So this week we bandied about the whole vexing pedestrian vs car at the Jersey Shore question. My story on a new crackdown on cars that do not yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk is here. Starting next week, Longport, Ventnor, North Wildwood and Sea Isle City will be among 15 towns in South Jersey to start using undercover police officers as "pedestrian decoys." Which means that in addition to your speed trap vulnerabilities to tickets, now the police are going to jump out and slap you with $100 fine and two points for not letting one of their finest across the road. You've been warned. Now, I've given a lot of thought to this whole question. Up until recently, I felt really strongly that pedestrians were often at fault, and that motorists were wrong, especially in a four lane street, two in each direction, to wave beach goers across without being able to guarantee that the other three lanes would also be safe to cross. This drove me crazy, really. In the guise of being nice, hey, we're at the shore, let's slow down and wave the pedestrians across, they often set these walkers up for more danger, trapping them in the middle of the street, or waving them to a lane where the driver was not stopping. But I see now that what's needed is not a case by case risk assessment, but an entire cultural shift. People should be all about slowing down to let people cross. To be clear, the law states that pedestrians should not leave the curb until it is safe and it is reasonable that a car has the ability to stop for them. Once in the crosswalk, that's where the burden shifts, obviously, really, to the car. But clearly, cars driving up and down those busy shore streets are more interested in making the light than allowing every last boogie boarder and double stroller with chairs attached to stop their momentum. Perhaps the decoy program, or at least the publicity about it, will help that shift along. Along the same lines, how about some accommodations for bicycles as well? How ridiculous is it that the Atlantic City Boardwalk is not available for bicycle commuting by casino employees after 10 a.m.?
In any case, here's a photo of Captain Vincent Pacentrelli of the Longport Police demonstrating the ins and outs of crosswalk etiquette. Not sure if Vince himself will be making like a surfer dude and trying to spread the yield-to-pedestrian word next week, but take a good look. Longport's got a long history of catching me coming off that bridge a couple few miles an hour too fast, once while I inconveniently had like $13 unpaid on an old Wildwood parking ticket from a few years back, and as anybody who lives in Jersey knows, that's a pandora's box not easily closed. But Office Vince was very nice about it, and after I interviewed him, he looked up my entire driving record on his computer and made jokes about it. But like Andy Reid, he's all about second chances. Thanks, dude. I will be staying out of Longport as much as possible.
UPDATE: People seem to really be a little paranoid about the pedestrian thing, and all of a sudden seem to be giving the pedestrians the benefit of the doubt. However, just this afternoon, I saw the usual near catastrophe. One driver waves across, the driver in the next lane doesn't see that and continues on as usual and there's a close call. Then there was the driver in front of me who stopped _ a little suddenly _ for a pedestrian who was still on the side of the road, causing the driver in back of him (me) to have to make a kind of sudden stop. Interestingly, the driver in front of me was a police officer, so I guess it's good I stopped in time.