Pedestrians vs Bikes

 Ever since I started biking in Central Park, I've been formulating my opinion of pedestrians.

For one--I'm just going to get this off my chest--I am increasingly frustrated by pedestrians who think they are entitled to just cross the street and bikers will slow down for them.  I think it has to do with the sense of entitlement mostly because of the mixture of stubbornness and madness displayed on their faces; but also--let's face it--surely they wouldn't have done the same for a large ass truck heading their way.

In general, I found myself being less and less patient with pedestrians (I do, however, try to differentiate between those who just don't pay attention and those who jaywalk to spite me).  I used to slow down, later just swerve to avoid them.  Now I'm pushing it more and more, engaging in this terrible game of chicken.  I think, deeply, nobody wants to be run over by a cyclist (while the cyclist would definitely be injured and the bike damaged, the damage to the pedestrian is greater by simple laws of physics and the pedestrians must--let's hope--understand that intuitively).

Crosswalks are interesting in Central Park.  While they are accompanied by traffic lights, both pedestrians and cyclists seem to ignore them by and large.  My take on this is very simple: a crosswalk gives the cyclists the obligation to be more careful (it's like a flashing amber light for regular traffic).  A crosswalk with the walk signal for pedestrians gives the pedestrians right of way, by which I mean a pedestrian should feel to be in control of his or her pace in crossing the intersection in order to cross safely.  In other words, a pedestrian should not have to hurry half way through the intersection because otherwise a racing cyclist hits him or her; a pedestrian should be allowed to slow down or speed up.  The pedestrian is in control.  However, that doesn't necessarily mean the cyclist needs to stop at the crosswalk.  So long as the cyclist ensures he or she is not on a collision course (with adequate buffer to account for a reasonable change in the pedestrian's behavior), he or she can cycle through the intersection even when the pedestrian has a walk signal.

This rule is symmetric, of course.  A cross with the don't walk signal for pedestrians gives cyclists the right of way.  A cyclist should not have to swerve or slow down in order to avoid hitting a pedestrian, but a pedestrian is welcome to cross if he or she is careful not to get in the way of a cyclist, taking into account a reasonable change in the cyclist's behavior.

I like this rule because it's unambiguous and efficient (it's impractical for all cyclists and pedestrians alike to stop at all such crosswalks).  Similarly, it does give the pedestrian a slight edge (cyclists must be careful around crosswalks) which seems fair given the prevalent opinion about relative rights of pedestrians, cyclists, and motor vehicle operators.

Now, if only I got everyone to listen to me and actually behave accordingly...