30-Second Culture Change: 3 Behavioral Shifts Toward Pedestrian Safety


Parklets & Sunday Streets are great policy changes, but what can we do on a behavioral level to help pedestrians?

It’s the third day of the New Year and already I’m losing count of the number of pedestrians hit on San Francisco streets, not to mention two incidents closing out 2013. In particular, the horrific accident that occurred on New Year’s Eve, in which a car turning into a crosswalk without looking killed a six-year-old girl, upsets me to my core. More upsetting is the SFPD’s response, telling our local ABC Affiliate:

“We have to remember sometimes people in vehicles aren’t paying attention. And so we just have to be diligent as a pedestrian and make sure that the intersection is clear, that the streets are clear,” said San Francisco police Lt. Julian Hill.

Then tweeting:

This sort of victim-blaming is incredible disconcerting. Imagine if that tweet read:

“20 women sexually assaulted in 2013. Please pay attention when going about your daily business & don’t assume men will stop.”

Upset yet?

Instead of just bemoaning this development or worse, accepting it, we can do something about it.

In fact, this rash of incidents has forced my hand in setting a mantra for the year: DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. What am I doing about this? Perhaps starting a new potential blog series, called “30-Second Culture Change,” aiming to challenge us how we look at “accepted” terms/views in media and culture. I’ll throw out three ideas each time I’m riled up about something, you can take 10 seconds to ponder each one. Deal?

It’s only appropriate to start with the issue of pedestrian safety. Without further ado:

3 Behavioral Shifts Toward Pedestrian Safety

  1. Accept that walking* is a right, driving and cycling are a responsibility. I’m not at all saying that you should just walk into the middle of the street without looking, but you should, at the minimum, feel safe crossing when you’re legally supposed to. I’m saying that drivers and cyclists should be held responsible for their actions if they hit a pedestrian. Rules of the road are basic. We all don’t drive, we all don’t bike, but we all are pedestrians.*With respect to the persons with disabilities community, I use walking in the broad sense including using a wheelchair or mobility device in public space.
  2.  Stop referring to incidents as “accidents.” If it’s preventable, it’s not an accident. It’s not an “accident” if you ran into me because you were texting. It’s a collision, it’s a crash, it is not accidental – it’s cause and effect.
  3. If a driver kills someone, don’t say he/she “cooperated.” This one particularly irks me. If a driver doesn’t hit-and-run, apparently he or she is a saint! The worst part is this usually is accompanied by “and was not charged.” Imagine if someone stabbed someone, but “cooperated” with police and wasn’t charged. Why are we not thinking in these terms?

Want to do more? Consider joining or donating to Walk San Francisco and further advocate for your rights as a pedestrian.


About Meghan A.

creative & professional creative professional | communications, content & community | nasty woman | adventurer & inspiration seeker | bicyclist & feminist | walk san francisco board | current: Adobe Typekit Product Marketing Manager, former: TYPO SF magic maker
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