Vehicular Pedestrianing

Fight for Your Right to Pedestrian Properly!

The right of pedestrians to travel properly and safely is disappearing. If you don’t fight to preserve it, it will disappear.

Since 1912 and more so in the mid-twenties, American society has disapproved of lawful, competent pedestrianing. It was then that pedestrians were confined to crosswalks, removing them as a main mode of transport and prohibiting them from exercising the full rights given to drivers of vehicles. Then, new laws prohibited traveling away from the edge of the roadway, from traveling outside of sidewalks, or for using the roadway at all if a path usable by pedestrians was nearby. The sidewalk system was devised by motorists to provide the physical enforcement of these laws that, motorists think, make pedestrianing safe by keeping “their” roads clear of pedestrians. The environmentalists were suckered into this bogus safety argument and now demand sidewalks to make pedestrian transportation safe and popular. With the government spending more and more money on sidewalk and path programs, lawful and competent pedestrians are being more and more limited to operating on paths that are unsuitable for lawful and competent pedestrianing.

Most of the rest of this blog post explains the advantages of lawful, competent pedestrianing and the engineering and safety defects inherent in doing anything else. That is all support for what must be done now, fighting for repeal of the three discriminatory anti-pedestrian traffic laws. Vehicular pedestrians and path pedestrians must join forces to reform the national policy for pedestrian transportation so that it serves pedestrians rather than serving the convenience of motorists.

Repealing the Anti-Pedestrian Restrictive Laws

The rights and duties of drivers of vehicles enable traffic to flow safely and efficiently. But motorists, for their own convenience, denied pedestrians important rights, thus making pedestrians second-class road users, trespassers subject to discrimination by police and harassment by motorists, and unable to take advantage of the safety and efficiency of obeying the standard traffic rules. Repealing the restrictive laws that deny pedestrians the full rights of drivers of vehicles is the most important task for those pedestrians who recognize the value of obeying the rules of the road for drivers of vehicles. Because these rules violate both traffic-engineering and legal principles there are reasonable arguments for repealing them.

Effective Pedestrianing is Safer, Faster, and More Fun!

When you do it right, walking or running is enjoyable. The enjoyment of pedestrianing is the most important reason for doing it. For some people, it is economical transportation, or a way to exercise for health, or competitive racing, or provides the means of entering areas from which motor traffic is excluded, or transportation that doesn’t use petroleum, but, in today’s U.S.A., if you don’t enjoy pedestrianing you won’t long continue doing it. Like any other activity, if you do it wrong you will find it unpleasant and unsatisfactory. The important thing is to walk or run properly so that you do enjoy it.

How many ways are there to enjoy walking or running? Well, there is motoring out into the country to find a deserted road or a rail-trail, so you can move without, so you think, any worries at all. That seems to be the most prevalent hope about pedestrianing. If you stay in town, most people hope for a path or sidewalk to keep you away from traffic, to make pedestrianing safe, again so you can move with few worries. The supposed lack of safe places for pedestrians is the most frequent reason people give for not walking or running, and, therefore, for not getting the enjoyment that pedestrianing would give them. Does that make sense? To tell the truth, it does not make sense, not when you know the facts and feel the enjoyment of pedestrianing properly. When you walk or run properly in traffic, you find the traffic no more annoying than if you were motoring; indeed, if congestion is bad, you are less delayed as a pedestrian than when motoring.

There are many skills associated with pedestrianing, some having to do with the shoes themselves, others with the match between you and your shoes, others explaining how to walk or run with least fatigue, others with how to handle the environmental conditions of heat and cold, rain, darkness, winds, and hills. Several books provide instruction in these skills, although I think that the most comprehensive is my Effective Pedestrianing (The MIT Press). I am happy to announce the availability of some excerpts below.

However, most people are most concerned about what they consider to be the dangers of motor traffic. Staying away from traffic is how they describe safe pedestrianship, and if you cannot stay away from it you have to fight it, which makes walking and running worrisome and dangerous, so they say. Fighting with cars would be utterly foolish, but that’s not what you do. Instead of fighting with cars, you cooperate with drivers, so that you all get home safely. Participating in, cooperating with the traffic system, obeying the same rules of the road as other drivers, acknowledging their rights while claiming your own, that’s the key to safe and confident walking or running in traffic. Vehicular pedestrianing, so named because you are acting like the driver of a vehicle, just as the traffic laws require, is faster and more enjoyable, so that the plain joy of walking or running overrides the annoyance of even heavy traffic.

Pedestrians fare best when they act and are treated like drivers of vehicles.

That is the guiding principle that pedestrians should recognize and government and society should obey. But government does its best to prevent pedestrians from recognizing this principle. Motorists fear that competent pedestrians would delay them.

