pedestrian.jpgThere is nothing that appears to confuse San Francisco drivers more than a pedestrian in the crosswalk. They will look at you with this particular kind of uncomprehending yet accusatory expression (which is a very difficult expression to make indeed) like they’re trying to play some awkward intimidation game with you, and it’s like honestly sir you are driving two tons of steel, you win. This is not some fucking urban version of David and Goliath, I just want to get over to that sidewalk with both of my kneecaps.

Many drivers have actually ceased stopping at intersections altogether, as though those annoying red octagons that they’re seeing everywhere denote ‘Sort of Slow Down’ zones. Drivers will often not even check to see if anyone’s coming, because they play hide and go seek the same way I did when I was three: if they can’t see you, you aren’t there.

When they do deign to stop, usually once they are in the middle of the crosswalk anyway, they’ll give you a little wave like they’re doing you some kind of favor, and could you and your one-legged dog please hurry it up.

Sometimes, they will laugh and mouth “Oopsie,” like, I just almost killed you, isn’t that twee? Maybe next time, Pedestrian, you could get a bumper sticker that says My Other Car is a Wheelchair, and stick it to your forehead.

What makes this all the more dangerous is the sheer number of Priuses in this city. Priuses are good for a lot of things like not using a lot of gas or feeling smug, but what they are not good for is making enough noise so that pedestrians know that they’re coming. If a Prius hits a pedestrian in the crosswalk and no one’s around to see it, does it make a sound? No.

The only safe place to cross a street in San Francisco is near a school. At least children get the privilege of a crossing guard. Of course, since it’s never advisable to spend an inordinate amount of time hanging around school children, you’re pretty much on your own.

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  • Burgos

    I totally agree with you about the Prius, plus the unpublished faulty brake systems that all Prius seem to come equipped with, but you didn’t mention the pedestrian who pauses in the middle of the crosswalk to check her messages, dial a number, text, or simply didn’t take their eyeballs out of their ass and noticed that a car had already stopped, proceeded into the intersection and was now headlight to last year’s neck scarf with the clueless pedestrian.
    They can safely get away without looking as they cross the dusty roads when they were back home in New Cuyama, but here, you have to at least TRY to take some responsibility for your own safety.

  • Xenu

    This is all so true.

    Don’t even get me started about drivers who won’t stop for people getting on and off trains. I can barely imagine what’s going through their minds.

    “Oh, there’s a 75 year old woman stepping out of a train into a traffic lane. I think the best, most responsible thing to do in this situation, would be to drive by at 45 MPH.”

  • Follow The Day

    What I hate is when I’m in the crosswalk and a car from the other side will rush the intersection and then wait inches away as I walk in front of it. I get it, you’re in a hurry, but I’m not going to walk any faster because you’re glaring at me for being in the crosswalk.

  • Greg Dewar

    This is part of a bigger problem, which is that people in SF really do not know how to drive at all, especially in an urban landscape.

    People are always making those illegal “drive around the intersection” U turns like it’s legal, and people in SF are too stupid to know how to park their stupid cars because most of them didn’t learn to drive here (or a similar place).

    When I was learning to drive my instructor would force me to drive to and around SF all day every day, saying it was the only way I was going to learn to be aware of multiple crazy things going on at once. I hated it at the time, but now, I’m glad. I know how to parallel park, more important I know how to find parking even in Nob Hill at midnight, and I’ve never killed any pedestrians or bicyclists.

  • Neo Displacer

    Amen sister. 20 years ago if you stepped off the curb all traffic would stop. Originally from the east coast where such niceties were unheard of, this behavior shocked me. “It’s true what they say about Californians, they are crazy enviro tree-hugging too-nice to a fault,” I thought.

    But nothing lasts. You know the internet killed it along with the Cron.

    Last week an impatient driver actually ran into me as I was crossing legally near Pac Bell Park after a game. It was weird. It was a willful act on the driver

  • Rose

    I guess I’m alone in this. Coming from Michigan, where everyone owns behemoth vehicles and thinks they own the road, I’ve found San Francisco drivers to be refreshingly polite. Not once have I been almost killed. yay!

  • salsaman

    While there’s no shortage of clueless drivers not waiting their turn, San Franciscans sure love being car-hating pedestrians! Can’t count the number of times I got the stink eye from pedestrians in crosswalks after I come to a stop.

  • J.

    From my experience as a driver, cyclist and a pedestrian…

    Cyclists are the worst…they think they have a right to do whatever and whenever…not yielding to cars or pedestrians, and even riding fast on a sidewalk and giving attitude to folks walking side-by-side or with their kids/dogs. They don’t call it a side WALK for nothing. Or passing me on my right when I’m driving and have my signal on to turn right.

