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Author Topic: Why do people walk in the street?  (Read 6395 times)

theline

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Why do people walk in the street?
« on: May 04, 2014, 01:21:52 AM »

(Mods: I couldn't figure out which board to put topic on. If there's a better one, please move it.)

When I was young, most folks out for a walk would do so on the sidewalk. It's what your mother tells you to do and it just makes sense, in preference to becoming a statistic.

More and more in recent years, I see people of all ages walking in the street. In quiet residential areas, I suppose it doesn't make a lot of difference, but you still won't catch me in the street, unless:
  • There is no sidewalk. Even then, I may walk on the shoulder or across the yards.
  • The sidewalk is covered with vegetation, snow, or other debris.
  • The sidewalk is in very poor repair, such that I judge it to be a greater hazard than the traffic.
So why is there a trend of more pedestrians risking life and limb in the street?

Of course, you always have not-so-smart-asses who defy motorists to hit them, and you have kids that have to be daring and/or foolish. Have those folks grown in number?
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Re: Why do people walk in the street?
« Reply #1 on: May 04, 2014, 01:38:41 AM »

Stupidity.
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maplestar

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Re: Why do people walk in the street?
« Reply #2 on: May 04, 2014, 06:06:53 AM »

I think there are also a lot of inconsistent sidewalks in some places. I know I have come across places where the requirement for sidewalks has come after an area has been built up...and seems to be imposed as a requirement of building/renovation...which can lead to ridiculous situations where you have a sidewalk here and it ends at a property line mid-block. Depending on sidewalk placement (i.e., if the sidewalk is not against a curb), you may not have a clear path provided back to the road. I've seen areas where I've tried to follow the sidewalk for a while, before finding it too unpredictable and unsuitable for use.
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Re: Why do people walk in the street?
« Reply #3 on: May 04, 2014, 08:57:33 AM »

The argument I typically hear from joggers/runners is that when they run in the street, the asphalt is softer on their feet/legs as opposed to the concrete sidewalks.

I really don't mind as long as they're going against the traffic as they're supposed to be doing, but many are still going with the traffic with both headphone plugs at full blast so when I have to bike past them, I can't yell at them.
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jeffandnicole

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Re: Why do people walk in the street?
« Reply #4 on: May 04, 2014, 10:30:19 AM »

Many sidewalks are narrow: for some people, it's uncomfortable to walk rightnext to their friend.

Others claim the sidewalks aren't flat and are heaved. I buy this argument to an extent, but it doesn't apply when the sidewalk is brand new.

As long as they are walking near the edge of the road, I don't mind too much. It's the person walking down the middle of the road with a baby stroller that I shake my head at. Then when someone honks, they get all pissed off as if the car was speeding down the road, when in reality the driver was behind them for a period of time giving them a chance to move over on their own.
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J N Winkler

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Re: Why do people walk in the street?
« Reply #5 on: May 04, 2014, 11:17:06 AM »

When I was young, most folks out for a walk would do so on the sidewalk. It's what your mother tells you to do and it just makes sense, in preference to becoming a statistic.

More and more in recent years, I see people of all ages walking in the street. In quiet residential areas, I suppose it doesn't make a lot of difference, but you still won't catch me in the street, unless:

  • There is no sidewalk. Even then, I may walk on the shoulder or across the yards.
  • The sidewalk is covered with vegetation, snow, or other debris.
  • The sidewalk is in very poor repair, such that I judge it to be a greater hazard than the traffic.

So why is there a trend of more pedestrians risking life and limb in the street?

Of course, you always have not-so-smart-asses who defy motorists to hit them, and you have kids that have to be daring and/or foolish. Have those folks grown in number?

I really haven't noticed a strong trend of people ignoring sidewalks when they are provided.  In my subdivision some walking in the street is necessary since about two-thirds of the streets don't have sidewalks, though there is sidewalk provision on all of the bounding arterials except one.  The lone exception has shoulders instead of curbs (shoulders tend not to go with sidewalks in this city) and the shoulders are marked as bike lanes.

