August 6, 2010

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Ride Friday: On Pedestrians and Traffic

Recently, I found myself on my motorcycle enjoying a pleasant ride through Kings Beach, CA. Kings Beach, in case you are unaware, is a high traffic (for Tahoe) touristy area. It features 4 lanes of traffic, and a plethora of crosswalks, so that pedestrians do not have to walk very far to safely cross the street. In fact, in California, traffic must ALWAYS yield the right of way to Pedestrians in Crosswalks. Despite there being crosswalks every couple hundred yards, you will occasionally get pedestrians who decide to just cross in the middle of the street. Some will wait for there to be no cars, but most are brazen enough to just walk out into oncoming traffic expecting it to halt. I almost ran into one such person.

This guy apparently decided to cross the road come hell or high water. He got across the first lane, which I was currently occupying, and then before continuing on his way across the second lane and pausing on the yellow dividing lines, he suddenly noticed me and

STOPPED. Complete deer in the headlights look (and it was still daylight out). Then he starts backing up, realizes that maybe that’s a bad idea then starts going forward, then stops again. This little dance occurs while I am “hurtling” toward him at around 30 MPH.

As Jon has pointed out many a time, motorcycles are agile things. We tend to weave around obstacles fairly easily. One key thing to keep in mind about most obstacles: they aren’t alive. I felt like a lifeguard with a struggling swimmer. This guy was putting himself (as well myself) in even more danger by dithering back and forth.

When I passed him, he was close enough that I could have reached over and punched him, all because he kept moving back and forth. If he had gone one way or the other, I could have easily given him a wide berth, but when he started flailing about… yeah, not much you can do.

Keep in mind that this all happened in approximately 30 seconds. I realize that doesn’t allow for a lot of time to think, but seriously as a pedestrian you need to be aware of things going on around you, especially if you decide on such a bonehead move as walking into oncoming traffic when you have no right of way.