David Rodeback's Blog

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Friday, September 24, 2004
A Polite Young Pedestrian

I try to teach my children that it's rude to walk right up to the edge of the sidewalk, as traffic approaches and you wait to cross the street. If nothing else, you'll worry the passing drivers, who can't read your mind and don't know that you intend to stop at the edge of the sidewalk. For the same reason, it's rude to run or to ride your bicycle toward the street as traffic approaches, even if you don't intend to enter the street.

If it sounds as if I'm finicky about pedestrian manners, I am. I'm the guy who complains about American tourists' propensity, even when just standing around, to block whatever sidewalk or other area they happen to occupy, making passage difficult for others. In general I don't like to push drivers toward fits of ill-advised politeness, where they might stop suddenly in the middle of traffic to let you cross. I also complain when a driver holds up traffic at a four-way stop, whether out of cluelessness or misguided politeness. Quite apart from the hazards of unpredictability, there are points where being polite to one driver or pedestrian constitutes being impolite or even dangerous to several others.

Now that you know my qualifications, it's time for me to announce that, perhaps for today only, I am inventing my Pedestrian of the Week Award. It goes to a young lady from American Fork whose name I do not know. Her citation:

On my way to face I-15 this morning for the commute to work, I was driving along a moderately busy street. At one point, I needed to turn left. I pulled into the turn lane, signaling my intention (of course). I had to wait for an oncoming truck, but after it there was a reasonable gap, even by Utah standards. Meanwhile, on the sidewalk to my left, a comely young lady - a student, if I may judge by her backpack and her youthful visage - was walking in the same direction I was traveling. As the truck was passing, she was approaching the driveway I into which I intended to turn, en route to my ATM.

Had she simply kept walking, I might have had to wait a few seconds, or perhaps even for the next gap in the oncoming traffic. But I wouldn't have given her or the situation a second thought.

Had she signaled her awareness of my presence and intention by visibly hastening her stride across the driveway, I would have thought kindly of her and noted her situational awareness (unusual for a pedestrian, especially a youthful one). But she did better than that.

She stopped a couple of feet short of the driveway and signaled with a relaxed wave that I should make my turn. I did so, and I offered a quick smile and wave in return. Then we went on our respective ways.

Therefore, in recognition of her good manners, not to mention her situational awareness, my first and possibly only Pedestrian of the Week award goes to this anonymous but unmistakably well-bred young lady.

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