The other day I was driving through Princeton and saw a woman enter the crosswalk on the opposite side. I had plenty of time to safely proceed in front of her, so I kept going, and she threw up her hands and gave me a look that could’ve melted steel.
I remember the good old days when people used to complain about drivers racing through Isle and not stopping for pedestrians. That’s the way it should be, but nowadays, pedestrians are kings and queens of the road.
My co-worker Kathy Saumer (aka Jackson) thinks if she puts her dainty tootsies in a crosswalk, every car within a mile and a half should stop, and the drivers should get out, lay their coats down over the gutters, and salute as she and every other precious pedestrian perambulates ponderously over the pavement.
This attitude results from Minnesota statute 169.21 subdivision 2(a), which states: “Where traffic-control signals are not in place or in operation, the driver of a vehicle shall stop to yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a marked crosswalk or at an intersection with no marked crosswalk.”
In other words, our Legislature has given the roads to the pedestrians, with this notable exception: “No pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impossible for the driver to yield.”
Some pedestrians, like Kathy and the woman in Princeton, seem to revel in their power to stop cars in their tracks. They wait until a car is coming, then step into the intersection for the pleasure of disrupting traffic.
In my perfect world, cars would have the right of way, unless there is a stop sign, a stop light or a school patrol. A pedestrian at a crosswalk would have to look both ways and cross when there is a break in traffic, but thanks to Minnesota Nice gone haywire, pedestrians own the road.
Lest you think I’m alone in my viewpoint, take note: The Minnesota Safety Council sees it my way. Their commentary on the law says, “A pedestrian must not enter a crosswalk if a vehicle is approaching.” In other words, wait for the cars to pass, then cross — just like we learned in grade school.
I speak not solely as a bitter, angry driver, but also as a bitter, angry pedestrian. While on foot, if I merely glance in the direction of the street, drivers squeal to a stop and wave me along, so I have to run across the street (walking wouldn’t be Minnesota Nice) and acknowledge their noble deed with a wide Minnesota smile and a hearty Minnesota wave.
I don’t want to smile, I don’t want to wave, and I don’t want to cross on someone else’s schedule. I want to wait until no one’s coming, then saunter across at my own pace, without owing anything to anyone.
Here’s another example of Minnesota Nice gone wrong: merging.
When you pass a sign that says “Lane ends 1 mile, merge left,” Minnesotans will crash into each other to get over as soon as possible. The result is a mile of empty freeway sitting there unused.
I’m the guy who drives three-quarters of the way to the end, then tries to merge, causing all the Minnesota Nice people who merged prematurely to creep as close to the car in front of them as possible to keep me from merging. They glare as if I’ve committed the unpardonable sin, when all I’m trying to do is make use of the entire mile established for the purpose of merging.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m as Minnesota Nice as the next guy. I refuse food twice before accepting it. I open doors for perfect strangers. I smile and nod even when I disagree with you.
But if you put your foot in the intersection when you see me coming, all bets are off.
Brett Larson is the editor of the Messenger.