    Pedestrians suck ’cause they think they can cross a street without looking or waiting for a car or other vehicle already in motion, i.e., peds will step off a curb even after a car is half-way through crossing a street

    Cars just suck in general, but they are sometimes a necessary evil. California drivers do tend to be clueless, but rarely the type-A Asshole. The near misses I’ve encountered generally involve turning cars.

  • cuiveen

    I live in Glen Park. Right in front of the BART station at the end of Monterey is a stop LIGHT. It is often treated as a yield or speed up light. I have been almost killed more times than I can count. Yes, you saving 30 seconds on your way to the freeway is so much more important than my life. Oh, and save you’re “Oopsies” and little wave. They will be met with the same glower and finger as I give everyone else who nearly kills me on my way to public transit. And be glad I don’t carry a baseball bat.

  • Jimbo

    People love to talk about SF drivers in terms of “many,” as in “many” don’t stop for red lights. Really? Who are they? I’m sure there are some red-light violations every day here, but it’s not like you see people blowing through stale red lights at every intersection. What the author seems to be complaining about is what every other anti-driver writer likes to complain about – the fact that “many” pedestrians don’t seem to want to bother looking both ways before crossing the street like they were taught (or not) to do in kindergarten. I have had more pedestrians stroll out into the crosswalk AGAINST the light, or BEFORE the light, apparently relying on some magic bubble they believe to exist, than I can count; yet I can remember maybe three instances – in 17 years of living here – in which a driver completely disregarded a red light where I was about to cross as a pedestrian. That’s three too many, of course, but that doesn’t change the fact that between a pedestrian and a vehicle, the vehicle will generally win. That’s why the Vehicle Code contains an oft-ignored requirement that pedestrians look out for their own safety and not step out into traffic (or delay traffic unnecessarily by lingering their way across the street). And that’s why I don’t take chances when I cross the street. But maybe “many” other pedestrians in SF would just rather be dead than wrong.

  • areallyniceguy

    Actually, I find the drivers here to be exceptionally polite to pedestrians, compared to the drivers in other cities like NY, DC, LA, Chicago, etc. Bicyclists, on the other hand, are exceptionally rude and arrogant in the way they treat pedestrians.

  • Akit

    I almost got nailed by a car today while crossing from Caltrain to the N-Judah platform. I had the right of way to cross and an SUV with an idiot talking on the phone made the right turn and went in front of me. Even the tourists I was guiding to the train platform was shocked.

    The city needs to add a signal on Sunset at the no-signal intersection near St. Ignatius High School. I always stop for the kids, but some idiot in the middle lane just zooms by and doesn’t give a shit about pedestrian right-of-way.

  • Burgos

    I frequently drive on Sloat and everyday on Lincoln and I agree with what you say. A pedestrian was killed last year at the pedestrian crossing further up in the twenties, near the shopping centre. Expecting three lanes of traffic to stop is a design flaw; the pedestrians should be able to activate a warning light that they’re in the crosswalk so that ALL three lanes of oncoming cars can see from a distance. Otherwise the pedestrian is blocked from view by other cars.

  • Jimbo

    Despite my previous comment I agree totally with you about putting warning lights or some other kind of signal at crosswalks that are in the middle of a block or not otherwise controlled by a traffic light. I know I have the right of way when I cross in those crosswalks, but it’s crazy to think that cars will stop or that drivers will recognize that there is a crosswalk there. They need something actuated by the pedestrian.

  • carbonXT

    man, do you guys ever leave the city? Try walking or riding your bike down around the peninsula, or out in walnut creek. Then you’ll realize the drivers in the city are actually pretty good. There’s certainly some bad apples in both camps, but in general, drivers in the city are much more aware that the road is there not just for cars.

    And all this talk of ‘SF drivers’ – like it’s some other remote group. Even if half of us commenting here don’t own cars, I’m willing to bet most of the remainder either do a city-car-share or have a significant other or roommate from whom they borrow a car once or twice a month. We are those ‘city drivers’ you’re talking about!

  • Xenu

    There’s definitely some piss-poor drivers on the peninsula. Whenever I drive down 280 or 101, I always know I’m in Palo Alto because some idiot in a Subaru will merge in front of me going at half my speed.

    And I’m not joking about this — the ride between SF and Palo Alto is basically fine (esp. on 280) but once you hit Palo Alto, the oblivious drivers ALWAYS pop up.

  • contrarycomet

    Things San Franciscan Pedestrians Don’t Like:

    * Looking both ways before stepping out into the street
    * Crossing at the corners
    * Having their leisurely crossing rushed by those darn traffic lights
    * Taking responsibility: If the car is moving and the driver can’t see you, whose fault is it if you step into its path?