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?