You are likely aware written rules exist to govern what a driver, bicyclists and pedestrians should do. There are also unwritten rules to govern what these parties will likely do. Unwritten rules are created not through government law or decree, but through the consensus of parties’ actions, reinforced over time, and passed generation-to-generation as heirloom explicatives. They differ from city to city though not all cities have them.
For example, an unwritten Boston bicycling rule is that at a red light with no crossing traffic, a bicyclist is free to cross an intersection. Further, given sufficient distance between cars passing in the green-light direction, a bicyclist may also cross an intersection from the red light direction. This confuses out-of-town drivers, but to a local driver the rules are clear.
New York pedestrians are allowed by drivers to risk a crossing as long as there is distance sufficient to allow the swiftly oncoming traffic to still “make the light;” this also warrants oncoming traffic an inviolable right to apply their horn at will. Ergo (a) New York is rife with swarms of pedestrians hastily crossing roads with oncoming traffic and (b) horn use is prolific.
Such unwritten rules as exist Boston and New York are largely unwritten in Atlanta, which is to say, pedestrians, drivers and others who ‘share the road’ don’t actually share the road. They’d like it all to themselves. Written rules are disregarded as faulty, and unwritten have not yet been sufficiently explicated. The pedestrian, you see, was heretofore a rare sight in Atlanta.
Nothing illuminates this more clearly than an incident which occurred to me earlier today. As I availed myself of a pedestrian-painted walk to cross between the Piedmont park and its residential side along bordering 10th street, a car streaked past. It narrowly missed me but slowed down considerably, with a double-brake jolt. Through the open windows, I heard the cry: “Look, John! A biped!” The pedestrian is a rare sight indeed.
The heretofore rarity of the pedestrian accounts for two-thirds of the incidence of pedestrian dysperspicacis, an inability, by drivers, to see pedestrians. Unlike influenza or mumps, it is a learned disease. The mechanism is simple. Repeated non-exposure to pedestrians is thought to cause the eye, and brain, to underdevelop the bottom-up ability to identify a pedestrian. Furthermore, those drivers who have not themselves been pedestrians may also display a different set of moral senses related to pedestrianism (Houzer, T., 2017).
Important scientists have produced replicable research which proves pedestrian dysperspicacis to be treatable. Specifically, according to Fox, W. 2007, drivers who read ‘the unwritten rules of the road’ in this very newsprint are 82% more likely to identify pedestrians. To sate your potential curiosity, the ‘unwritten rules of the road’ are:
- A biped, or pedestrian, is just like you, except that it has elected to locomote using its own power, rather than electricity, gasoline or diesel.
- A traffic light is a yellow box that hangs above the road. It has lights. If you are driving toward a traffic light that is red, rather than yellow or green, stop.
- If the traffic light is yellow and flashing, and contains only one light, slow down. That is, slow to ½ the speed of the stated roadway signage. Further, if the traffic light is yellow and flashing, and you observe a biped in the act of crossing your lane, stop. You are not a bull, and the biped is not a toreador flashing a light at you. This is not an invitation to speed up. The only points you will gain for hitting the biped are points against your driver’s license, and the biped may even lose its life for your gaining.
- Think of your steering wheel as a fidget spinner, as your mobile phone as a distracting thing. Play with the fidget spinner, indeed use it wisely and well, but ignore the mobile phone as if it were infested with locusts, the plague and zombies!
Of course, one mustn’t forget the pedestrian in these matters. In his research Fox found pedestrians may also display symptoms similar to that of drivers. Therefore, we recommend pedestrians follow several unwritten rules as follows:
- A driver is a human, just like you. Drivers are excited that they have elected to locomote using the power of modern science, and the wonders of electricity, gasoline or diesel. This often gives the driver a sense of privilege and power. Beware.
- A biped in the act of crossing the street should observe the traffic signal on the opposite side of the street. If a “walk” symbol happens to be lit, it is a fine, perhaps brilliant, time to cross.
- The center “suicide lane,” or a middle lane that provides cars driving in both directions of the street to turn across oncoming traffic, is not a waiting pad for the pedestrian. At no point is loitering acceptable. This is an unacceptable place to drink beer.
- Apply basic geometry. Using streets as line segments, cross at the end point of any line segment to the end point of any other line segment. There, you will find sufficient hardware to effect a safe crossing. At no point do you need to re-prove a theorem by performing geometric operations otherwise, for one is quite likely to become square-rooted by an oncoming vehicle in the process. There are safer locations, such as a classroom, or the confines of one’s home, to bisect lines.
- A biped interested in crossing the street should press a “walk” button if it is available; note, however, that in Atlanta, most of these are decorative in nature, their condition is uncertain and the nature of their actual function is unclear. Whether or not a result will be received, and what that result will be, is a lottery. If the light changes in your favor or if you receive a walk symbol, celebrate!
- Watch for the drivers who are not using their steering wheel as a fidget spinner but instead are passionately distracted by their mobile phone. These drivers may not play nicely; they’re likely sexting or aggressively cyberbullying. Don’t walk in front of them.
Fox et al. (2012) stipulates these to be the most critical ‘unwritten rules of the road’ drivers and pedestrians ought take into account to assure minimal effect of pedestrian dysperspicacis. Tease them left or right how you will, but we would all be better with such non-legalities in place. At last, we might reduce the ranks of the non-seeing to attain those civilized urbanities such as we Atlantans aspire to achieve.