I barely cleared crossing the first of eight lanes while pushing a small utility cart teeming with groceries and an eight-pack of Viva bungee-corded atop when a driver — who had to wait six seconds for me to do so — stuck his head out of the window and shouted, “Have a nice day, old lady,” as he lead-footed a right from Keene Road on to Main Street in Dunedin.
I guess I should be grateful for not being clipped. Sometimes, the only thing that separates me from a turning vehicle is the breeze it makes as the driver whips behind or in front of me.
It’s scarier trying to cross when the cars are turning into the crosswalk, trying to beat you out before you have a chance to get to the other end. For instance, on Jasper Street and Missouri Avenue in Largo, motorists making a turn seem intent on goading pedestrians into a game of dodge ball or chicken with their vehicles. I’m no longer as sure-footed to risk that route. And to think, I gave up driving because I didn’t feel safe in a car anymore.
I’ve discovered that, surprisingly, the major distraction between a driver and a pedestrian at intersections is not the cell phone, but rather the driver is looking to beat out drivers who already have the right of way, and continuing to look in that direction as he jockeys to turn into a crosswalk while a pedestrian is in it. This is a sad but true reason why some of us prefer to chance a “safer” crossing in the middle of the street and against the light.
Using the sidewalk is not without pedestrian pitfalls either. At a glance, they seem to be straightaways, except for the occasional driveway. Ever wonder why joggers prefer the street? Upon closer inspection, sidewalks exhibit a subtle slant to offset the ponding of water. Running or walking on them for lengthy periods exerts stress on the feet. I can personally vouch that after a recent trek of 3 miles instead of waiting one hour for a bus I just missed by a minute, my dogs were barking.
Sore tootsies notwithstanding, lengthy commutes on subtly slanted sidewalks can also play havoc on one’s balance, especially for us seniors. Sometimes I find myself inadvertently drifting towards the curb — a hazard, especially if a bicyclist is attempting to pass me. Many times one has rattled me by whizzing by without some much as a “beep-beep.” Common courtesy would suggest a notification when coming upon a pedestrian on the sidewalk. In fact, in that situation Florida law demands a shout-out from the person on the wheeled vehicle. (I’ve been tempted to wear a sign on my back to that effect).
It’s bad enough for us pedestrians to have our right-of-way on streets challenged, but on the sidewalks too?
Hence, I’ve programmed myself to look over my shoulder every half of a block for any conveyance behind me. (Once, a golf cart with four passengers scared the bejeezus out of me). Anyone who has seen me stopping and looking back, stopping and looking back, must surely think I’m trying to elude the men in the white coats.
Until I win the lottery and can afford to be chauffeured around town, I’ll have to endure the errant bicyclists, the subtle slants on sidewalks, and the perils of pedestrian crosswalks. That being said, if the trend continues it wouldn’t surprise me if the pedestrian crossing signal was changed to flash, not a countdown of seconds, but a warning in true “Dirty Harry” fashion — DO YOU FEEL LUCKY, PUNK? DO YA?
Theresa R. Knapik, Dunedin