In Wichita, and probably also in Sedgwick County more generally, it is the custom to plat lots that front subdivision roads with sidewalk right-of-way that begins about eight feet behind the curb and to require builders to put in concrete driveways with sidewalk panels between the skirt and the main body of the driveway, whether or not the sidewalk is actually built.  However, if sidewalks are not built at the same time as the houses, they are almost never retrofitted later.  This is true even for subdivision streets which were originally left as gravel (something that used to be allowed in the 1950's and thereabouts but is thankfully now done rarely if ever), but are then later reconstructed with full pavement, closed drainage, curbs, and driveway skirts.  Where the sidewalk is absent, there is no delimitation of its right-of-way across yards, and it is not uncommon for people to place landscaping features that straddle the right-of-way.  It is considered a serious breach of etiquette to track across people's yards even if one makes an attempt to stay entirely within the platted right-of-way.

Arterials, on the other hand, are much more likely to have sidewalks, which start right at the curb in downtown and some older sections of the city, and are displaced well inside the curb in newer parts of the city.  Whenever an arterial does not already have sidewalks but is widened or reconstructed, sidewalks are also invariably added as a retrofit.

In regard to walking behavior vis-à-vis sidewalks and streets on subdivision roads, I have noticed the following things:

On lengths of street inside subdivisions that lack sidewalks, people often walk on the right side of the road for these reasons:

*  Apparent ignorance (the people I see doing this are not regular walkers in the neighborhood, like myself)

*  Need to control dogs (dogs are more likely to react to overtaking walkers before their owners become aware of said walkers, so having the width of the road between the dog and other walkers in the same direction leaves more margin for error; sometimes people just stop and hold their dogs on the leash while waiting for other walkers to pass)

On lengths of subdivision street that do have sidewalks, people often don't use them for the following reasons:

*  Cars parked in driveways that block the sidewalk

*  People playing basketball in their driveways or catch in their front yards (you are less likely to be hit by a stray ball in the street than on the sidewalk, and in the street on the left side is the place to be if there is no sidewalk on the other side of the street)

*  People coming down the sidewalk in the other direction in settings that seem ripe for unwanted contact of one kind or another (e.g. unaccompanied male in one direction and unaccompanied female in the other direction, the two being strangers to each other), and no sidewalk on the other side of the street

*  Dog-walkers moving in either direction (lateral separation makes the dog less likely to react to being startled)

*  A dog run bounding immediately on the sidewalk and no convenient sidewalk on the other side of the street (I cannot remember a single time I have closely passed a fenced dog run that the dog has not barked at me; even with > 90% hearing loss in both ears I can hear the bark and it is enormously annoying)

*  Lengths of sidewalk that are too short to justify the hassle of walking up someone's driveway to access them and walking down someone else's driveway to return to the left side of the street (I never like to set foot on a driveway skirt unless I have actual business in the house at the top of the driveway; I infinitely prefer to access a length of sidewalk directly from the curb)

In regard to traffic safety considerations, the sidewalk is not noticeably safer than the left-hand curb in subdivisions that have few cars parked at the curb, which tends to be true in newer subdivisions with larger lot sizes that allow driveways of sufficient length to accommodate parked cars.  In subdivisions that do have a lot of cars parked at the curb, the sidewalk will be used heavily simply because it is more convenient and safe than dodging around dozens of cars.

In contrast to large European cities where walking is much more a way of life, walking in Wichita tends to be a much more isolated experience, particularly on subdivision roads.  When I encounter other people while walking, it is much more likely to be on a sidewalk bounding an arterial (there are two elementary schools and one junior high nearby, so arterial sidewalks form connecting links to their playing fields; there is also an apartment complex on West Street within walking distance of the Dillons supermarket and the McDonald's at 13th and West), a casual wave and Hello from someone doing work in his or her yard as I walk past, or people walking dogs (the dog walkers and I know each other by sight and usually say Hi since we are out every day, usually on unvarying itineraries).  Sidewalks are also much narrower than in Europe.  This makes it hard to be one person approaching another on a sidewalk in Wichita without tensing up against the possibility of assault, sexual or otherwise, however distant it may be in actuality; you can't really keep your head up and look straight ahead without looking like you are staring at the other person with criminal intent.  There is one young woman in this neighborhood who used to jog by herself on a more or less nightly basis that I haven't seen for months and months, and I suspect she has given it up since she just didn't feel safe.
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Duke87

