The Chainlink

There's a select group of pedestrians who do not understand how to cross the street safely. It really requires looking in both directions and just having sense in general. They're like children diving into the streets to retrieve a stray ball without a single thought.

As a result, I believe at one point (if not several) most cyclists will hit a pedestrian. Sadly, sometimes it's just completely unavoidable. I find it terrifying but can also really see the humor at points. I've heard some awful stories and some that just were downright hysterical.

So lets hear 'em!

Last year I was going down Clark and I noticed this guy on the corner who had just come out of McDonalds with what looked like about 50 bucks worth of food. I kept my eye on him as I got closer to the intersection. He decided to run across before traffic caught up. I started yelling at him to move. Traffic whizzing by to my left, more people on the corner to my right. He didn't move, I had nowhere to go, boom. Time stood still for a second as we were both suspended in the air among a flurry of french fries and burgers. The cup of pop hit the ground and blew out in every direction. He didn't say a thing.

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I don't know the specifics on Kate's incident, but one of the main ways pedestrians can annoy me is by being indecisive. If I see someone walk into the street, I'm going to assume they plan to continue walking. But sometimes they change their minds and head back, and often when they see a cyclist they freeze, not knowing which direction to go in. I actually find this so annoying that I now communicate clearly what I need them to do-- I yell 'stop' or 'go' or make some kind of hand gesture to wave them on.
heather stratton said:
I don't know the specifics on Kate's incident, but one of the main ways pedestrians can annoy me is by being indecisive....

I encounter this same indecision with motorists at four-way stops. Often, drivers who have arrived at the intersection well before me, hesitate to proceed when they see me coming (prolly 'cause they expect all cyclists to run the stop.) I give them a big wave to go as I'm approaching so I don't have to slow down to wait or otherwise risk cutting in front of them.
heather stratton said:
I don't know the specifics on Kate's incident, but one of the main ways pedestrians can annoy me is by being indecisive. If I see someone walk into the street, I'm going to assume they plan to continue walking. But sometimes they change their minds and head back, and often when they see a cyclist they freeze, not knowing which direction to go in. I actually find this so annoying that I now communicate clearly what I need them to do-- I yell 'stop' or 'go' or make some kind of hand gesture to wave them on.

My only crash involving a pedestrian doing exactly this. I was making a left turn and this guy crossing the street froze in the middle of the lane. There was an oncoming car in the street I was turning onto so I couldn't make the turn tighter to avoid him so I ended up hitting him. Luckily I was almost able to come to a stop before I hit him so no harm was done.

Hmm, I wouldn't be quite so sure that he was at fault. You were at an intersection (I'm assuming it was unsignaled), which implies that there was an unmarked crosswalk -- for instance, the intersection of Drummond & Clark falls under Illinois's definition of unmarked crosswalks. The Illinois Rules of the Road are pretty emphatic about who gets the right of way:

a driver must yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian... [w]hen a pedestrian is in a marked or unmarked crosswalk on the driver’s side of the roadway and there are no traffic control signals.

(And yes, for the purposes of this section, bicyclists have the duties of "drivers.")

It seems that 99.84% of Illinois drivers do not know this, but it is the law -- and not yielding the right of way in these instances is just as illegal as running a stop sign. A lot of the "indecision" that we fault pedestrians with is because pedestrians also don't know the law (or are aware that it goes completely unenforced) and so "politely" wait for the law-breaking but deadly drivers to pass.

I have never hit a pedestrian, and whenever it's safe to do so, I do in fact stop and wave (usually confused) pedestrians through unmarked crosswalks. I have at times had to scream "keep moving!" or "go on!" when a jaywalking pedestrian has frozen in my tracks (in one especially memorable incident on Wabash, the woman began wailing as I approached, sure that she would be hit). I'm glad that pedestrians can usually at least hear me, though, unlike drivers trapped inside their metal cages.
I don't think pedestrians or cyclists should have the right away. At least then everyone will know where they stand. In fact I usually insist that a vehicle proceed first if I am not already crossing the intersection. I don't trust anyone to be paying much attention and prefer not to be run over because everyone is confused. I don't even mean to be contrary, that's just my 2 cents worth.

That's what I call the squirrel effect.

heather stratton said:
I don't know the specifics on Kate's incident, but one of the main ways pedestrians can annoy me is by being indecisive. If I see someone walk into the street, I'm going to assume they plan to continue walking. But sometimes they change their minds and head back, and often when they see a cyclist they freeze, not knowing which direction to go in.
I do not feel he deserved it. Nor do I think anyone deserves getting hit by a moving vehicle. It was one of those situations that in retrospect make you feel dumb as hell and you come up with several things you never thought to do at the time. Like I said, there was no direction I could have really went to avoid hitting him or getting hit myself. I hit the brakes but couldn't stop myself fast enough, and it never occurred to me that maybe that could have been the one time turning and flying the wrong way down a 1-way (to avoid him) would have been the better option. Not thinking enough at the time on my part.

h3 said:
Hi Kate!
If you'll forgive me, maybe there's something missing from the above account, but I don't understand why you still hit the pedestrian even though you make it painstakingly clear you were already watching him and on your guard long before this occurred. Can you clarify? Also, do you feel the pedestrian deserved what he got?
Tone is so hard to interpret over e-communication, so I thought I'd clarify before judging.
I ran into a pedestrian once earlier in the year. I was in the left turn lane on State during the lunch rush on a weekday. No cars were coming and I had a right of way to make my left turn while the light was changing. Then a lady came out from behind a group of people waiting to cross the opposite direction. She wasn't looking but I saw her and tried to swerve but ended up hitting her bum with my handlebars! This turned my wheel and made me fall to the ground. She didn't fall, didn't get hit hard, but the first thing she said was I don't think I am okay! So I asked what hurt, if she needed medical attention, and she kept saying you hit me! We exchanged info. Her business card said she was a lawyer who gets settlements for people who get hurt in accidents! I thought I was screwed when she threatened to take me to court. I waited those next few days scared to answer my telephone. But she never called.
Only thing was...It really was no ones fault. She didn't look, I couldn't see her, I tried to move. Still such a scary incident!


There is a traffic food chain. Cars are most responsible for an accident, bikers next, and pedestrians are last. But what is odd, is that a cyclist applies to both pedestrian and vehicle laws. There is a gray area there because cyclists have a more lax application of law.
So what do you do when you are riding straight through an intersection on a green light and a pedestrian is jaywalking in front of you? I like to scream "beep beep, you don't have the light". My brother thinks I should just let them go and slow down. But they are not following the rules of the road. What do the rest of you do?
ridedirty said:
pedestrians are either cyclists not on their bikes, or drivers not in their cars... i don't really care about laws, either. i'm responsible for my safety, nobody else's.

Many pedestrians are people who neither bike nor drive. Ever consider that possibility?

I sincerely hope to the heavens that others do not take the same attitude towards safety that you do -- least of all the deadly-weapon-wielding car drivers we all rightly complain about and the police who ultimately do protect us (notably when a crash does happen). "Every man for himself" is not how a civilized society functions. Even if you don't think of our streets as being civilized today, every one of us has the opportunity, through our own actions, to make them more so every single day.
ridedirty said:
i'm responsible for my safety, nobody else's.

Gosh. I hope for your sake that there aren't many people our there who share your opinion. I would hate to hear a motorist express such a cavalier attitude.
What bothers me is that many pedestrians see you approaching and will still decide to run or step in front of you assuming a guy on a bike is not a threat. I had many close calls like this. And by close I mean, people walking in front of me as I brush shoulders with them.

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