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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Fight Global Warming With Crosswalk Courtesy

I think I'm about one in twenty -- about 5% of the pedestrian population -- on this issue.  The issue is simply this:

We all know that a pedestrian in a crosswalk has the right of way.  Examples include when there is a stop sign and the car has stopped for the stop sign, and also when there is a traffic light, and the driver is making a right or left turn across a crosswalk.  Consider the second case for a minute.  Yes, you're the pedestrian.  You've got the right.  You've even got a little white symbol of a walking man on your side.  Your light is green.  The car is trying to make a turn essentially into your right of way.  Assume you're not part of a stream of pedestrians; in fact, there's no one behind you and you know it.  What do you do?

Most people -- like I said, about 95% of them -- simply walk at their own pace, and let the driver wait.  If I'm carrying something heavy or am otherwise hindered, I do that too.  But usually, I pick up my pace.  Sometimes, I even run, especially where it's clear that the car has chosen to wait for me rather than turn ahead of me.  Why do I do that?

There are at least seven reasons:

1) I'm giving the driver a gift of time.  Maybe only a second or two, but it's a gift all the same.  That time is something the driver can himself enjoy later, as he wants.

2) More importantly, I might be improving the driver's health.  If the driver is late for something, and his blood pressure is high, then he'll get some relief from seeing that I have decided not to exercise my "right" to make him even later.

3) I myself am gaining time too.

4) And perhaps I'm improving my own health as well.  Picking up the pace in a crosswalk often reminds me that it would be better for me to walk faster anyhow.  This is in turn has both health benefits and additional time savings benefits.

5) I'm fighting global warming.  The longer a car waits in traffic -- or needs to apply the brakes -- the more gas is used, to no purpose.  If I can contribute to less gasoline use, I'm happy to do so.  And of course, this is another gift to the driver.  It saves him money.

6) If enough people start doing this, it could even begin to make a difference.  If all of the millions of people in the United States started acting this way on a daily basis, we could multiply these benefits many million-fold.  And if all the billions of people in the world were to do so, we'd multiply the benefits a billion-fold.  Sometimes I think that when I speed up to help out a driver, the next time that driver is a pedestrian in the same situation, he will pass on the courtesy to another driver, and so on.

7) Finally, after thinking a bit about benefits 1-6 that I've bestowed on others or received for myself, I'm feeling pretty good about myself.  That has both long-term and short term benefits.  In the long-term, I'm less stressed, and in the short-term, thinking about what a good person I am helps me to have a better day.

So why don't more people do this?  I don't really know.  There are some people who have physical disabilities that likely make doing this a bad idea.  But most of the people I see exercising their right to walk slowly across the crosswalk are young and healthy.  Maybe they just haven't analyzed the issue.

BTW if you google crosswalk courtesy, it's all about how drivers need to be more courteous to pedestrians.  You'd think there was a war going on, to read some of those posts.  It could be that the people who take their time walking across crosswalks feel that they are somehow exacting revenge on some long-ago rude driver who did not give them the right of way.

Anyway, if you're like me on this one, please let me know.

If you're NOT like me on this one (i.e. one of 95%, and without a disability), I'd love to hear why. Until I hear from you, I'll go on thinking that I'm morally superior to about 95% of the population.

If this post has changed your mind and your future conduct about this issue, I'd love to hear that too.

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