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Re: Why do people walk in the street?
« Reply #6 on: May 04, 2014, 01:25:36 PM »

If I am "walking in the street" it is probably because I am in the process of crossing it in the middle of the block. Sometimes, when there are lines of tightly parallel parked cars, you will need to walk along the inside of them until you get to a driveway or other gap where you can comfortably slip through. Likewise, you may need to slip through a gap before the coast is entirely clear. So you end up with a maneuver something like this:


Or in the more extreme case, like this:


Bear in mind that this is most common on streets with relatively low traffic counts and slow speeds. I wouldn't do this on a busy or high speed street.
« Last Edit: May 04, 2014, 01:37:33 PM by Duke87 »
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kendancy66

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Re: Why do people walk in the street?
« Reply #7 on: May 04, 2014, 02:40:25 PM »

I thought that people walk on the street instead of sidewalks is so they don't have to watch for curb drop off at intersections.  My mother once broke her pelvis when she anticipated stepping off a curb where there was not a curb.
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doorknob60

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Re: Why do people walk in the street?
« Reply #8 on: May 04, 2014, 04:57:09 PM »

If I am "walking in the street" it is probably because I am in the process of crossing it in the middle of the block. Sometimes, when there are lines of tightly parallel parked cars, you will need to walk along the inside of them until you get to a driveway or other gap where you can comfortably slip through. Likewise, you may need to slip through a gap before the coast is entirely clear. So you end up with a maneuver something like this:


Or in the more extreme case, like this:


Bear in mind that this is most common on streets with relatively low traffic counts and slow speeds. I wouldn't do this on a busy or high speed street.

I do this almost every day walking from my dorm to class. Of course, this is on an on campus street with a speed limit of 20 mph (or maybe 15, not well signed).

triplemultiplex

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Re: Why do people walk in the street?
« Reply #9 on: May 05, 2014, 12:27:07 AM »

They are doing purposefully to spite motorists because they know how angry it makes them when there is any obstruction while they're in their vroom-vroom machine.   :meh:

My serious response: your perception is probably just confirmation bias.  Every pedestrian you see in the street reinforces the idea that this is a trend; every pedestrian using the sidewalk is unremarkable and quickly forgotten, if they are noticed at all.
It's the same phenomenon at work when someone says, "(group X) are all terrible drivers."  We never notice the people in that group that are not doing something stupid on the road.
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kurumi

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Re: Why do people walk in the street?
« Reply #10 on: May 05, 2014, 11:23:09 AM »

Because more and more cyclists are using the sidewalks?

(Even when there are bike lanes)
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theline

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Re: Why do people walk in the street?
« Reply #11 on: May 05, 2014, 01:21:06 PM »

They are doing purposefully to spite motorists because they know how angry it makes them when there is any obstruction while they're in their vroom-vroom machine.   :meh:

My serious response: your perception is probably just confirmation bias.  Every pedestrian you see in the street reinforces the idea that this is a trend; every pedestrian using the sidewalk is unremarkable and quickly forgotten, if they are noticed at all.
It's the same phenomenon at work when someone says, "(group X) are all terrible drivers."  We never notice the people in that group that are not doing something stupid on the road.

Your serious response might be on the mark. I'm now at the age (over 60) where lots of things seem to be not as good as in the "old days." I'm just a cranky old guy now, it seems. It does drive me crazy though when a young family is out for a walk, and they ignore the perfectly good sidewalk to stroll down the street. They set a very poor example for the kids, in addition to putting them in harm's way. I'll get off my soapbox now.
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roadman

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Re: Why do people walk in the street?
« Reply #12 on: May 05, 2014, 07:05:22 PM »

Because more and more cyclists are using the sidewalks?

