Instead of going out for lunch, I often go out walking. As I did today. Down the trail where it crosses Tuckerman, there’s a crosswalk. A sign informs motorists: “State Law. Stop for Pedestrians in Crosswalk.” There is no traffic light or regular stop sign here, and cars whiz by in full stride. Today I stood there helpless and watching, head jerking left to right and right to left, watching for an opening, despite the Maryland state law warning standing right beside me.
There are motorists around here who are never ever pedestrians. They drive everywhere they go. Many drive BMWs, Hummers, pricey sports cars, restored classics, and Jeeps that will never see a mud hole. Some live in nearby apartments that rent you one bedroom for $3200 a month.
There are pedestrians around here who are never motorists. They walk, ride bicycles, take buses and trains. Some work directly or indirectly for the motorists who are never pedestrians. They build roads, clean houses, grow food, care for children, work in hospitals, and do other unimportant jobs. They do work that the motorists who are never pedestrians do not wish to do.
There at the Tuckerman crosswalk I am a pedestrian who is often a motorist like them. But the motorists do not know this. The motorists may assume me to be something I am not. Perhaps if there were some way I could let the motorists know that I am one of them they would stop and let me across as the state law requires.
The state law is a curious thing. It is on the books and on the sign beside me, but the motorists pay no attention to it. Now and then, after one of them passes, I see her look back in the rear view mirror. Perhaps looking to see if police were around, like you do when you go through a traffic light on red. Or perhaps feeling a little guilty, but then deciding she did the right thing because had she stopped the cars behind her would have been mad and blown their horns.
Maybe there should not be a state law for the Tuckerman crosswalk. Maybe the sign should read: “State suggestion: stop for pedestrians in crosswalk if you feel like it.” Or no sign at all.
We certainly do have lots of lawmakers making laws about all sorts of things. There are new signs here about it being illegal to text or use a cellphone while driving. Someone is proposing to make it illegal for baseball players to chew tobacco while playing. They claim it is unhealthy and sends a bad message to kids. If we pass a law against everything that’s unhealthy and a bad message to kids there will be a lot more laws than there now are.
I am not a fan of laws to regulate the choices people make about their lives, unless those choices do harm to others. When I rode a motorcycle my friends were sometimes surprised that I oppose mandatory helmet laws for these riders. They’d say, “But a helmet would protect you if you were in an accident.” And I would ask if they wear one while driving their cars. There was always a blank stare, as if no one ever gets a head injury in an automobile accident. If they pursued the issue I would ask would they vote for a law to require helmets for drivers and passengers of automobiles.
My point was not to say that wearing a helmet when driving is a bad idea. My point was that education and changing attitudes, not regulation, is better.
Although here at the Tuckerman crosswalk I’m wishing for some regulation.
Oops! There’s my opening. Gotta run!