Thursday, April 19, 2007

Pedestrian, Motorists Team Up to Make Distracted Driver Feel Like Jackass

I Metro home from work to the Virginia Square station on the Orange Line, and have to cross Wilson Blvd. in one of its least pedestrian-friendly stretches. There's only one traffic light on Wilson Blvd. between Washington Blvd/10th St. and N. Quincy, creating a nearly mile-long, four-lane wide straightaway. It's only a 30mph zone, but it's easy for drivers to go a lot faster.

There's a crosswalk at Wilson & Oakland, but in a bizarre sequence of events, the county, drivers, and pedestrians all ignore it:
* The county hasn't fixed the broken flashing yellow pedestrian warning in at least a year, and rarely does any kind of pedestrian or traffic enforcement there

* Because of that, drivers may or may not stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk (usually not)

* Because of that, pedestrians rarely bother to use the crosswalk -- if you're just standing there waiting for all traffic to go by so you can run across, then the crosswalk is no safer than any other spot in the road
All that means I have two options for crossing Wilson Boulevard on the way home:

* Walk up to the corner of Wilson & N. Monroe, which has a traffic light but adds a minute or two to the walk

* Try to cross at the dreaded Wilson & Oakland crosswalk, where cars fly by at 30-40mph

You can see a Google Map of the options here. Coming home I'm walking southwest, across the park to the crosswalk.

Since it was still bright out last night and I was feeling frisky, I decided to press my luck at the crosswalk. Traffic was heavy, but the first guy stopped, and when one stops the others usually follow.

Then I looked up and there he was -- a douche in a sports car, stopped in the middle of the crosswalk waiting to make the left turn onto Oakland. Worse yet, he had his cell phone earpiece in and was jabbering away.

I got halfway across the street and started to walk around his car. He gave me a Towlie-esque look, like, "I have no idea what's goin' on." I noticed his sunroof was open, so I pointed to the ground and barked, "It's a crosswalk!"

All of the sudden I heard another car's horn honking, and I was ready to take on two cars at once. But when I looked up, the driver behind him was smiling and giving me a thumbs-up. Apparently I wasn't the only one who'd had enough of Cell Phone Douche.

I just laughed and finished crossing the street. Soon a couple of other cars joined in the honking, and Cell Phone Douche finally got the hint and completed the turn he'd started nearly a minute before.

The lesson -- if you're a driver, respect crosswalks and (rolling my eyes that I actually have to say this) pay attention. If you're a pedestrian, be safe first and foremost, but if someone's driving dangerously, don't be afraid to do something about it. While I doubt you'll get to tell the driver personally like I did, write down the license plate number, or call your local police department and board/council member and ask for more pedestrian enforcement.

Any other particularly dangerous spots for pedestrians in Arlington? Post them here!
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