I still don’t know if pedestrian Sutchi Hui had the right of way when he stepped out on the crosswalk at Castro near Market on March 29th. (Cyclist Chris Bucchere’s story isn’t adding up so far and he’s got a lawyer already and the police are investigating, so you make the call on that one.)
But if he is found responsible for that death, how does that match up with the deaths caused by car, MUNI bus, shuttle bus, and truck drivers in San Francisco County so far in 2012?
We’ve had at least two jaywalkers (one on Hayes, one of Lombard) violate right of way and die so far in 2012 And there was a young man who fell off a skateboard and got hit by a truck and died. And there was some hit-and-run(?) by a MUNI bus driver but I don’t think the person who was hit died. And then there was an older driver who went around another car (which was waiting for a pedestrian) and hit said pedestrian, but that pedestrian didn’t die.
Now I’m sure San Francisco’s horrible drivers will catch up to cyclists in the pedestrian death responsibility count by the end of 2012, but I don’t think they’ll catch up to the pedestrians themselves. What can we do to educate pedestrians?
Here’s the mantra:
“Pedestrians Always Have the Right of Way.”
This is incorrect for at least two reasons.
1. Jaywalkers don’t have the right of way. That’s why they’re held at fault for their own deaths when they die, with regularity, on the streets of San Francisco. Now, does a driver have the right to aim for jaywalking peds and then say, “Well, he was jaywalking so it’s his fault.” No. Drivers need to be on the lookout for errant peds at all times. But if a pedestrian pops out into the street in the middle of a block and gets hit, the ped has committed a right of way violation and, generally speaking, the ped is at fault.
2. Pedestrians need to wait for intersections to clear even though they have a green light and they are at a crosswalk. Most San Franciscans don’t understand this. If you’re a ped you need to look before you enter a crosswalk, especially if your light has just turned green. (What peds in San Francisco tend to do at certain intersection is to actually jump the light, oh well.)
If you don’t like this situation, you could lobby to have the law changed to give peds the right to jaywalk with impunity and the right to start crossing as soon as their lights turn green. Then, pedestrians would actually “Always Have the Right of Way” in real life.
Would that be good?
I don’t think so.
It certainly would clarify who’s at fault for what, but more peds would die.
Why don’t we change the mantra to this:
You should drive* AS IF Pedestrians Always Have the Right of Way.
And to the peds we should say this:
Pedestrians DON’T Always Have the Right of Way
Is that too complicated?
If you want to prevent pedestrian deaths, your primary solution is getting inside the head of the ped to figure out what’s going wrong. Your primary solution isn’t going to be more bulb-outs and wider sidewalks.
Do you want to punish drivers more when they do bad things? Well, be my guest, but that’s a tough row to hoe…
*Your MUNI bus, your shuttle bus, your big truck, your bike, your private car, whatever