Everyone loves an underdog - unless it’s a pedestrian.
They’re outweighed about 4,000 pounds to 180 pounds.
They’re outmaneuvered as they can’t go from 0 to 60 in seven seconds.
And pedestrians are killed and maimed by motorists all the time while you’d be hard pressed to find any motorists who were killed or maimed by pedestrians.
Whether Manteca is less safe than any other car-crazed California city when it comes to pedestrians is debatable.
What isn’t debatable is the fact within a span of a few hours Manteca Police are able to legitimately cite two dozen motorists just working a couple of different intersections for failing to yield to pedestrians as the law requires. Just imagine how many infractions happen day in and day out on the streets of Manteca.
And let’s make one thing crystal clear. The law is very pointed and absolute about what a motorist has to do when there is a pedestrian in the roadway. Manteca Police in their sting operation and in day-to-day ticketing cut motorists a lot of slack.
Pedestrians are not without fault. They make bonehead movements. But if you think pedestrians by and large are the biggest menace to traffic safety you are obviously thinking the Department of Motor Vehicles issues hunting licenses and not drivers licenses.
Anyone who has walked the streets of Manteca knows how mean it can be out there.
And it’s not mostly due to hot heads behind the wheel or insanely crazy lapse of judgment such as the 18-year-old from San Jose. He’s the driver who had his right leg elevated for “medical reasons” on the dashboard when he was cited in the pedestrian sting Monday for failing to yield to a pedestrian.
You’d be hard pressed to find any driver who comes to a stop behind a sidewalk exiting a parking lot to check for pedestrians even when there are signs or landscaping blocking their view. Pedestrians aren’t an afterthought. In the daily driving habits of all of us they don’t exist - period.
Perhaps the worst of all places for a pedestrian to be in Manteca is in a clearly marked crosswalk at a traffic signal moving across the street when they have the green light. Supposedly, they are the safest of all places for interactions between motorists and pedestrians. That requires both parties - the folks piloting the two-ton weapon and the pedestrian - to follow the rules.
More often than not, pedestrians won’t push their luck at signaled intersections where they have the right of way. Do you blame them? Unfortunately, it just makes more and more drivers brazen in ignoring pedestrians.
All of my close calls have occurred in crosswalks when I have the green light at a signaled intersection and I was already at least halfway across the street. Perhaps half the time drivers are on cell phones, the other times they weren’t.
The worst spots are on and off ramps to Highway 99 where motorists are accelerating or aren’t bothering to come to a stop at the red light coming off the freeway. Six or so times since the first of the year I’ve had a car literally pass within two yards of me forcing me to come to a stop to avoid getting hit.
I admit that I sometimes let my frustration get the better of me. Not once but twice crossing Spreckels at Yosemite trying to reach the small triangle island for pedestrians when I’ve had the green light I’ve had motorists almost hit me. Both times they were on cell phones as they came around the corner by the Chevron watching cross traffic instead of what is in front of them so they could try and move seamlessly into the flow without stopping on the red. In each case, I had to quickly move out of the crosswalk to avoid getting hit. Each time I reached out and slapped my hand on their hood. Judging from the quick look I got, it scared the heck out of them.
Hopefully it was a wake-up call that pedestrians do exist.
What we all need to do is stop driving on automatic pilot. And if we see pedestrians trying to cross the street do the unthinkable - slow down and stop.
Who knows? Maybe Manteca can start a movement.
Instead of inadvertently trying to bump pedestrians perhaps one day we will see cars with bumper stickers proclaiming “I brake for pedestrians” and drive like we mean it.
This column is the opinion of managing 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.