I have lived in cities where pedestrians are plentiful; I have lived in cities where pedestrians are non-existent. I have been in cities where, as a pedestrian, I am automatically added to the endangered species list. I have also lived in a city where pedestrians are treated like sacred cows are in India. It is never so simple as looking both ways and crossing a street. As the mother of two fast-moving, cell phone-wielding kids, I live in constant fear.
In Toronto, where I live now, the streets are something of a free-for-all. There’s hustle, bustle, honking, and loads of other pedestrians and motorists vying for space on the streets. Toddlers learn the fine art of jaywalking at the heels of their parents. Motorists perform U-turns in the middle of downtown streets if they see a parking space on the opposite side – such actions are the norm here. I am a dual citizen of the streets – both motorist and pedestrian. I love that we have side streets here, a maze of shortcuts and alleys that get me where I’m going – fast – when I’m driving. I also love that Toronto is a pedestrian-friendly city. Even late at night, the sidewalks are never empty. There are many days when I don’t have the car and if I need to go somewhere, I walk.
As a pedestrian, I am uber-conscious of the vehicles around me. They are bigger than me. If I jaywalk, I run and go when there’s a good gap. I know as a motorist, it’s really hard to stop when a pedestrian blunders into the street. Give cars time and space. Sure, as a pedestrian and parent of two kids, I wish the cars would slow down although I love driving fast. More than anything else, I hope the drivers and my kids are paying attention. As a pedestrian, I try to be considerate – as a motorist, I know how frustrating it is to wait on a short light when pedestrians are just milling towards the opposite curb like drunk goats.
Years ago, there was a slogan “Speed Kills.” If it’s still around, it needs to be updated: “Inattention Kills.” Pedestrians are as guilty of stupidity as the drivers. I see countless people texting, looking down at their phones while crossing streets – even while jaywalking. As a pedestrian, I am constantly amazed at how seemingly blind drivers are. If you’ve got a licence to drive that several thousand pound vehicle, at least have the brains to pay attention to where it’s going. Even our illustrious mayor can’t be bothered to pay attention – he was recently seen on his cell phone while driving. Surely the mayor of the city can get himself a hands-free device? When he flipped off the concerned citizen who outted him, I’ll bet he had no hands on the flipping wheel…wow, he’s classy AND smart.
The world over, the motorist vs. pedestrian debate is endless but when did being attentive become the exception instead of the rule for both parties? We have tried very hard to instill a healthy sense of caution in our kids but realistically, when they’re walking with a group of friends, herd mentality rules. When one darts off the curb, the whole herd tends to go whether it’s a good idea or not. There is a wreath that lies on the side of a street I drive often. A teenager, following the herd one night, didn’t make it. In my humble opinion, everyone needs to pay attention and take responsibility for their movements on the streets.