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Wise words from a Pittsburgh crossing guard: Brake for peds

Crossing guard, Willie Mae “Peaches” Robinson,¬†waits to cross kids at the corner of Friendship and Graham. Photo used courtesy of Senator John Heinz History Center.

We’re all in this together

For those of you who keep your fingers on the pulse of our advocacy including our quotes in the news you know that we are constantly making pleas to motorists to treat bicyclists and pedestrians with care, courtesy and respect. And even though we have included lots of info on how to ride responsibly in our Pittsburgh Bike Map, and Bike Commuting 101 guide, we have not made a focused and personal appeal to our fellow bike riders in quite some time to show that same care, courtesy and respect towards pedestrians that we consistently ask motorists to show towards bicyclists.

Real talk

A few weeks ago while sitting around the table in City Council Chambers during a post-agenda meeting on traffic calming, I received a very public wake up call from a crossing guard who was also present to testify. According to her experience it was people riding bikes who were the most problematic road user around her and her kids. She acknowledged that there were also lots of motorists who jeopardized her life and the kids’ lives she works to protect. But even if it was a bit of hyperbole, I think we can all admit that having crossing guards with this perception of bicyclists is doing nothing good for public opinion. Not yielding to little kids crossing the street (hell, not yielding to anyone of any age crossing the street) is entirely unacceptable behavior and it couldn’t be easier to correct. In fact, it can be nicely summed up with these words to live by: Don’t ride like a jerk.

Ride with the same care for pedestrians that you want motorists to show to you

Just to give some more guidance, let’s break up that phrase up into a bit more detail so that we’re all on the same page:

  • Always yield to pedestrians. In fact, pretend that the words “yield to” mean “stop for.” Yielding does not mean simply avoiding pedestrians by weaving between them while crossing the street.
  • Stop for school buses with flashing lights. This law is for people on bikes as well in cars.
  • Don’t ride the wrong way down a one way street. No other road user will be watching for you, peds included.
  • Light up when it’s dark outside. It’s the law and will keep both you and walkers safe.
  • Don’t ride with headphones. It’s illegal and dangerous. Believe it or not you need your hearing when you ride (and to hear crossing guards telling you to stop).
  • Signal. Again, this isn’t too hard, right? Just point in the direction you’re turning. That way pedestrians know your intentions.
  • Ride smart. Don’t pull maneuvers that appear boneheaded and dangerous like splitting traffic down the double yellow line or making a left across traffic from the right side of the street. This type of riding wins us no fans.

Please share with your friends and social networks so that we can get this info out to as many people riding in the city as possible. Stay safe, keep others safe, and have fun out there!


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