A little crosswalk justice in Somerville

Comments

BU Bridge

I ride across the BU bridge at least twice a day and I can say the pedestrians can be as bad as cars. If there is a big group of students waiting to cross the street, people will start walking as soon as the slightest gap opens and the whole group will continue across even if cars/bikes are coming. And the students will get mad at me if I swerve around them even when I have the green light!

I'm not saying you do this and I stop for the red lights myself but man is it annoying when someone steps out right in front of me on my bike when I have a clear green. It's even worse when the orientation and tour groups cross -- sometimes you need to wait for a full light cycle as once they start they won't stop even if the light changes.

That whole intersection sucks.

Yeah, I agree. I wait for

Yeah, I agree. I wait for the green walk sign at the the bridge. My issue is with the long line of cars waiting to turn right on Mountfort. Once they get going they'll completely ignore the walk sign, which during rush hour is really the only opportunity to cross. I also bike and drive through pretty often and have issues with mobs of students crossing against the light all along Comm Ave.

In addition to catching bikes going through the red in that section maybe jaywalking enforcement should be conducted? I'm not sure if that's effective or not.

Bad idea

Pedestrians face enough discrimination in this state already. The last thing we need is to give some asshole cops more reason to bully people who aren't doing any harm.

We already see how the cops are incredibly unwilling to do anything about reckless drivers with 2 ton+ vehicles. Because that takes work. Picking on pedestrians is relatively easy. They aren't moving fast, and they aren't inside of big vehicles.

It's also counterproductive. I think our very good ranking in pedestrian safety is largely due to the fact that nobody trusts anyone. I read and hear from drivers that they are afraid of people walking into the street. Fear breeds caution.

The most dangerous places are ones where they do enforce "jaywalking" statues, like Florida and Las Vegas. The roads are too wide, and the drivers are too confident. They make assumptions, they go too fast. The pedestrians also assume that a "Walk" signal is safe -- but when assumptions like these break down, somebody dies.

So many people need to cross Comm Ave, I don't see why the people driving down it should consider themselves so special that they trump everyone else. I don't see what harm it does for pedestrians to be able to cross the overly wide avenue when it is clear. I cross there every day and I hardly ever see any problems. If you think they're getting in the way it probably means that you are going too fast. Too many drivers go down Comm Ave at 50 mph, but you never see the cops enforce that. 50 mph in a 3500 lb vehicle on a city street is a much bigger concern than a 150 lb student trying to get to class on time.

I don't buy this bullshit that somehow these are equivalent. The 2 ton vehicle can kill. The pedestrian can only be a victim. If you think that's equivalent, you're an asshole.

There's also a larger issue. Cities are supposed to be places for people. In the 20th century we tried turning them into places for cars, and forcing people out of the street with made-up "jaywalking" laws, something that didn't exist before the 1930s. The result was the epic decline and decay of American cities, as people fled from places that seemed only suitable for machines to inhabit. Going back to bullying and discriminating against pedestrians, I believe, is a surefire way to repeat the same mistake as before, and will only lead eventually to flight and disinvestment again.

The opposite happens too

I blogged this morning about the people who slam on the brakes and wave you across and insist you cross against the light, when you have your preschooler with you, and then you gesture toward the kid, and they're still aggravated that you didn't take them up on their offer.

That causes accidents, too.

Whether for a pedestrian or for another car, drivers who stop when it's their right of way and wave you through are setting you up for an accident. Say f'rinstance you've got a stop sign, and traffic coming from your left is on a one-way two lane street with no stop sign. Nice driver on the cross street in the right lane (closest to you), even though he has the right of way, stops and waves you through; you proceed. Meanwhile, a car in the left lane proceeds normally; neither left-lane nor you see each other because your view is blocked by the stopped car; and left-lane plows into your driver's side door just as you emerge from behind the stopped car.

Whose fault under the law? Take away the stopped car (which was not involved in the accident). You had a stop sign but proceeded. Other car (that hit you) didn't have a stop sign. Your fault. Ugh.

The system really works better if drivers act predictably (i.e. proceed when they have the right of way and yield when they don't.)

Pee Wee said it best

"I love that story!"

That being said, I always stop at the crosswalk and even to the consternation of certain passengers in my car. Usually I just say, "We can take 5 seconds to stop in a crosswalk or 10 minutes while a cop looks me up then writes me up".

That usually shuts them up.

Right on red

Now if we could only do something about the right on red drivers who insist on barreling through even though there are pedestrians trying to cross. Pedestrians have the right of way at a red light, not the drivers turning right. No one seems to remember that anymore.

