On my way to work, I saw a school crossing guard jaywalking.

I also almost got run over crossing the street, but that’s pretty typical. Drivers disrespect my rights as a pedestrian at least three times a week, maybe more.

I’m extra-careful, of course. For example, I always make sure to look behind me when crossing the street to make sure no cars behind me are about to turn right.

In almost 6 years of walking down 13th, 14th, and/or 17th from Madison Street to Broadway, twice a day (after rush hour both ways), I’ve observed that many drivers in downtown Oakland:

  • appear to be in a big hurry
  • often drive too fast, especially on the wide, straight one-way streets
  • don’t really care about (or know?) pedestrian rights
  • more specifically, frequently turn into crosswalks without checking if someone is crossing the street, focusing instead on whether any cars are coming (which is of course the wrong order of precedence)

This is not everyone, of course, and I’m sure it’s not unique to Oakland — in fact, just now, a nice guy in a minivan stopped to acknowledge that what the other driver did was “radical” (his word). Of course, Oakland is tougher than Berkeley; when I first moved here and lived in Berkeley for 10 months, my timing was really thrown off by how frequently people would stop their cars short if they saw you even think about crossing the street. People just don’t do that in the Midwest. (And they don’t do it predictably in Oakland.)

My way of crossing the street in Minneapolis, Madison, and Milwaukee was essentially Frogger-like: wait until there’s an opening and cross behind a passing car — with the assumption that cars would maintain a constant speed, regardless of the presence of pedestrians. Because in those places, that’s what they did. Here, I’ve actually sometimes pretended not to intend to cross the street, if I want a car to keep moving. Yes, I don’t trust drivers, any of them, at least while I’m a pedestrian. (When I’m getting a ride from them, I trust them implicitly.) I’d rather be on the safe side.

Who knew a twice-daily seven-block walk could be so eventful, or bring up so many silly observations?