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Pity The Pedestrian

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I Pity the Pedestrian
(To the tune of  “I Pity the Poor Immigrant,” with apologies to Bobby D.)

I pity the pedestrian
who wishes he would’ve stayed home
who uses his feet to go everywhere
and ends up tired and alone.
That man who must outrun the cars,
who’s always out of breath
who passionately hates traffic
and likewise fears his death.

I’ve said it before, I’ll probably be saying it until the day I die: walking around these California streets is a dangerous business. We’re never going to resolve the carbon emissions problem until everyone gets out of their cars – but they won’t get out of their cars as long as walking and public transit remains inconvenient and dangerous.

I have many pet peeves relating to drivers, traffic, and the organization of a state and society geared towards the pleasure and efficiency of individual travel by wheel. One of these is the practice of parking a car at the end of a driveway so it takes up the sidewalk, forcing pedestrians into the street to pass. The other day I was on my way to the bus stop in the rain when a man parked his car, blocking the entire sidewalk, just as I approached. When he got out of the car, I asked, “Do you have to park on the sidewalk?” I admit this wasn’t the most tactful way I could have put it – but it wasn’t the nastiest either. Certainly it did not warrant his immediate response, which was : “Fuck you! Fuck you! I got kids in the house! Fuck you!”

Is this any way to speak to a lady? An old lady, at that? And what was he implying? That he didn’t want kids to have to walk in the street, I suppose – but the hell with the old lady? Fuck him! “Pig!” I shouted back.

Other threats to walkers are bicyclists who ride on the sidewalk. I’m reluctant to ‘dis bicyclists, who are doing their part to save the planet – but they’re supposed to use bicycle lanes. True, not every street or road has a bicycle lane – another travesty – but plenty of bikes have whizzed past me, grazing my arm or leg, even in places where lanes were clearly defined. Bicyclists are considered a vehicle, like a car, and subject to the same traffic laws. The Oakland Municipal Code, Section 10.16.150, prohibits sidewalk riding:

“No person shall ride a bicycle which has wheels of twenty (20) inches or greater in diameter or a frame of fourteen (14) inches or greater in length on any sidewalk within the city.

This prohibition shall not be applicable to Oakland police officers operating a bicycle while engaged in their assigned duties.”

(Note that state law does not regulate bicycle riding on sidewalks—this is left up to individual cities.)

To report violations, call the Public Works Agency at (510) 238-3983 or visit their website.

Finally, this isnt exactly a complaint, but I wish we had more trees in my neighborhood. Trees give us shade and improve air quality, especially helpful in the summer. It turns out that the city will plant a tree upon request, something most people aren’t aware of. Online I discovered that the City of Oakland will plant a free sidewalk tree to any homeowner willing to care for it. Visit their website for more information and to download the tree planting request form. Or contact Robert Zahn at Oakland Public Works Agency Tree Section, (510) 615-5852.

Let’s Make the World Safer for Pedestrians!

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