The Crosswalk

Something happened today that firmly confirmed that I’m more Philadelphian than Portlander.  I was driving down West Burnside, the street that marks the divide between the north and south sides of the city.  I had just sold a bunch of books at Powell’s and was feeling pretty good about it.  Heading back to the east side of the river, I was enjoying the beautiful day and driving along.  All of the sudden, a man stepped out and started to cross the street.

It took me a second to realize what was going on, and I couldn’t believe that he would be bold enough to cross without a light.  I came to a screeching halt, sending the books in the back of the car flying.  He looked at me like I was a crazy person, which was when I realized that he was actually crossing at a crosswalk.  However, it was a crosswalk without a light or a flashing light or even a “Yield to Pedestrians” sign.  Just white painted strips on the street.

I have never seen a crosswalk in Philadelphia that was just white strips on asphalt.  It would be a death trap, because there’s no way anyone would actually stop.  But here, all you need to stop traffic is indicators painted on the street that it is a safe place for people to cross.  Because I haven’t seen anything like it in so long, it was momentarily unrecognizable to me.

I’ve had other moments this week when I’ve realized that my style of driving has gotten markedly more agressive since I moved to Philly, but this was the confirmation I needed that I have turned into an east coaster.   I’m afraid it might be irreversible.

0 thoughts on “The Crosswalk

  1. Paul

    Almost everywhere in the US, there is an IMPLIED crosswalk at an intersection, even if there is no striping, where, of course, you aren’t allowed to run down pedestrians! Now, was this a mid-block crossing (which are actually safer, so long as drivers are alert)?
    The fact that pedestrians and bicyclists are given such priority both in policy and on the street is another reason I’m plotting my return to alt.transportation heaven Portland after my 2 year “banishment”.

    I describe Philadelphia as “Harsh Urbanism” compared to the mellow, green wonderland of Portland, especially downtown, with its’ glistening brick sidewalks along the tree-lined transit mall.

    Marisa, you’ve got to dump the car!! What are you doing with a car, living in CC, anyway?! I rode the el and a bus to St Joe’s once, so I know it can be done- or what about the Bala Cynwd train?!

  2. Fran

    There are plenty of small towns still on the East Coast where you have to stop for pedestrians in stopwalks. Some are in the Philadelphia metropolitan area! I lived in NJ for three years and some of those towns also ticket you for driving over 25 mph! (well, _I_ never got a ticket, of course…)

    Since I was definitely a Philadelphia driver when I moved to NJ, I can vouch for the possibility of driver re-training.

    So I am guessing in Portland if you drive through a light as it turns from yellow to red, two more cars don’t drive through after you?


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