(Even when there are bike lanes)

Not sure about other states, but in Massachusetts there is no legal requirement for cyclists to use bike lanes where they're provided.  Another example of how the "equal rights - equal responsibility" mantra the cycling lobby spouts is just a load of PR nonsense.
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Re: Why do people walk in the street?
« Reply #13 on: May 05, 2014, 07:40:04 PM »

Because more and more cyclists are using the sidewalks?
In the UK, crappy bike lanes where they put some signs up on the sidewalk and declare it legal (unless otherwise stated it is illegal) have a lot to answer for here.

I always prefer the road to on-sidewalk cycle facilities (even if marked out as separate). Cars may hurt more, but you are much more likely to have a collision with an unpredictable pedestrian, so pedestrians, especially if in any density are more intimidating for me.
Quote
(Even when there are bike lanes)
Others feel differently to me, or are taught to feel different. I've had it where I've nearly been knocked over by cyclists who, despite very decent bike lanes literally a foot away from them decide to, despite the road being empty at the time (as a very heavily signal-controlled road, traffic was in waves) cycle on the narrow (~3ft) sidewalk. Even though there's a bus stop shelter, narrowing the space more, at one point.
Not sure about other states, but in Massachusetts there is no legal requirement for cyclists to use bike lanes where they're provided.
I take it you've seen the video of the guy in Manhattan cycle into stuff in the cycle lane as he was ticketed for leaving it...

Or ridden along some of the absolute shit that passes for "decent cycle provision" even in the UK's cycle-friendly cities? Way too narrow lanes that encourage drivers to overtake without leaving room, having to yield to every side road, having to share with pedestrians, or stopped buses, obstacles in the middle of the lane (lampposts, signposts, even bus stop shelters leaving a foot of cycle path either side of them!), etc. There the problem isn't drivers parking, or utilities digging up, but engineers designing cycle lanes who haven't got brains, or don't use them. Central Government paying a fixed sum per unit distance doesn't help as cheap and crappy cycle lanes are abundant - thinking costs money!
Quote
Another example of how the "equal rights - equal responsibility" mantra the cycling lobby spouts is just a load of PR nonsense.
What, that they don't have to use cycle paths? How about HOVs having to use HOV lanes if provided? Oh wait, that's a completely stupid idea - why should cyclists, allowed on all the roadway, have to use the infrastructure provided solely for them?

---

When a student, my housemate was very partially-sighted. At night, he always walked down the middle of residential roads: while obviously the obstacles in the road are moving, they are at least equipped with lights and a sighted driver - bins and branches are not. Plus the surface is even (driveways in the UK often lead to sidewalks ramping down to the road with a 'dropped kerb', giving sidewalks an undulated effect) and on quiet residential roads, the middle is what is lit, with the sidewalk in shadow (even on more major urban roads) - even sighted people like myself think it more sensible to walk down the middle and then move out of the way when the one car every 5 minutes comes along, than to walk on the sidewalk, on some (the operative word here) roads.

I often walk in the gutter of the road when overtaking / passing other pedestrians. I do look for vehicles as I enter the road.

Busier roads here tend to have wider sidewalks, making walking on them less annoying.
« Last Edit: May 05, 2014, 07:55:44 PM by english si »
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ET21

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Re: Why do people walk in the street?
« Reply #14 on: May 05, 2014, 09:08:47 PM »

Stupidity, but I'm sure there are plenty of reasons (smart or stupid) on why they do it. Quiet residential areas I don't mind, but in the middle of a busy road or downtown is when it gets really stupid and dangerous
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Re: Why do people walk in the street?
« Reply #15 on: May 05, 2014, 09:36:46 PM »

Because there isn't any traffic.
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Jardine

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Re: Why do people walk in the street?
« Reply #16 on: May 06, 2014, 10:38:00 AM »

I'm helping a local municipality in beautifying a vacant city owned lot.  I've suggested putting a sidewalk in (we have been offered free materials if we can line up the worker bees) and it is amazing the blank, vacant, deer in the headlight looks I get when I bring it up.