It is even worse when the

It is even worse when the traffic has a green light and the cross street has a walk sign. The people making right hand turns forget that the walk sign even exists. Green means go 45mph and don't look.

I am one of those drivers who obey No Turn On Red signs

99.99% of the time - unless I can tell from other clues that the traffic signal is not functioning properly and can safely turn into traffic.

However, it's been my experience in 35+ years of driving that restricting right turn on red (RTOR) is not justified at the majority of locations where No Turn On Red signs are posted. And that's the problem with overuse/improper use of traffic controls that have usually been installed for political reasons, as opposed to engineering guidance. Once drivers learn to disregard such signs that have been installed at locations where they're not needed, they tend to disregard them everywhere they encounter such improper devices when they drive.

IMO, Massachusetts had it right when they initially adopted RTOR in the mid-1970s. The original law was that you could make a right turn on red (after stopping) only where a sign was posted allowing you to do so. In early 1976, FHWA forced the state to change the law to reflect the rest of the country - allow RTOR unless a sign is posted prohibiting the movement (except for red arrows - see below).

The initial result of this change - the "No Turn On Red" fairies magically appeared and posted signs at nearly every intersection in the state.

The other problem I've always had with right turn on red is that, per the Uniform Vehicle Code and the MUTCD, RTOR is always permitted for a solid red light ("ball") unless there is a sign posted prohibiting the movement. However, for a red arrow, RTOR is permitted only when a sign is posted permitting the movement.

I seriously doubt the average driver understands the difference between the two.

To make things even more confusing, current Massachusetts RTOR law does not distinguish between a red ball and a red arrow:

From MGL Chapter 89, Section 8

At any intersection on ways, as defined in section one of chapter ninety, in which vehicular traffic is facing a steady red indication (emphasis added)in a traffic control signal, the driver of a vehicle which is stopped as close as practicable at the entrance to the crosswalk or the near side of the intersections or, if none, then at the entrance to the intersection in obedience to such red or stop signal, may make either (1) a right turn or (2) if on a one-way street may make a left turn to another one-way street, but shall yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and other traffic proceeding as directed by the signal at said intersection, except that a city or town, subject to section two of chapter eighty-five, by rules, orders, ordinances, or by-laws, and the department of highways on state highways or on ways at their intersections with a state highway, may prohibit any such turns against a red or stop signal at any such intersection, and such prohibition shall be effective when a sign is erected at such intersection giving notice thereof.

With contradictions like these, and the overuse of RTOR prohibitions, it's a wonder we don't have more crashes at intersections in this state.

The MUTCD has flip-flopped on

The MUTCD has flip-flopped on the issue of right on red arrow.

I have mixed feelings about No Turn On Red signs.

On the one hand, I hate having to sit there when there's no cross traffic or pedestrians for blocks, especially at lights that don't have loop detectors.

On the other hand, for some drivers, a right on red becomes a roll through at 15 mph, looking left for cross traffic and not looking right for pedestrians. In theory we could just enforce the stop and yield to pedestrian requirements, but some cities (like Cambridge) found it easier to just post No Turn on Red signs virtually everywhere.

Cambridge is a perfect example

of why the RTOR rules should be changed so that right turn on red is not permitted unless there is a sign posted permitting the movement, regardless of whether you're facing a red ball or a red arrow.

Of course, the real challenge with any of these rule changes (or any sign and signal changes for that matter) is getting drivers who've had their license for awhile to acknowledge and understand them (I still deal with people who insist that the old "three at a time" rule for stop signs is still valid).

It's another argument for periodic retesting, if you ask me - but that's a different subject for another time.

And, with respect, the MUTCD hasn't "flip-flopped" on the matter of right on red arrow. Once the rules were changed (1988 MUTCD?)to make right on red arrow more restrictive than right on red ball, they've stayed that way since.

Where's the conflict?

My reading of the quoted MGL 89/8 seems pretty clear that right turn on a red arrow is legit unless a sign is posted to the contrary, unless "indication" is a specially defined world that only means 'ball'.

As I stated previously

Massachusetts RTOR law doesn't distinguish between a red ball and a red arrow for the purposes. However, most other states do so. My point was that permitting RTOR "unless a sign is posted" in one situation but "only if a sign is posted" in a nearly identical situation is an obvious contradiction.

In practical terms, the actual conflict "on the streets" here arises with both people from other states driving in Massachusetts, as well as people from Massachusetts who drive in other states.

