Steve Dunham’s Trains of Thought

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It wouldn’t hurt to use the crosswalk, or would it?

By Steve Dunham, copyright 2020

Woman with tire tracks on face

Have you seen these posters? Don’t they imply that crosswalks are available and safe? In some places, crosswalks may be available and safe, but in many places, they often are unavailable and unsafe. Many drivers casually block the crosswalks, and many drivers casually run red lights and run stop signs even when people are crossing the street. It has happened to me hundreds of times.

Limo parked in crosswalk
It wouldn’t hurt to use the crosswalk—for parking. I’ve used this crosswalk countless times: it connects the Crystal City shops in Arlington, Virginia, to the commuter rail station across the street. And many times the crosswalk has been blocked by motor vehicles, such as this limousine parked in it. Note the walk sign and the people with the stroller on the other side of the street. And many times I’ve seen drivers run the red light here while people were crossing the street. Once, a driver went through the red light backwards while I was crossing, then gave me the finger.
Wheelchair ramp blocked by parked car
Would it hurt to use this crosswalk? Do you go over, under, around, or through? What if you’re in a wheelchair?
Wheelchair ramp blocked by parked car
Over, under, around, or through? If you’re in a wheelchair, maybe you’re supposed to “Stay home, stay safe,” as some other posters say.
white van running red
The white van isn’t stopped in the crosswalk; the driver is running a red light. Would it hurt to cross here and now?
Car blocking crosswalk
The Walk sign is on, but the crosswalk is in use by a driver. Eventually the driver backed up a little and gave back some of the crosswalk, but by then the crosswalk countdown was almost to zero. Wait a few minutes and try again. Or do you want to walk around the car? That raises another problem: sometimes drivers pull forward or move backward without warning. I’ve seen it happen plenty of times while I was crossing the street. The time I got hit by a car, I was crossing with a green light, and the driver had a red but drove forward, knocking me down and pinning me to the road. I never assume that any driver is paying any attention to pedestrians.
Two cars in the crosswalk
Two cars in the crosswalk, and the driver of the white car is on the phone. Do you want to walk around? It wouldn’t hurt, would it?
Vehicle blocking crosswalk
Is the driver paying any attention to pedestrians or to the walk sign? Do you want to walk around the vehicle? Would it hurt?
Vehicle blocking crosswalk
Same crosswalk, different vehicle, same questions.
Red car blocking crosswalk
The Walk sign is on, but that driver is giving you a red.
Car in crosswalk, man crossing
Share the crosswalk?
Car blocking highway crosswalk
No Walk sign here, but you have a green light. Is the crosswalk available and safe?
City car blocking three crosswalks
An official city car (with no one inside) parked blocking the junction of three crosswalks. Government efficiency! There are a few inches of sidewalk not occupied by the car, so I was able to turn sideways, but what if you’e in a wheelchair (not unlikely: this was across from a hospital) or even just pushing a stroller?
Pedestrian signal lying on sidewalk
Another Walk sign bites the dust.
Van blocking crosswalk
“You better watch your step,” this driver said to me after I dared to take a photo of his van blocking the crosswalk that I was trying to use. What would he do? Make tire tracks on my face? Maybe. Does the driver need to watch his step? Is he likely to pay a fine for failing to yield to a pedestrian? The next three photos suggest an answer …
Demolished sign about yielding to pedestrians Downed sign about yielding to pedestrians Downed sign about yielding to pedestrians

The posters showing people with tire tracks on their faces, telling us it would’t hurt to use the crosswalk, seem to be getting replaced by posters telling us, “Your life is fragile. Use the crosswalk.” We know that our lives are fragile. We know that crosswalks are often unavailable and unsafe. A while back, while I was crossing the street, a driver was angry because I was in his way (he had a stop sign). “You cross the street, you dumb f - - -!” he said. Maybe the posters should say, “Don’t cross the street, you dumb f - - -!”