrow is the reason for a don't walk sign).

Posted by: Laga | May 13, 2008 5:25 PM | Report abuse

People are so stupid and self absorbed, they deserve to die.

Posted by: Kim | May 13, 2008 5:31 PM | Report abuse

One should definitely look for anything you have to yield to before making a left turn. That means look for pedestrians, look for traffic, look for oncoming traffic, and look for oncoming pedestrians as well. A crosswalk is no different than a yield sign. Meaning, when you come up on one, you should slow down and be prepared to stop if you see a pedestrian, just like you should be prepared to stop as you approach a yield sign. Also, remember that un-marked crosswalks exist too...so just because one of the four roads in the intersection doesnt have a crosswalk painted in it doesn't mean pedestrians aren't entitled to the same benefits of being in a crosswalk.

Also, another thing that happens frequently...cars get trapped in the intersection after the light turns red and then the pedestrians start crossing, and while the peds are crossing traffic clears for the car trapped in the intersection. Drivers, please wait for the peds to continue crossing and don't try to bully your way through the pack. And next time pay attention and don't block the box!

I don't have a problem with jaywalking. But you have to jaywalk at your own risk since drivers don't have to stop for you. That means if you start crossing and see a car coming, you might have to either run or step back.

Posted by: me | May 13, 2008 7:43 PM | Report abuse

I hate it when jaywalkers bleed on my car and then I need to get it washed. One time I had to get my alignment fixed after I ran over a real fatty.

Posted by: Wipe them out all of them | May 13, 2008 10:41 PM | Report abuse

I was thinking some more about this last night and this morning. One of the real problems with jaywalking in DC is the way people think it's OK to ignore the "Walk/Don't Walk" signs without considering that many downtown intersections are "No Turn on Red." At a number of places in DC, especially those around Metrorail stops, it's become almost impossible for any driver to make a legal right turn. Pedestrians continue to saunter out when there's only one second before the light turns, and they think drivers should stop for them. They get extremely taken aback if you force your way through (and if you have your window open and point out the "Don't Walk" sign, you invariably get flipped off at a minimum). There has to be some way to correct this situation--people have to be allowed to make a right turn. The problem compounds itself because of the lack of left-turn lanes (meaning nobody can go straight because of backed-up right- and left-turning traffic). Perhaps banning left turns at most intersections might help.....but only if there were some way to ensure that people could make right turns to go around the block.

This discussion reminds me in many ways of the hypocrisy of some of the hard-core bicycle riders. These people are very quick to trumpet that the law gives a bicycle the same rights as a motor vehicle, and they are quick to demand that people respect those rights. Yet they will turn around in an instant and ignore the concomitant responsibility to obey all the same rules that apply to motor vehicles. If you want people to respect you, then you need to return the favor, and that applies to pedestrians too.

Posted by: Rich | May 14, 2008 9:15 AM | Report abuse

Note under DC law that crossing mid-block is only illegal when there are traffic signals at both ends of the block.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 14, 2008 9:37 AM | Report abuse

Rich wrote: "They get extremely taken aback if you force your way through."

If you look at the DC code, when turning you are required to yield to all traffic in the intersection. Pedestrians are considered traffic. Whether they got there legally is immaterial -- if they are there before you, you have to yield to them. Two wrongs don't make a right.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 14, 2008 9:40 AM | Report abuse

Um, no, the pedestrian with the "Don't Walk" sign is required to yield to YOU. That's the whole point of the sign.

Posted by: Rich | May 14, 2008 10:22 AM | Report abuse

I would like to point out that by the time the "Don't Walk" sign is on, the parallel street is getting its yellow, and immediately thereafter, its red signal. The only place where this doesn't happen is along H and I Streets NW, where the pedestrian phase is shortened to allow cars to turn (there is about 5 to 10 seconds of time when the Don't Walk sign is on where parallel street traffic retains its green). When I explained that signal timing pattern to some folks in my office, many were taken aback by it saying they have never ever heard of that anywhere else in our area.

