Most of us can be pretty self-righteous when it comes to knowing the rules of the road, so we thought you might enjoy this exchange between a reader and Yakima Herald-Republic’s OnMagazine writer Pat Muir on walking on the “right” side of the street. The feature is called “Dear Crabby.”
We live in the Barge-Chestnut historic district, which means no sidewalks. None. Zip. Nada. A lot of people walk in the area, which is great. The problem (concern) is that at least half of them don’t walk facing traffic. Were they never taught that safety step? Were they absent that day from school? I’m not sure?
I once stopped my friends while walking their dog and pointed out that they were walking on the wrong side of the road. The response: “My dog likes this side.” Well, I was surprised that a dog that is no bigger than a toaster would have that much power.
So, what do I do when driving and I come across these wrong-side-of-street walkers? Honk as I approach them from behind? Stop and point out their error?
So, here’s the thing, Concerned: I just don’t think it’s that big a deal.
Complaining about people walking on the wrong side of the street in a neighborhood with 20-25 mph speed limits and massive speed bumps every 15 feet seems kind of dogmatic and petty. Walking in your neighborhood is plenty safe, no matter which side of the road you’re on.
Now, for what it’s worth, I can be plenty dogmatic and petty myself. I see how you might have expected me to join the crusade on this one. It’s hard for people in my life to tell which rules I’ll get worked up about and which I won’t. I break some traffic laws regularly — speeding, U-turns, even the occasional red light — but steadfastly refuse to break others. Like, I turn into the nearest lane without exception. And I use blinkers when I change lanes, even if it’s 3 a.m. and there’s no one around.
So I’m not saying you’re wrong to get worked up over this. We all have our things. I’m just saying that, unlike the question about people screwing up the four-way stops, I can’t gin up any real outrage on this one. I mean, yeah, people should walk facing traffic. It’s marginally safer that way. But I’ve never driven past someone walking with traffic and thought to stop and point out their error. (And this is coming from a guy who will flip a double-bird at you if you fail to use your blinker.) I’ve got plenty of righteous indignation, just not about this.
My answer to your question, then, is that you should try to stop caring about it. I know that’s probably not satisfying — perhaps you wanted to hear, “Run ’em over; they deserve it” — but it’s my honest advice. I definitely do not recommend stopping and telling strangers they’re on the wrong side of the street. You’d be right, of course, but you’d come off like the guy in the bathrobe shouting at “those damn kids” to get off his lawn. Sorry.