Kamikaze Pedestrian (aka The Jaywalker)


I have been obsessing about jaywalking lately. In downtown Vancouver it’s rampant. People dart across the road, weave in and out of traffic, jump in front of parked buses, and cross against a light in the pitch dark. It scares me! Do pedestrians not understand the result of connecting their bodies with 2000 lbs of metal? Have these people never been behind the wheel of a car? The sad story will be the poor driver who didn’t see it coming. We all need to take personal responsibility and focus on safety.

My girls and I were out shopping in downtown Vancouver and lo and behold, I did the unthinkable. We jaywalked across Robson Street. I didn’t think much about it at the time, but it sure hit home an hour later when my eldest daughter stated, “Before you think it’s safe to jaywalk, have a word with yourself.” I look up and she is reading a billboard. It’s part of the fantastic, “Have a Word With Yourself” campaign by www.Preventable.ca.

As a driver I really dislike jaywalkers, but as a pedestrian, I too want to find the shortcut. But in the end, we both have to take care on the roads. Pedestrians should stick to the crosswalks and cars should yield to pedestrians when safe to do so. If we all follow the rules, we won’t have to have a word with ourselves.

A snippet from From Peter D. Norton’s Fighting Traffic (MIT, 2008), pp. 72-79:

The cleverest anti-jaywalking publicity effort was in Detroit in 1922, where the Packard Motor Car Company exploited the new fashion for monuments to traffic fatalities. Packard built an oversized imitation tombstone that closely resembled the monument to the innocent child victims of accidents in Baltimore. But Packard’s tombstone redirected blame to the victims. It was marked ‘Erected to the Memory of Mr. J. Walker: He Stepped from the Curb Without Looking.’ […]

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