Let me also say that the purpose of flashing don't walk is **NOT** to facilitate turning traffic. It is an old relic of pre-countdown ped. signals which the Federal Highway Administration is actively trying to eliminate, saying that if countdown timers are provided, a pedestrian can begin to cross on 3 seconds remaining if they can make it to the opposite side before the expiration of the timer. In otherwords, FHWA is acknowledging that it is OK to be in the crosswalk up until the steady don't walk comes on, and they are attempting to change the legal meaning of the traffic control device to reflect that. Nowadays until this change goes through, while it is technically illegal for a pedestrian to enter on flashing don't walk, it is really not up to the driver to try to determine which pedestrians in the croswalk have legally entered and which ones have not...if there is a pedestrian and the don't walk is flashing or the walking man is showing, that ped has the right of way and the car needs to wait.

Cars making a turn are covered by the same clause in the law that left-turning vehicles against oncoming traffic have....if traffic is not clear, you may pull into the intersection to wait for it to clear. If it does not clear until after the light turns red, then you are allowed to complete your turn so long as you had pulled into the intersection before the onset of the red phase. Same applies to cars turning right against pedestrian traffic.

Posted by: Woodley Park | May 14, 2008 11:35 AM | Report abuse

I get that the crosswalk is like a yield

Driving is extremely different in DC vs the burbs however. I am not used to checking out the crosswalk before making a left turn. With a right turn on green I am not expecting a person. Like I said before I am amazed how aggressive pedestrians are downtown.

I don't know how this would work but I think there needs to be some more efforts to keep traffic moving

As mentioned above often times you can only get one car making a right or left turn per traffic cycle

Some intersections occassionally have all walk signals. Perhaps certain intersections need an all stop hand signal to let several cars the opporutniy to turn right or left without interruptions.

Posted by: More support for jaywalking again | May 14, 2008 1:42 PM | Report abuse

If you don't like traffic, don't drive (or at least stop whining when new roads or lanes are proposed).

Posted by: Anonymous | May 14, 2008 2:25 PM | Report abuse

"Driving is extremely different in DC vs the burbs however. I am not used to checking out the crosswalk before making a left turn. With a right turn on green I am not expecting a person. Like I said before I am amazed how aggressive pedestrians are downtown."

When you're in the city, you have to EXPECT pedestrians when you're turning on green. That's when they get the "Walk" signal and it's when they're supposed to walk. I don't mean this to come across as an insult, but if you don't know to expect pedestrians to get the "Walk" at the same time as traffic going parallel to the crosswalk gets the green, then I have to wonder where you learned to drive! (Note that a green arrow is an exception to this, of course, because the arrow indicates that you have priority over everyone else.)


"Some intersections occassionally have all walk signals. Perhaps certain intersections need an all stop hand signal to let several cars the opporutniy to turn right or left without interruptions."

The "all-walk" cycle is sometimes known as a "Barnes Dance" and in some cities, such as Denver, it's set up to permit diagonal crossing across an intersection as well (with signs posted to reflect that this is OK). Seems somewhat sensible, although I don't recall to what extent it reduced illegal pedestrian crossing because I haven't spent enough time in Denver to notice. The "all-don't-walk" (or "all-stop hand" as you suggest) cycle isn't likely to have any effect because the pedestrians will walk anyway. "Woodley Park" tacitly implies that the solution is to have the solid "Don't Walk" hand come on before the green cycle ends. Problem is, we already know that pedestrians in DC will think that they're entitled to walk.

I think the "DC Law Yield to Peds" signs are part of the problem. These signs serve a useful purpose at uncontrolled crosswalks--that is, at crosswalks where there is no traffic light, such as the one on 7th Street SW just below the VRE overpass. The signs are counterproductive, I think, when they're placed at an intersection controlled by a traffic light with "Walk" and "Don't Walk" signs (such as 13th & E NW near the National Theatre) because they wrongly suggest to some pedestrians that they're entitled to walk whenever they like and to expect drivers to stop for them. That's not how it's supposed to work, but I've seen people strolling across the street against the light and then, if a driver honks, they point at the little "DC Law Yield" sign.

Posted by: Rich | May 14, 2008 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Woodley Park wrote:
"Cars making a turn are covered by the same clause in the law that left-turning vehicles against oncoming traffic have....if traffic is not clear, you may pull into the intersection to wait for it to clear."

