Monday, March 10, 2014

Everyone's a Pedestrian...even if you don't know it

I eat, sleep, and breathe traffic safety. Not only do I try to influence others to change their driving behaviors and habits to better protect everyone on the roads, but I really, really try hard to be the best that I can be, too. Unfortunately, it doesn't always work out that way.

Two weeks ago I attended my second Portland Transportation Safety Town Hall. I set up my display - Dustin's bike and a presentation board of pictures, police reports, newspaper articles, etc. - for the local residents and other interested parties. There was lots of audience participation that night, including my pitch that if we all obey the traffic safety rules, show courtesy, and drive for the conditions, we would save lives and there would be more money and resources for other things (just think what the 15 or so officers involved in Dustin's fatal collision could have been doing instead).

As I packed up my display afterward, a woman approached. She wanted me to know that she nearly hit me with her car before the meeting started. She said, "You were jaywalking and are wearing dark clothing. I was not speeding. I checked to make sure; I wasn't speeding."

When I got to the meeting, I parallel parked across the street. I lifted Dustin's bike up onto my shoulder, checked to make sure no cars were coming, and started across the street. Then a car turned onto the road behind me and I hurried to get out of the way.

When this woman called me a jaywalker in dark clothing, I felt instant shame. And confusion, too. I was wearing dark clothing. I did cross the street in the middle of the block. I did not consciously think of myself as a pedestrian at the time because I simply walked from my car, crossed the street and went into the building. It didn't dawn on me to walk the 40 or 50 feet back to the intersection, cross there, then walk another 40/50 feet to get to where I ended up crossing directly from the car. It wasn't a matter of being lazy or making a decision that I didn't want to carry that heavy, awkward bike any farther than I had to. It just seemed like the natural thing to do. It was so natural, it was almost unconscious.

This was not a busy street. It was a side street with businesses that ended in a cul-de-sac. It was 6:30 p.m., dark, and the only traffic was going to the same place I was going. Because I was early, there wasn't even much of that.

Being called a jaywalker really jarred me. I felt like a failure, a fraud trying to get people to do what I couldn't even do myself. If I can't learn, how can I expect anyone else to? Plus...add in confusion. Initially I didn't even perceive that I'd done anything wrong. Then I didn't really think I had done anything everyone else wouldn't have done.

Should I have put on reflective or light clothing to walk such a short distance? Should I have gone 100 feet out of my way to cross a little traveled road at the intersection? I suppose I should have. But this means that if I want to visit my neighbor across the street, I should walk about 2 blocks to the intersection and cross there, then do the same on the way back, essentially walking 8 blocks just to get to my neighbor whose front door is 150 feet from mine.

I still haven't come to terms with this. And being as dedicated to traffic safety as I am - eating, sleeping, breathing it - this incident knocked me down. Literally. I spent the next day in bed crying off and on. Overreaction? Craziness?


  1. Jaywalking is NOT illegal in Oregon.You may cross anywhere that it is not restricted by sign or barriers. You did all that was really necessary for a safe crossing , less the light colored clothing...You DO NOT have to cross in crosswalks nor at street corners, especially in such as this, an undivided/marked street. And would , as such, be crossed in just this manner to retrieve mail or visit a friend. You are, as a pedestrian, supposed to YIELD to traffic if crossing outside a crosswalk or street corner, that is it...Sounds to me as if the driver was trying to belittle you and didn't realize that she would have been at least 50% at fault if there had been an accident...sounds to me like she may have been a little more than unobservant as she turned onto the street ...and saw the opportunity to prop herself up, being as she was there by court order, just sayin'... Here is a quote from a friend of yours Kristi: "If the pedestrian is crossing the road at any point besides a marked crosswalk, or at an intersection (in other words, jaywalking), they do NOT have the right of way and must yield to any vehicle on the roadway. This is another potentially contentious issue. Many pedestrians feel they always have the right of way, but any Portland pedestrian attorney will advise you Oregon statute 814.030 will come out in favor of the driver in these cases." Shulman DuBois LLC
    1553 SE Tolman Street
    Portland, Oregon 97202
    Phone: (503) 222-4411 - See more at:
    Portland Pedestrian Attorneys Explain Oregon Pedestrian Right-of-Way Laws

  2. In regards to your feelings of being called a “jaywalker.” Define it anyway you like, it is what it is. You did not do all that was necessary for a safe crossing, because you almost got hit. Not to be too prophetic but it is a big bad world out there. You did put yourself in harm’s way. From a Darwinian standpoint, you need to feel bad, otherwise next time you will end up on the other side of the statistics curve.

    Now don’t get me wrong, I am a distance runner, endurance cyclist, mountain biker, all around user of paths, trails, roads - and oh yea – I drive a car an grew up living in Chicago. So, I have an idea of where you’re coming from.

    In regards to PPIAL – I love the legal aspect of the event. However, right is right and dead is dead – you tell me how much solace there is in being right.

    Again, I want to let you know that I am not a one sided observer. In 2007 I was almost killed on my bike while commuting home from work. Vigilance can not be underestimated, whether walking, running, cycling, or driving. Ernie Stefely

  3. I am in total agreement with Ernie's Darwinian standpoint stated. The feeling of shame is natural and necessary to being aware of your mistake.

    Ironically, you meant to make only a statement of safety "prevention" that day, and without meaning to, provided us with just how robotic & vulnerable we all are in our every day lives....including you, my friend.

    And, just as your other persuasive statements help impact those you share with---so will this one! it displays just how humanly possible simple mistakes are made when we're being mechanical in our actions---and I, for one, will be more conscious before crossing a street after hearing your story.

    Here's to being as safe as we possibly can put our minds to it!!!