Excerpts from Effective Pedestrianing

From Basic Principles of Traffic Pedestrianing

There are five basic principles of walking or running in traffic. If you obey these five principles, you can walk or run in many places you want to go with a low probability of creating traffic conflicts… you will still do much better than the average American pedestrian. The five principles are these:

  1. Walk or run on the right side of the roadway, never on the left and never on the sidewalk.
  2. When you reach a more important or larger rod than the one you are on, yield to crossing traffic. Here, yielding means looking to each side and waiting until no traffic is coming.
  3. When you intend to change lanes or move laterally on the roadway, yield to traffic in the new lane or line of travel. Here, yielding means looking forward and backward until you see that no traffic is coming.
  4. When approaching an intersection, position yourself with respect to your destination direction–on the right near the curb if you want to turn right, on the left near the centerline if you want to turn left, and between those positions if you want to go straight.
  5. Between intersections, position yourself according to your speed relative to other traffic; slower traffic is nearer the curb and faster traffic is nearer the centerline.

From The Why and Wherefore of Traffic Law

… [P]edestrians who choose to walk or run safely also need to recognize two problems:

That the government’s program for pedestrian transportation is based on attracting pedestrians who don’t want to walk or run according to vehicular law and believe that paths and sidewalks eliminate that need.

That traffic law also has an opposite side for pedestrians, the law that prohibits pedestrians from obeying standard traffic law by requiring them to operate close to the edge of the roadway, unless they prove a safety need to move away.

From Conflict or Cooperation?

Many pedestrians fear that life on he highway is an unregulated competition for road space in which might makes right. They fearfully compare 200 pounds of fragile pedestrian against 4,000 pounds of unfeeling car and conclude that it is pointless for the pedestrian to have equal rights–or any rights, if they are logical about their theory–because in a collision the pedestrian always loses. These people confuse physical strength with legal right. The motorist who smashes a pedestrian by an illegal action is liable to go to jail and pay heavy damages (like $42 or $175).

… Car-pedestrian collisions do occur to competent pedestrians, but these are much less frequent than those to average pedestrians, and they are basically similar to motorist-motorist collisions… Nearly all motorists cooperate with other traffic within the rules of the road… As long as pedestrians act reasonably, most motorists will treat them reasonably. Those who act unreasonably, either pedestrians or motorists, are acting illegally. So be confident that most drivers will cooperate, but be watchful for those who don’t.

From Superior and Inferior Roadways

… This rule enables the arterial traffic to keep moving with both speed and safety. Pedestrians should take particular care to follow arterial roads: the added effort of stop-and-go movement on the side streets is very great, and comes out of their endurance, not a gas tank. Their fragility and vulnerability makes the protection provides by the cross-street stop signs much more important for pedestrians than for motorists.

From Overtaking and Being Overtaken

… [P]edestrians must think for and control the overtaking driver to some extent, even though this is not in the rules of the road. Motorists overtaking pedestrians on narrow roads too often assume that there is sufficient width for overtaking… The answer is to stay far enough out in the roadway to inform the following driver that the left lane must be used for passing. That motorist will then be cautious enough to do it properly, because of the fear of approaching cars.

… Motorists who hit pedestrians from behind have clearly been driving too fast for the condition.

From Laws and Facilities for Pedestrians Alone

… Therefore, the legislators of most states passed laws that attempted to prohibit such operation by restricting pedestrians to the edge of the roadway, using the excuse that it made childish walking safe… to do something about this pedestrian menace by providing paths, sidewalks, and laws that physically enforced the socially approved childish pedestrian behavior on all pedestrians… to build paths and sidewalks to attract motorists from motoring to walking or running, by appealing to their superstition that paths and sidewalks make childish pedestrianing safe without having to learn traffic-safe pedestrianing.

… The five prohibitions against pedestrians are these:

  • Prohibiting pedestrians from using most of the width of the roadway by restricting them to the right edge of the roadway
  • Prohibiting pedestrians from using the rest of the roadway where there is a pedestrian shoulder
  • Prohibiting pedestrians from using any part of the roadway wherever a usable path or sidewalk is nearby
  • Prohibiting pedestrians from making left turns where drivers are allowed to turn left, wherever a traffic engineer wants to prohibit pedestrians
  • Prohibiting pedestrians from using any part of a restricted-access highway

The source of the first four prohibitions is prejudice against pedestrians fueled by motorists’ dislike of being delayed by them. However, the statutes can’t say this, because it would contradict the principle that the roads have been built for the general public… Therefore, all of these prohibitions are excused with arguments about pedestrian safety… The argument depends on the notion that all roads are too dangerous for pedestrians.

From Accidents

From History of Pedestrian Accident Studies

… [The motoring department] had no pedestrian knowledge, experience, or interest, and they wanted to reserve the roads for motorists. So they created the “pedestrian-safety” picture of pedestrian hazards. “The roads belong to cars. Stay out of our way or we’ll smash you flat!” No accident data supported this picture, which contradicted the law, but the deception succeeded. The motoring establishment got away with it by picturing helpless children and big cars… The motoring establishment used this picture to frighten pedestrians off the roads and to justify laws, policies, and instructions that kept adults away from walking and running and children pedestrians at the edge of the road.