There is no such clause in the law, in fact the law says exactly the opposite. Here's what the DC Municipal Regulations say:
"2201.11 No driver shall enter an intersection or marked crosswalk, unless the movement can be made such that the vehicle can completely clear the intersection without obstructing the passage of other vehicles or pedestrians, notwithstanding any official traffic control device indication to proceed. A vehicle shall not enter an intersection to turn right or left unless there is sufficient space on the roadway being entered to accommodate the vehicle."

Posted by: Anonymous | May 14, 2008 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Rich wrote: "Um, no, the pedestrian with the "Don't Walk" sign is required to yield to YOU. That's the whole point of the sign."

Um, no. Read the post above. The part, "notwithstanding any official traffic control device indication to proceed" means you have yield to anyone already in the intersection or crosswalk, even if the signal is in your favor. Notice that the law makes no distinction about how the person got into the intersection.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 14, 2008 2:50 PM | Report abuse

Rich no offense taken

I think we are back at square one again

There are times especially during rush hour and in tourist season when it is nearly impossible to make a right either on green (peds crossing) or red (illegal)

There are also many times where it is nearly impossible to make a left

How is this problem solved?

I think jaywalking is a solution to this. Jaywalking reduces the numbers of peds waiting to cross an intersection so you have more of a change of making a right or left turn on green.

Posted by: jaywalking poster | May 14, 2008 3:07 PM | Report abuse

The best thing the city could do would be to significantly shorten the light cycles. A major cause of jaywalking is the large time one must wait to legally cross; in a number of places 60-90 secs even where traffic is disbursed.

A good example was when I visited Vancouver, I noticed that all the lights changed quite frequently, usually 20-30 seconds. Also most the roads were one way and only 3 lanes across.

The light cycles could still be proportional based on traffic conditions, but would take care of the impatience a number of walkers have waiting a minute or more at every intersection or a minute plus to make a diagonal crossing.

Posted by: Z | May 14, 2008 3:24 PM | Report abuse

"...you have yield to anyone already in the intersection or crosswalk, even if the signal is in your favor..."

Right, but what I said is that you can be already turning and a pedestrian THEN steps out and wants you to stop. That pedestrian is not "already in the intersection or crosswalk" and the regulation does not appear to require that the driver yield to such a cretin.

Posted by: Rich | May 14, 2008 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Instead of complaining, I'll say what I think works and doesn't from the traffic engineer's perspective. And yes, I am one.

1) I would like to see jaywalking made legal, but regulated of course. There are many cases when it seems unreasonable to walk out of the way to an intersection if your destination is right across the street. Rule number 1, cars have the right of way. Rule number 2, the crossing must be made in such a manner that cars do not have to adjust their speed to accomodate the pedestrian. Rule number 3, pedestrians have to stop and pause next to the nearest lane of moving traffic and look before crossing. This is to prevent people from darting out between parked cars.

2) Signal timing. Think of signal timing as a pie...if you want to create a new signal phase (say an all-way pedestrian phase), you have to create a new piece of pie by removing from other pieces. This is why engineers are reluctant to implement all-ped phases. But some changes can be made. At intersection with low-volume of turning cars, you begin the pedestrian phase, and do not give cars a green light for 2 or 3 seconds. This gives peds enough time to "claim" the crosswalk before cars bully their way in. Then end the ped phase about 5 or 6 seconds before the end of the green phase to allow cars to turn after peds have cleared. At intersections with large volumes of turning cars and/or pedestrians, use red/green arrows for the turning movements.

3) More pedestrian signals. Like the flashing in-pavement lights at Brentwood Parkway NE, or the signal that flashes yellow on Connecticut/red on Morrison NW until activated by a ped., then all-red with no turn on red and a ped phase.

4) Engineering, Education, and Enforcement....for vehicle drivers and pedestrians alike. I argue that vehicle drivers should be held to a higher standard...afterall, they are the ones licensed and they are the ones who can easily kill a pedestrian. But the arrogant pedestrians who begin to cross with 1 second left on the timer need to be ticketed as well.

5) Ticket anyone for roadrage who exhibits hostility towards stopping for pedestrians. I'm talking about the drivers behind me who honk and display the one-fingered salute because I dared to stop for a pedestrian at the Connecticut/Cathedral entrance to Rock Creek Parkway. Sorry you had to give your brakes a good workout, but maybe next time don't tailgate me going down that hill...

