‘Look both ways before crossing the street,’ a complicated concept?

Posted by watchmen
September 13, 2017
Posted in OPINION

It has happened on several occasions while navigating the streets of Bacolod City. Driving down any nondescript road in the city and, out of nowhere, a pedestrian steps into the road as a vehicle is barreling down the lane. Some take a step back and wait for the car to pass, others continue on their way and simply hold out their hand – as if the driver is obliged to make way for jaywalkers; while another group expresses their anger (seemingly) at the fact a car is on the road.
One such occasion occurred just outside of SM City Bacolod. While on the road, heading towards the downtown area, three male jaywalkers stepped right into the path of the car. At the very last moment, they backed up, but that came with a glare into the car – one even getting in close in order to see through the tinted glass.
What is that? A threat? Are Bacolod City drivers facing potential violence because jaywalkers wish to cross at any given moment, potentially causing an accident?
The Bacolod City government bragged about previously passing an ordinance where jaywalkers would be apprehended if caught not utilizing crosswalks. They monitored for a few days and immediately sent out press releases to show what a great job they were doing. Yet, after a week, it was all quiet again. No new news about jaywalking apprehensions and, still, people are randomly crossing streets all over the city – most egregiously, when crossing Lacson Street to and from Robinsons Place Bacolod, directly below the elevated pedestrian walkway – many times, directly in the face of a Bacolod Traffic Authority Office (BTAO) traffic enforcer.
However, all of this uproar could be avoided if locals were aware of the simple rule of “Look both ways before crossing the street.” This is typically taught in elementary schools and reinforced by parents, however, why are so many local residents seemingly ignorant of such a rudimentary concept? It is the same way many also forego the notion of saying “Please” and “Thank You” or holding the door for one another.
Not to mention, most stray dogs and cats look both ways before crossing the street.
Previous columns have posed theories regarding a massive epidemic of narcissism, where it appears many people live in their own personal bubble and are completely unaware there are other people sharing the planet; a prevalence of selfish, where many believes the rules do not apply to them and operate as if they were above the rest of their fellow city residents; or a culture of elitism, where everybody is compelled to constantly “one-up” the person next to them – all of them contribute to investigating common attitudes exhibited among city residents, but it does not explicitly explain why an average adult in Bacolod City would be so oblivious to something a child of five or six years old would be familiar with.
Is it pride? Do locals believe they need to assert themselves at all times – even if it means challenging an oncoming vehicle and risking life and limb?
University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) psychology professor, Dr. David Schwebel, Ph.D, was interviewed by science website Phys.org regarding jaywalking, where he said, “Drivers wouldn’t run a red light or dart their vehicles into an intersection when traffic is coming the other way, so why do some pedestrians feel that is OK?”
“When you jaywalk, you are openly and blatantly breaking the law, which you don’t usually do when driving near intersections, but many pedestrians feel it’s justified,” he added.
“To cross the street, you are processing a lot of information about traffic all at once: distance, speed, what drivers will do, how they will behave,” Schwebel explained. “Plus, many are talking on the phone or text-messaging, which can complicate the situation further.”
He surmised, the time saved by jaywalking is not worth the risk – with the exception being, as he highlights, for emergency situations.
With the addition of how Bacolod City pedestrians seem to walk into the streets with blinders on, ignoring the fact there are cars on the roads, makes it an even more precarious situation.
Part of the solution is instilling a culture of utilizing crosswalks – or the aforementioned elevated pedestrian walkway – by enforcing the laws already on the books; like the anti-jaywalking ordinance the city government was patting itself on the back on, before setting aside after getting the publicity portion out of the way.
Another part of it is people having a little bit of common sense and self-awareness. Is being struck and killed by a car worth the risk of slowly slinking across the street without looking or stepping into oncoming traffic while checking that last text or looking at a picture? Whether it is an act of somebody’s pride or narcissism that is just too overwhelming one cannot see anything outside of themselves, regardless of the well-being of the arrogant individual, but for the sake of other people and their property, one would hope they can spare a few moments of sensibility when crossing the street./WDJ

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