The Seattle Department of Transportation posted a reminder on its blog about letting buses go first, a good idea but also mandated by law. Buses should go first—but who or what comes before buses, and whom should bus drivers be “letting go first?” The answer is pretty obvious, bikes and pedestrians. But in practice, sometimes, it feels like bus drivers could use a reminder of this. Fortunately, giving pedestrians the right of way is also written down in the Seattle Municipal Code and Washington Administrative code as well. The bottom line is that with more people in the city, everyone needs to be on the look out for everyone else if we’re going to make this density thing work.
Awhile back on Seattle’s Land Use Code, I wrote a response to Dan Bertolet’s posting of a video about riding bikes (or not riding bikes) called “Why People Don’t Ride Bikes.” Bike posts always generate a lot of hullabaloo for some reason from both cyclists and drivers irritated with cyclists. I felt a little left out being a pedestrian. I gave up my bike riding because I found that the distances I was commuting were too short for riding a bike. It took less time to get from point A to point B on foot than it took suiting up for the rain, unlocking and locking the bike, and, as Dan pointed out, it seemed like I was risking my life to get to work.
I wrote a response that included a video as well. I took some phone video of running through Capitol Hill in which I braved people blowing crosswalks, had to run around cars and trucks parking on the sidewalk, and a series of other horrors. My point was to argue for an explicit hierarchy for modes of transit. This isn’t anything really new, but our laws and codes tend to put a lot of weight on protecting cars from people rather than the other way around.
Buses can be big, dangerous, fast moving objects to a pedestrian or a cyclist. What I am about to write next is based on personal experience as a pedestrian: buses need to slow down and be far more careful and respectful of pedestrians. Too often I have had to call Metro to complain about a driver making a left turn across traffic and honking at me while I am in the crosswalk, blocking the crosswalk, or even, when I was riding a bike, trying to joust with me out on the road. Bus drivers are human like the rest of us and they are trying to do their job, but just like SDOT reminded car drivers, I’m reminding bus drivers: take it easy out there.
And there is no doubt that pedestrians can be completely inappropriate as well. There is no reason, for example, to wag a finger and make a face at a driver that gets stranded in the box, blocking a crosswalk downtown. It happens.
The point is that everyone should be respectful as we can of everyone else, whether we’re walking, biking, or busing. Accidents happen (I was involved in one the other day), people make mistakes, and ultimately it comes down to the Golden Rule: do unto others, as you would have them do unto you. In other words, yield unto others as you would have them yield unto you.