I actually saw a pedestrian sting operation in effect at Virginia Ave. NW just past 23rd St. NW. A cop, clearly visible in a green vest would cross halfway, then walk back to the curb. A chase car was ready to nail anyone who didn't yield. Watch out!

Posted by: Woodley Park | May 14, 2008 3:38 PM | Report abuse

I just re-read the anonymous poster's submission that quotes the regulation. I think he's reading it incorrectly. I paste it again for reference:

"No driver shall enter an intersection or marked crosswalk, unless the movement can be made such that the vehicle can completely clear the intersection without obstructing the passage of other vehicles or pedestrians, notwithstanding any official traffic control device indication to proceed."

What this is referring to is not "blocking the box." I'm sure everyone reading this has been to New York (or London) and seen "box junctions" (as the Brits call them) where there is a literal "box" painted on the road with cross-hatching. If you pull into the "box" without ensuring you can get across, and you then stop in the middle of it, you get a ticket, regardless of the fact that the light was green when you pulled out.

The idea is to ensure that when the traffic on the other street gets a green light, they can go. If you're blocking the traffic, it causes "gridlock" as that term is literally meant--i.e., the "street grid" would "lock up" if all the intersections were blocked by people who blocked the box.

The regulation says NOTHING AT ALL about having to yield to pedestrians who ignore the "Don't Walk" sign. The point relating to obstructing pedestrian traffic is that it's illegal to stop your car such that it blocks the crosswalk. Put differently, suppose the light at the NEXT block ahead of you is red. Traffic backs up a full block. If you get a green light and you drive across and stop such that you're blocking the crosswalk, and then the light changes, you're violating the law because you're obstructing pedestrians from crossing, notwithstanding that you had a green light when you pulled across. If, instead, you make a right turn on green into a clear road, and a pedestrian shoves out against the light, it's not your obligation to yield to the pedestrian. ("Woodley Park" says that the meaning of the "Don't Walk" signal may change, in which case this would change, but at the present time that's what it means.)

Posted by: Rich | May 14, 2008 3:47 PM | Report abuse

"What this is referring to is not 'blocking the box.'"

The word "not" should be in quotation marks. My point was that the regulation is a "Don't Block the Box" regulation.

Posted by: Rich | May 14, 2008 3:48 PM | Report abuse

"Woodley Park" and I cross-posted. I'm not a traffic engineer. A roadgeek, maybe.

"Then end the ped phase about 5 or 6 seconds before the end of the green phase to allow cars to turn after peds have cleared. At intersections with large volumes of turning cars and/or pedestrians, use red/green arrows for the turning movements."

I suppose this is a "Devil's Advocate" argument, but I'm not sure how much this will accomplish unless there is some form of strict enforcement. We already know the pedestrians will continue to walk. At 14th & G NW, the pedestrians on the east side of 14th (where the restaurant Ceiba is located) get a "Don't Walk" cycle about 10 seconds before the other side. That's because southbound 14th traffic gets a green arrow onto G. But the pedestrians often walk anyway, notwithstanding left-turning traffic, because they see a green light. While the idea of a protected turning cycle is a good one, it has to be combined with something else.


"More pedestrian signals. Like the flashing in-pavement lights at Brentwood Parkway NE, or the signal that flashes yellow on Connecticut/red on Morrison NW until activated by a ped., then all-red with no turn on red and a ped phase."

The flashing in-pavement lights are great. Haven't seen them in the District, but there's a crosswalk on Stevenson Avenue in Alexandria that has them. They're especially useful at night, and in particular in places where you have pedestrians who wear dark clothing. I know when I see those flashing lights my foot comes right off the gas pedal, at least until I determine that the pedestrian has already finished crossing.

As I think I said in another thread on this blog, those types of lights would be very valuable on Virginia Avenue at either end of the 23d Street underpass. Those crosswalks are hard to see until you're on top of them.

