Pedestrians vs. Motorists

      May 20th, 2008

Crosswalk in Berlin, GermanyToday I was enjoying a late afternoon walk with my baby daughter. On our way back home I reached a crosswalk and saw a good opportunity to make my way to the other side. I saw a van blocking part of the street and wanted to take advantage of the momentary pause in traffic. Since I was pushing a baby stroller I wasn’t quite as quick as I normally am, but I was positive that I would have ample time. (Apparently, our brain is calculating differential equations like crazy, but that’s a whole other topic.)

Unfortunately, after I started crossing, a minivan dangerously sped around the aforementioned van and made its way towards the crosswalk. Typical motorist behavior dictates reducing the speed when approaching a pedestrian-inhabited crosswalk; especially when the pedestrian in question is pushing across a baby stroller. This guy, who was speeding to begin with, did no such thing. I swear to you, this was a brush with death. I hadn’t even made it to the sidewalk when the minivan whizzed by. Once I reached the safe have of the sidewalk I had to pat myself down to make sure I still had all my limbs and hadn’t been launched 50 feet across the pavement. (The picture above is the exact crosswalk in question. Thank you Google Maps!)

I turned to give the minivan the nastiest look possible and you wouldn’t believe what I saw. I kid you not, this minivan had a sticker on its rear window stating the German equivalent of “Lilian on board”. I couldn’t believe it. Of all people, I almost got plowed down on a stroll with my baby, by another young parent. Something is definitely wrong with this world, if a young parent can’t even slow down at a crosswalk for a baby stroller. I mean, something is wrong if anyone doesn’t slow down for a stroller, so that makes this so much more wrong.

In this particular case, I was already on my way across the street. I have, however, noticed that most drivers here in Germany, (or Berlin, if it’s any different here), will not slow down or stop to let me cross at a crosswalk; even when I’m walking with the stroller. It is necessary to differentiate between two types of crosswalks in Berlin. I have never fully understood this, but there is an “important” crosswalk and an “ignore me” crosswalk. The former features stripes on the road itself, and cars are required to stop if someone is waiting to cross. The latter is a full-on crosswalk, typically with a middle island, but for whatever reason, cars are not required to stop, and thus, do not stop. On several occassions I have stood there in the middle island with the stroller like a deer in headlights with the stroller, waiting and waiting. People just don’t stop, let alone slow down. Today, I was crossing one of the “ignore me” crosswalks. However, given the fact that I was already in motion, motorists are still required to stop.

Maybe my sensitivity on this issue is the result of growing up in a town where pedestrians always had the right of way. Then again, whatever happened to the Golden Rule? Would little Lilian’s dad want me plowing him down when he was on a walk with his baby? I know that since becoming a parent I have become even more courteous to other young parents (and I was pretty courteous to begin with). It’s a shame that I didn’t catch a glimps of a license plate, because I would really like to ask Lilian’s dad what gives.

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Filed under: Safety by A.B.

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