"Why would we want to do that?"

The city even has a sidewalk ordinance. And it seems most of the incredulity about the sidewalk is coming from city governance.

Hell if I know what's wrong with these people.
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Re: Why do people walk in the street?
« Reply #17 on: May 06, 2014, 01:06:50 PM »

Regarding sidewalks being uneven sometimes, ever encounter a spot where an adjacent tree and/or its roots have literally buckled the sidewalk square up to a 20° angle (or more!)?

Other reasons include the fact that streets typically have better drainage than sidewalks, and after a heavy rain some sidewalks are prone to ponding.  If the adjacent lawn is new or unstable, you might end up walking through sheets of mud that washed over, mud that tends to remain after most puddles have dried up.

Another sidewalk obstacle: lawn sprinklers.  Sure, most folks are decent enough to place them out of range of the sidewalk, but water pressure can vary throughout the day.  And you may have had an unfavorable experience with one of those slowly rotating sprayers (pssh---pssh---pssh---pssh), that suddenly and without warning reverse direction at high speed (psh-psh-psh-psh-psh-psh)  :-D.
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SD Mapman

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Re: Why do people walk in the street?
« Reply #18 on: May 06, 2014, 03:49:51 PM »

Regarding sidewalks being uneven sometimes, ever encounter a spot where an adjacent tree and/or its roots have literally buckled the sidewalk square up to a 20° angle (or more!)?

Other reasons include the fact that streets typically have better drainage than sidewalks, and after a heavy rain some sidewalks are prone to ponding.  If the adjacent lawn is new or unstable, you might end up walking through sheets of mud that washed over, mud that tends to remain after most puddles have dried up.

Another sidewalk obstacle: lawn sprinklers.  Sure, most folks are decent enough to place them out of range of the sidewalk, but water pressure can vary throughout the day.  And you may have had an unfavorable experience with one of those slowly rotating sprayers (pssh---pssh---pssh---pssh), that suddenly and without warning reverse direction at high speed (psh-psh-psh-psh-psh-psh)  :-D.
I just wait 5 minutes until I figure out the pattern. Then I go through.
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Re: Why do people walk in the street?
« Reply #19 on: May 13, 2014, 03:17:18 PM »

Stupidity.

In a nutshell, exactly! And besides refusing to use a perfectly good sidewalk when it's available, they step out into traffic right in front of the cars; they ignore red lights and stop signs; they're too busy texting or "grooving" to the music on their Ipads or whatever they're called to pay attention to the cars. And then they scream that the motorists won't respect them.
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Re: Why do people walk in the street?
« Reply #20 on: May 13, 2014, 04:38:08 PM »


My serious response: your perception is probably just confirmation bias.  Every pedestrian you see in the street reinforces the idea that this is a trend; every pedestrian using the sidewalk is unremarkable and quickly forgotten, if they are noticed at all.
It's the same phenomenon at work when someone says, "(group X) are all terrible drivers."  We never notice the people in that group that are not doing something stupid on the road.

In a nutshell, exactly!
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Re: Why do people walk in the street?
« Reply #21 on: May 13, 2014, 04:47:02 PM »

Why do people walk outside the crosswalks, even when they have to zig zag through a line of cars stopped at a stop light?  You have a unobstructed crosswalk where you can walk in a straight line, yet people would rather walk between cars, with today's drivers so careless than they ever were.

I would like to know why homeless people push their shopping carts down the middle of the street (not on the side, but in the middle) even though there are sidewalks on both sides?  Plus, the cops see the stuff and do nothing!  Considering that homeless person is putting his own life in danger, the cops look the other way at this.  No wonder why we need red light cameras to issue citations for light jumping, because the cops do not do anything anymore.  I remember when all of this was called Jay Walking and subject to a small fine!
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Re: Why do people walk in the street?
« Reply #22 on: May 13, 2014, 06:01:09 PM »

I wonder if we simply have too many laws.  And when someone is stopped or arrested for what others conceive is a minor violation, people jump all over the cops.  If I were them I wouldn't want to do too much either sometimes!
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