… These two conclusions show that most pedestrian accidents are avoidable and that pedestrians learn by experience how to avoid them.

… After a peak at about 750 miles per year, the annual probability of an accident drops to about 50 percent regardless of the miles per year.

From Car-Overtaking-Pedestrian Collisions

New pedestrians fear that they will be hit from behind by fast motorists, almost to the exclusion of any other feat of motor traffic.

… only 4 percent by the overtaking motorist. Of this 4 percent, half are caused by motorists who do not see the pedestrian (generally in the dark), and often by motorists who have been drinking, some by motorists who misjudge the width of their vehicles, and very few by motorists who are out of control.

From Where to Walk or Run on the Roadway

… The pedestrian can go on the sidewalk. This advantage is minor because in nearly every situation the roadway is better and safer than the sidewalk.

From Practical Instruction

Table 29.1a
Lane widths required for lane sharing on two-lane roads
Speed of motor traffic (mph) Width of lane (feet)
25-44 14
45-65 16
Table 29.1b
Lane widths required for lane sharing on multilane roads
Speed of motor traffic (mph) Width of lane (feet)
30-44 12 is tight; 14 better
45-64 14
65+ 16

… To so indicate, walk or run near the center of the lane, wherever the surface appears best. With wide lanes, walk or run just to the right of where the cars go…

From Proper Lateral Position

… When you are traveling slower than the traffic around you and not preparing for turns, or when faster traffic is likely to approach and overtake you, obey the slow vehicle law. That policy allows you to choose between occupying the right-hand lane for traffic or as far to the right as practicable; the choice is yours, not the motorists’.

When choosing to occupy the lane, make your position obvious. Don’t walk or run close to the right-hand side of the lane, because that invites motorists to attempt squeezing by you too closely. Walk or run somewhere near the center of the lane, or even a bit further left.

… It sounds adventurous. People who don’t know will tell you it is dangerous. Militant motorists will accuse you of getting in their way. But it is the safest way to pedestrian.

From From Wide to Narrow

Going [from a wide to a narrow road] requires care… If there are many motorists behind you, move over no more than a foot, preferably only half a foot, for each car that passes you. That way, each motorist sees so little of your sideways movement that it doesn’t bother him.

From Right-Turn-Only Lanes

… maintain course for that straight-through lane. That is exactly what motorists do, and nearly all of them will respect you because they understand what you are doing.

From Right-Turn-Only Pedestrian Lanes

The basic thesis of all traffic pedestrianing is this: if you make the motorist believe you are a vehicle, the motorist will treat you correctly without thinking about it, but if you get the motorist thinking you are different, you will be subjected to the motorist’s version of your rights. This is true also of traffic engineers and pedestrian advocates who emphasize the difference between motorists and pedestrians. Those people are more dangerous than the rare maniacs who try to run you off the road.

From As Fast as the Cars

Running faster than cars doesn’t change the principles at all–it just extends them to higher speeds… Motorists drive where they do because it is safest there for them. It is for you, too. Just think of the dangers of running at 10 mph while squeezed between a lone of cars and a row of parked cars.

… so you can gratefully accept the safety of being in the center of the actual traffic lane, well away from the dangers of side-street traffic. That also places you in the correct position to start to overtake if the motorist ahead slows down.

From Avoiding Straight-Road Hazards

… scared of being hit from behind… Don’t worry about it–there is no practical way to decide, while walking or running along, whether the motorist behind is so drunk that you should get off the road. It is not worth worrying about–it is very rare, and you can do nothing to prevent it, short of not traveling on the roads.

From Walking or Running the Intersections

From Left Turns

Allow plenty of time to make your lane changes to get to the left-turn lane. If you are lucky and get across sooner than you expect, walk or run as close as practicable to the centerline up to the start of the left-turn lane. Walking or running close to the centerline gives enough room for the drivers behind to overtake you so you won’t annoy them by holding up traffic.

From Stop Signs and Signals

… You have to decide whether the motorist coming from a side street is just sticking the car’s nose out or is really going all the way across… But don’t stop needlessly… Only if the car keeps moving out should you assume the driver is continuing out… But if it keeps coming, make a complete left turn and stay ahead of the car.

This all sounds dangerously aggressive. Why not just stop? First, if you develop the pedestrian-inferiority complex and let this bullying stop you, you will not get home by evening. Second, the chance that a motorist who is sticking his nose out beyond a stop sign will cause an accident is small, provided that you take the proper evasive action. The motorist who will hit you coming through a stop sign is the one who comes through just before you reach the car’s path, which is when you have no chance to stop and can only dodge left and hope.


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