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Pedestrians vs. cars: Can't we all just get along?

It was rush hour. Cars were weaving, darting, and speeding, morons had cellphones pressed to ears, coffees on the go and elbows on the steering wheel. Nothing really remarkable, just the typical urban insanity to which we've all become accustomed. Nor was there anything remarkable about the mother and child who stood a foot or two off the curb.

Mom had on her best Lululemon gear. Her son looked around five and wore the requisite brightly coloured helmet as he perched on his bicycle. There was a crosswalk thirty feet to mom's left and there was a traffic light forty feet to her right but I suppose she was in a rush and couldn't spend the fifty seconds to walk to either one. Nope, mother and child had instead elected to jaywalk across four lanes of busy street at five in the afternoon. Mom looked left toward the oncoming traffic, neglecting to keep one eye on her son (whom she was blocking from view). He began to edge his bike into the street…

Mercifully, she turned back just before sonny darted into traffic, preventing what would have surely proved to be a life altering introduction to the automobile.

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Ah pedestrians -- gotta start them early learning the rules of the road.

We force drivers to get a license and, while I'm not suggesting we force people to take a test that proves they can walk, could we at least have a few public service announcements - some acknowledgment that pedestrians have responsibilities as well as rights? You know, get a camera on Lloyd Robertson and have him say: "Hey Ass**les. Watch where you're strolling." Or have an episode of Video on Trial in which local alternative comedians with bad haircuts make fun of lame sidewalk rebels?

Don't get me wrong, I am not disparaging walking. Walking upright on two legs is awesome. It's good for you and it is great for the environment. It's fun. It clears the head and is beneficial for creativity. It's great for getting you away from people and places you don't wish to be near. Frankly, next to horseback riding it's the noblest form of transport. Caesar, Alexander, Cleopatra, Voltaire, Catherine the Great, they all walked. Get it.

So, why isn't this exalted company enough for our cities' curb strutters?

Why, because they have to prove a point and they do this by ignoring all traffic rules and regulations and, this is important, by giving drivers the evil eye in the process. What's most perplexing is the strange logic at play. Everyone agrees that most drivers are crazy, that the streets are poorly designed, that the laws do nothing except line the pockets of the local robber barons, that it's madness. Yet how do pedestrians cope with all this danger? They make it worse.

Picture this: Someone barges into your house and says "It's insane out there. There are enormous elephants ripping up and down the street, zebras are galloping, they're all rushing about. All that's keeping them at bay are traffic lights." Would your response be "Well F that! I'm going to get out there and dart around among them! They'll get out of my way. If they don't, I'll be right."

There must be some chemical imbalance that makes humans, who are merely flesh and bone, step into front of automobiles in order to make a point. You know, you, the pedestrian, have the right of way and want to cross the street but some knuckle-dragging head-shaved, former soccer wannabe behind the wheel of a Pontiac Sunfire is turning when he shouldn't. So, you step smack in the way and give him a "Go ahead make my day" stare.

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Hey, I'm not saying you're wrong. You're right. But how does your getting struck by a car make sense in this situation? It may prove the point. The motorist should have stopped but now you're in traction. Stay on the curb. Yell if you must. I'd recommend comforting yourself with the fact that, for most people, just being alive is punishment enough. Think about their pathetic existences. Traipsing around the earth for a few decades of consumption and defecation sponsored by whatever corporate entity owns them, followed by an eventual pointless death. You'll feel better, trust me, I always do.

I know what you're thinking: "Come on GlobeDrive! Drivers are contemptuous of pedestrians. Most don't even look for them when they are scooting along." Hey, no argument here. Those drivers should be punished. They give everyone else a bad name. If you're pushing for tougher driving tests, and all that, I'm on board, and you can count me in for revoking the right to vote and returning to a feudal system. Most people are just using up air the rest of us could be breathing.

The answer to driver incompetence, however, is not pedestrian stupidity. The solution to motorists who text while driving is not people jaywalking through intersections. The cure for cars speeding is not people running in the way of traffic in order to beat a yellow light. Show me a bad driver and I'll show you a bad pedestrian. It's the same stupidity just differing modes of transportation. The trouble with traffic is that it creates the lethal combination of stupidity and energy.

So what's to be done? Let's come together.

I think blue-eyed soulsters Hall and Oates put it best in Mano a Mano from the 1981 Private Eyes album, "See a lot of people walking around and around, terra firma turned them upside down. Too scared to reach out, maybe afraid of what they'll find but a hand stuck in a pocket come up empty every time…You'd like to go your way, sure I'd like to go mine but we're all in this together running out of time. Woman to woman and man to man, heart to heart and hand to hand, set an example for all the little boys and girls, for the hand that rocks the cradle can rule the world."

I can go for that. Yes can do.

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About the Author
Road Sage columnist

Andrew Clark, an award-winning journalist, screenwriter and author, is Director of the Comedy Writing and Performance program at Humber College in Toronto. More

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