Pedestrians are getting hit by cars on crosswalks more and more often in this city ("Walking targets," Feature by Tim Bousquet, January 9; Letters, January 16 and 23). Everyone agrees that it is a problem and that something needs to be done about it. However, every time the problem is brought up, a vocal subset of motorists feels the need to "remind" the public that crosswalk safety is the shared responsibility of drivers AND pedestrians.
It is not. At least, not in any moral sense of "responsibility." I feel this is obvious, yet I don't hear anyone else pointing it out. When a motor vehicle driver and a pedestrian approach each other, there is only one person who is operating a piece of technology capable of killing without intention, and one person who stands to be killed. There is nothing resembling a balance of power in this situation.
I get that cars must be accommodated, because they are really, really convenient. It's hard to imagine what our culture will even look like when they don't exist. But with the privilege of owning one and being licensed to drive it comes the possibility that it, ie you, might accidentally injure or kill someone. There is no similar privilege/responsibility relationship from the pedestrian's standpoint. She gets no benefit from your ability to get around faster than her; just a greater likelihood that she will die prematurely.
Here is a morally analogous hypothetical future: We, as a society, decide that it's OK for anyone to keep a loaded and cocked gun pointed in front of herself at all times, provided she can afford one and has been properly trained in its use. Some people like the feeling of protection this provides, and there are enough of those people that our elected lawmakers decide the convenience outweighs the danger.
Even in such a nightmarish culture, there would have to be some rules about which accidental shootings counted as instances of negligence, and those rules would be rooted in the fact that the people with the guns were ultimately the ones with the moral responsibility. Perhaps there would be "kill-free zones" where people without guns could feel safe in the knowledge that gun-holders were not legally allowed to shoot them, even unintentionally.
The point of this only slightly fantastic analogy is this: If more gunless people started getting accidentally shot in kill-free zones, it would be incredibly misguided and downright tasteless to blame the gunless people for this increased aggression.
Back to cars. Pedestrians have seen a great increase in driver aggression over the last decade or so. Vehicles can no longer be counted on to stop for you when you are waiting at a marked crosswalk. Drivers would rather pretend not to see you and plow through.
And if you are standing at an unmarked corner---which is legally meant to be treated the same as a crosswalk---you will wait all day before anyone gives you a chance to cross.
In short, Halifax has become a war zone, where the pedestrians are pitted unfairly against the cars. If you want to walk across town, you will have to step daringly off of curbs when it is within your legal rights and feign confidence that the law is on your side. You will hope that the approaching drivers will back down against your calculated bluff. Because, morally, they have forgotten who is holding all the cards. —Andrew Glencross, Halifax
Putting my garbage out this week, it's a little rainy and as usual only a few streetlights are working. I'm startled by the sound of screeching tires. I look up and there's a pedestrian crossing at a crosswalk, and normally I would consider that near-miss the driver's fault.
Said pedestrian came out from behind the utility pole, wearing all black, hoodie up, didn't press the button and gave the driver the middle finger. The driver gets out of his car, walks over and presses the button and says loudly "Sorry I forgot to press the button for you sir, I'll do better next time sir," gets in his car and drives away with me, the other drivers and another pedestrian applauding. —posted by MadCanuck at thecoast.ca