Why We Must Jaywalk in Downtown Dallas

I meant no disrespect to the pair of kindly bicycling Dallas cops that called me out at the corner of Harwood and San Jacinto streets about a half hour ago. I was distracted because Wick had just cried out to me as he drove by in his car, “We need more posts on FrontBurner, damn’t.”  So I took no notice of them as I went to cross San Jacinto, against the traffic signal.

“Sir, sir,” they called to me. I turned where I stood, in the middle of the intersection, saw them and quickly retreated to the corner. “Since we’re here, please humor us,” they said good-naturedly. I was happy to oblige such kindly peace officers.

Had there been more time, perhaps I could have entered into a spirited discussion with them about how, as the blog Car-free in Big D earlier noted in discussing a recent book on urbanism, jaywalking makes streets safer:

On what planet does it make any sense whatsoever to put in place policies in order to protect a 4,000 lb piece of death-wheeling machinery vs. a human armed with nothing but a pair of tennis shoes, and perhaps a leashed puppy or two?

Rather than banning jaywalking, cities should take steps to enhance and enforce the rights of pedestrians, and to impede cars in areas where traveling on foot is feasible. (One useful step would be to follow New York City’s good example and make it illegal for drivers to turn right on red lights).

Have you ever noticed how much safer and more polite Dallas drivers are when traffic lights are out, operating as blinking reds and the drivers are left to their own devices, responsible for their own safety. Interesting how they begin to cooperate with other drivers, no? Well, I have noticed.

Similarly, four-way stops are drastically much safer than any other form of regulated intersection. One reason is b/c of reduced speed in areas where stop signs are utilized rather than signals. The other primary contributive factor, is that (although not necessary due to literally written protocol for who goes first at 4-way stops) there is a necessary communication to some extent between the drivers: eye contact, a slow roll to indicate that “I’m moving. Hold back buddy,” maybe even a honk or two…or this.

That communication, whether verbal or nonverbal, makes something infinitely more intelligent because there are now feedback loops.

Tightly controlling pedestrians with a view to improving the flow of car traffic just results in more and faster driving, and that makes life even harder and more dangerous for people on foot or on bikes.

Not to mention it allows drivers to tune out by funneling them virtually (and sometimes literally) into cattle chutes.

In fact, studies have shown that pedestrians are safer in urban areas where jaywalking is common than they are in urban areas where it is forbidden.

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