I'll add two suggestions to your list for possible improvements:

(6) Provide more mid-block crosswalks, but assist the pedestrians in using them by creating curb bump-outs (I'm not sure what the engineering term for these is). This is where the pavement narrows and the sidewalk is extended out to either end of the crosswalk. In most of DC what this would entail is taking away one parallel parking spot on either side of the block so as to extend the curbs out to the thru lane, and then putting a crosswalk between the two bump-outs. The advantage is two-fold: (a) shorter walk for the pedestrian to cross and (b) the pedestrian waiting to cross, or starting to cross, is a lot more visible than he would be if he were coming from between two parked cars. The bumped-out curbs may also cause drivers to slow a bit if they make the street seem narrower. I've seen this design in various places both in the USA and abroad and I liked it.

(7) Re-design crosswalks on particularly wide streets so as to discourage people from running across to "beat the light." I'm thinking of 7th & Pennsylvania NW as a prime example, although anywhere along Pennsylvania between the White House and the Capitol would probably be a fair example. I recall that in London at the intersection outside the Houses of Parliament there is a pedestrian island on Parliament Street that has fences on all sides. The crosswalk on the side closer to the Thames goes across to this island, where you walk through a gap in the fence. The next gap, to cross the other side of the street, is offset down at the other end of the island. Pedestrians have to walk through the fenced area to cross and it makes it considerably harder to run across against the light. The other benefit is that when someone gets caught halfway across, the island and the fencing provide some protection from passing traffic (compare to Pennsylvania Avenue where you're exposed on the median). You can zoom in on London using Google Maps or Google Earth to see the spot I mean.

Posted by: Rich | May 14, 2008 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Good ideas, Rich.

Few quickie responses:

Bump-outs or bulb-outs are the terms we use.

Ending a pedestrian phase early is much better than starting it late. The problem at 14th and G is likely a result of pedestrians who "know" the intersection. But ones that don't "know" the phasing will stop and think a yellow light is forthcoming. If you start the ped phase late, a lot of peds assume the green will include a ped phase, and some are halfway out into the intersection before they realize they still have "Don't Walk". NYC engineers had this wrong for years at 3rd Ave. and E. 59th St. before someone figured out they should swap the phases.

My interpretation of don't block the box has always been that if the street you are turning onto is completely backed up, then don't pull into the intersection. But if the street you are turning onto is clear and you just have to wait for oncoming traffic to clear, then you should pull into the intersection. The difference is that when the light changes and you are in the middle of the intersection, in the former case you have no option other than to wait and block the intersection. In the latter case, you can turn as soon as the light changes (to stop oncoming traffic), thus not "blocking" anyone for more than a split second. Problem: you pull into the intersection to make a left, and wait because there is oncoming traffic. A lot of that oncoming traffic turns right and "fills up" the street you are turning onto. Loophole: I've done this trick before...I've pulled into the intersection in a combo left/through lane intending to turn left onto a "full" cross street. If the street clears before the light changes, I can make my turn with ease. If the street does not clear, I turn my blinker off and go straight through to the next place where I can turn left. No one says you can't change your mind if that is what you have to do to get out of the box (unless, of course, it is illegal, such as if you were in a left-turn only lane).

Posted by: Woodley Park | May 14, 2008 4:29 PM | Report abuse

I found a picture on Wikipedia of a midblock crosswalk of the sort I was describing:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Curb_extensions_at_midblock_crosswalk.jpg

Posted by: Rich | May 14, 2008 4:33 PM | Report abuse

"Ending a pedestrian phase early is much better than starting it late. The problem at 14th and G is likely a result of pedestrians who 'know' the intersection.... If you start the ped phase late, a lot of peds assume the green will include a ped phase...."

This is a very good point. I definitely see the sense here. I've seen near-misses on Route 236 in Fairfax when some drivers do the "pull-out" maneuver you describe with the incorrect assumption that both directions get the red at the same time, so it's very reasonable to assume that people will expect the pedestrian lights to work the way they usually do.

Not directly related to pedestrians....I'd like to see American vehicular traffic signals adopt the four-cycle setup used in Europe where there's a combination red-yellow sequence to notify drivers that the light is about to go green. I know it will never happen and would be too expensive due to rewiring all those lights everywhere, and I know Boston still has some lights that use red-yellow to denote the Barnes Dance cycle, but traffic seems to move off the line a lot more promptly in Europe where drivers know the light is turning. (I try to watch the other road's light to know when I'm getting a green. I'd wager I'm the exception in that regard.)