Now, at one point, Massachusetts tried to address this issue by stating in their MUTCD amendments that No Turn On Red signs would always be placed with red right arrow indications, but that requirement was stricken from the MassDOT 2009 MUTCD amendments.

we need better sign placement

I think that at least some of the time, people don't intend to ignore the sign, it's just poorly placed. Massachusetts is one place where, if I want to make a RTOR at an unfamiliar intersection, I have to look really hard to make sure there's not a NTOR sign hiding somewhere that I missed. I've seen some that are behind the stop line, so that if you're stopped at the stop line the sign is to the side of or behind the driver. Others are placed at the *left* side of the intersection, overhead, etc., etc.

Yeah, there's no excuse for missing it--and I have to admit I've done that myself a time or three unintentionally, fortunately with no adverse consequences--but why make it harder on people than it has to be?

That one cuts both ways

Now if we could only do something about the pedestrians who ignore the "don't walk" sign, proceed into the intersection, and then get all outraged when drivers turning right on red, who have the right of way at that moment because of the "don't walk" sign, honk their horns / flip them off / otherwise display their annoyance at the pedestrians inability to recall kindergarten lessons about taking your turn.

Sunday night in Central Square...

I was crossing with a walk signal at the corner of Mass and Brookline, in front of the Middle East. I was just about to the center line and had just stepped off the curb on the far side, when a car cruised down Mass Ave through the red light at full speed. Luckily, a Cambridge cop was the first car waiting to pull out from Brookline. He flipped on the flashing blues, the other pedestrians and I each took , and he went and nailed the son-of-a-gun before the next corner. HA!

I hate when people do that - walking or driving

I know they are trying to be polite - but after 20+ years living in the city one thing I rarely do is cross in front of a car that has stopped for me unless they have a red light or a stop sign. Almost every time someone does that they either come close to getting rear ended or, if I were to cross, I'd get flattened by a car passing on the other side - and I don't blame the other car because I'm usually on the sidewalk - not in the road and it's somewhere between difficult and impossible to see a pedestrian over or through another vehicle. If the car has the right of way and I am not IN the crosswalk on a multi lane road they should just keep going - they are creating a major hazard unless they have an obligation to stop.

As a driver it's just as bad. Huntington is a great example with all the "out of the blue" crosswalks. As you approach especially at night, you can't see people often in dark clothing coming out from behind jersey barriers, T-shelters and the like. Now that I know they are there I am much more careful and stop to allow crossing if there are no cars behind me that might not understand why I'm stopping in the middle of the road and go around me, flattening someone in the process.

I don't think most of this behavior is Massholes at work. There have been some great shows on cable lately about human vision and how the brain works. Without going into details - NOBODY is going to see or notice a pedestrian out of their peripheral vision unless they move and even there it might be tough - especially at night. Asking someone to actually notice a human standing still on the far side of a car while moving at even 20-30 mph with no other warning like a red light or stop sign is ridiculous and literally would take superhuman skills.

I'll add that to the list

Of the other 4000 things the Monday morning back seat drivers out here want me to pay attention to while I'm driving in a complex urban environment. In the meantime NEVER stop needlessly and wave any pedestrians across the street unless they are a) already in the crosswalk b) you have a stop sign or c) there is a red light.

Whether you are responsible or not - you'll get someone killed.

Prioritized list of 4000 driving tasks

Drivers ed taught me that these are the first few items on the list:
Driving task #1 of 4000: Do not hit a person with your car.
Driving task #2 of 4000: Do not hit a person with your car.
Driving task #3 of 4000: Do not hit a person with your car.
Driving task #4 of 4000: Do not hit a person with your car.
Driving task #5 of 4000: Do not hit a person with your car.

Seriously. No excuses.

Amazing advice

You've single handedly eliminated all auto-pedestrian accidents. Why didn't any of us think of that?

Oh yeah - we are humans in a real world.

You're right - no excuses. Reasons aplenty though.

Sort of

I see a lot more cars stopped to make a turn but not signalling than I do cars stopped to let a pedestrian cross the street.

Mark me down as one of those pedestrians that would rather wait for the light than risk getting creamed by someone pulling around the stopped car.

Be Right But Don't Be Dead Right

If a car stops at a crosswalk, I'm not going to walk blindly past them into a lane of traffic without making sure other cars are stopping as well.

What I have seen a couple of times is cars stopping at green lights and waving pedestrians into the street. This happened once at four lane street when I was carrying a toddler which would have made it even more ridiculous to cross into traffic. Drivers, please never do this.

Wasn't there an incident a

Wasn't there an incident a while back where a driver stopped to let someone cross and a car came barreling down and hit the pedestrian as they crossed and the person who had stopped to let the pedestrian go actually got in trouble? I realize this is very vague but I do remember something along these lines.