Yes, you do live in an episode of the Twilight Zone.
Submitted for your approval, a world where the people who operate large, dangerous machines — automobiles — are given every courtesy, and, in their mishaps with people who prefer to walk or ride a bicycle, are given the benefit of the “doubt.” The street does not belong to people; the street belongs to automobiles and, secondarily, to the people driving them. Pedestrians and bicyclists are expected to extend courtesy to motorists because it’s simply unthinkable that any motorists ought to be held up for even a moment to accommodate a pedestrian or bicyclist. In this bizzaro world, even advocates for pedestrians and bicyclists believe this.
The entire system of traffic is designed primarily with the ease of motoring in mind. For example, this intersection that I cross daily by bicycle and foot (click for larger image):
Notice those sweeping right turns? If you’re standing on any of those corners waiting to cross you’ll notice something else: most people don’t stop for the red light. They focus on traffic to their left and glide right on through. You don’t want to be in those crosswalks when that occurs.
(Tip for the Springfield Police Department: National and Grand offers a great opportunity to fulfill your traffic ticket quota! I look forward to seeing an officer there soon.)
I’ve actually had to wave and yell to get the attention of motorists in the right turn lanes so that I can cross safely during the green phase that includes a walk signal. And all too often, as in nearly every day, I have to weave my way around motorists who block the crosswalk. About once a week, a motorist will actually challenge my presence in the crosswalk by attempting to shoot the gap or hurrying me along by easing into it while I’m still in the middle of the road.
Given the bizzaro culture and the traffic designs, is it any wonder that it’s dangerous for humans to cross the street?
I do not fault the engineers. They are doing the job the culture asks of them: Make sure traffic — understood as motor vehicles — can move safely at speed. Then, secondarily, paste on a few features to accommodate pedestrians.
Why did the human cross the street?
To flirt with death.
And our culture is totally cool with that.
Totally. Cool. With. That.