Posted by: Rich | May 14, 2008 4:48 PM | Report abuse

The problem with ending the pedestrian phase early is that on a left turn the left turn arrow happens after the regular cycle. This is the opposite of normal, where the first thing to happen in the cycle is the left arrow. If vehicles coming the other way want to turn left, they may think the opposing traffic has a yellow or red because they do, and turn left directly into full-speed traffic. The intersection at 6th and E NW used to be phased this way, with eastbound traffic getting a left arrow after the green phase, and there were regular collisions between westbound cars turning left (south) and eastbound cars going straight.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 14, 2008 7:42 PM | Report abuse

Rich wrote: "The regulation says NOTHING AT ALL about having to yield to pedestrians who ignore the "Don't Walk" sign."

The regulation says you have to yield to all vehicles and pedestrians when turning. Pedestrians who ignore the "Don't Walk" sign are still pedestrians. If the regulation said you only have to yield to lawful pedestrians you would be right, but the regulation doesn't care about how the pedestrians -- or vehicles -- got to where they are, just where they are.

Just because someone else is wrong doesn't mean you are right. The pedestrians who ignore the signal are wrong. If you ignore your duty to yield to them, you are wrong too. Neither one of you has claim to the moral high ground. But while they have merely inconvenienced you, you are endangering them by forcing your way through.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 14, 2008 7:51 PM | Report abuse

"The regulation says you have to yield to all vehicles and pedestrians when turning."

Show me where the regulation you quoted says that. Take your time.

Posted by: Rich | May 15, 2008 8:30 AM | Report abuse

I run all red lights because it is safer. If you are waiting at a red light you might get rear-ended. If you run it, you won't.

Posted by: laws are meant to be broken | May 15, 2008 11:51 AM | Report abuse

I ride a bike, so laws don't apply to me.

Posted by: bikes rule | May 15, 2008 11:06 PM | Report abuse

my car is bigger than your bike

Posted by: get out of my way | May 16, 2008 10:15 AM | Report abuse

HI there,

I'm from Liverpool, England, UK, and would like to tell you about how we do things here, which is quite different to America and, in fact, most of the world.

Here, pedestrians are allowed to cross where they want, bar on motorways and a few rare areas where pedestrians are banned altogether. Our signals don't have the feature where the green man (walk sign) comes on at the same time as traffic. The green man can only come on if all vehicle movements which go across the crosswalk are held on red. Note that we also don't have a left turn on red rule here either, although a green left arrow can override the red, in which case, none of the pedestrian crosswalks in its path can have a green man. Thus, at a simple intersection, pedestrian signals can be set up in three different ways. The first is the exlusive pedestrian phase, where all vehicle traffic stops and all crosswalks get a green man. The other type is to split each crossing direction into separate crosswalks, with a traffic island in the middle. Each side of the island is a separate crosswalk with a separate sequence. The island has railings and staggers the two crosswalks, so that they are not in line. This ensures that pedestrians don't read the wrong signal. On the side of the road where traffic stops for the intersection, the green man comes on when this traffic have a red. Pedestrians know that there is no traffic going over that part of the road. The second part, the side of the road where vehicles leave the intersection, shows a red man, both when the road it's on has a green and when turning traffic have a green. Usually, this side will require a pedestrian to press a button to get the green man. When the request is registered, the lights will change to a sequence where this crosswalk is completely protected. This may be an exlusive pedestrian phase. Another way they do it is by giving the traffic on the previous side of the island a protected turn over oncoming traffic, combined with a no U-turn sign, thus, protecting the crosswalk. Another way is by adding more vehicle lights just for this crosswalk, which will change at what is deemed the most favourable conditions, usually when traffic is turning, but they must stop. Again, usually, these will only change when a demand has been registered by the pedestrian, otherwise, the red man stays on throughout the cycle.

The UK system may seem cumbersome and over engineered, but it has its benefits. Pedestrians are allowed to cross on red man at their own risk, but when the green man comes on, they know that all conflicting traffic movements are held on red. The disadvantage is that some crosswalks will eat into the time pie, although they will usually require a pedestrian to push a button, if a certain vehicle stage doesn't automatically protect the crosswalk.

British drivers always get caught of guard when driving abroad and finding pedestrians crossing when they turn on a green light.

Posted by: Gareth | May 21, 2008 10:16 AM | Report abuse

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