It is a fair to say the rules are straight-forward: Pedestrians have the right of way on sidewalks. Drivers are supposed to stop behind sidewalks when they exit parking lots via driveways.
While the California Vehicle Code may be clear on both counts, it is obviously smarter to not be maimed or killed instead of being right.
Rare are the drivers that stop behind a sidewalk exiting a parking lot. That said many do look to see if there are pedestrians as they roll to the edge of the curb. Unfortunately there are a fair number of drivers that simply act as if pedestrians are a non-factor in how they drive even when crossing sidewalks.
It is why I always jog facing traffic on sidewalks. You get a better view of the traffic that most affects your safety — drivers exiting parking lots and those on the road heading the opposite direction you are. The reason the latter is important is those existing driveways will base their turning decision on traffic heading toward them. I also try to keep track of traffic going my direction that may be trying to turn left into a driveway I’m approaching. I also never wear any music playing device or carry a smartphone jogging. You need to hear and see everything as well as be constantly looking at traffic and thinking what to do if a dangerous situation pops up. It’s not being paranoid. It’s being defensive as a pedestrian/jogger.
Tuesday returning home from In Shape on East Yosemite Avenue, I was approaching the Chevron driveway. One vehicle was already across the sidewalk waiting for a break in traffic, and a second was behind him. I was about four strides away when the first car started turning right with two approaching vehicles in the curb lane far enough away to make it safe to do so. I immediately tried to make eye contact with the driver of the second car. He looked my way.
I assumed that he saw me. He rolled forward and partially blocked the sidewalk. The first car was approaching as I stepped in front of his car. The second car heading east suddenly moved into the adjoining lane. The driver stepped on the gas just as I passed the mid-point of his hood. Not wanting to get hit, I turned slightly toward the car as I kept jogging, used my hands to brace myself on the driver’s side of his hood and semi-vaulted away from the car. I stumbled for a few yards and turned around.
In frustration, I extended my arms skyward yelling “didn’t you fricking see me!” (No I did not use the four-letter word). The drivers — who looked to be a guy in his early 20s — looked genuinely shocked. I turned and continued on my way.
If Manteca Police Chief Nick Obigacion is reading this he’s probably shaking his head and thinking to himself, “Wyatt, it’s better to be safe than right.”
I can’t argue with that. I’m sure he’s seen more than his share of pedestrians in his nearly 30 years of working the streets who had the right of way that he watched as they were loaded into an ambulance or a body bag.
The problem, though, is it is becoming more and more frustrating these days as a pedestrian or jogger on a sidewalk. I blame it on smartphones in the hands of drivers.
After becoming intimate with a 20-Something’s car hood on Tuesday, the next day I took a tally of the number of people who don’t stop behind the sidewalk and roll to the edge of the curb. I counted four.
The reason this matters is simple. About three years ago, I started coming across drivers exiting parking lots who would sit there after traffic had eased and continue using their smartphone texting or chatting oblivious to the fact it was safe for them to turn onto the road and oblivious to the fact they’re blocking my path. In such cases, 9 out of 10 times it is safe enough to go behind them.
The longest someone has sat blocking a sidewalk when it is safe for them to turn because they are preoccupied with their smartphone and not driving is perhaps 40 seconds.
Every time I go for a jog I deal with at least one driver that ignores me when I’m on the sidewalk, passes behind me with just feet to spare turning while I’m still in a crosswalk, as well as roll — and even blow — through stop signs. As far as people on smartphones while they’re driving, rare is the day that there isn’t at least two using them as they are moving. Most of the time I can easily count a half dozen or so heading one way when I’m on Yosemite Avenue.
That said, there are some incredibly gracious drivers put there who go out of their way to give the folks not wrapped in three tons of steel leeway. And most drivers — save for rolling stops — do follow the rules.
But there are a growing number that have always pushed the limits who are now doing so with the added distraction of being glued to a smartphone and being so “comfortable” behind the wheel that they ignore pedestrians even on sidewalks.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.