Sunday, April 19, 2015

Crosswalk Jungle

 Tom Scanlon's terrified of Pittsburgh traffic. Of Pittsburgh drivers and their snarly ways.
  Seattle, San Fran, and even New York get his nod for driver decency but not Pittsburgh.
  Now understandably I'm suspicious of anyone with the same name as a machine politician nominated by Tom Corbett to a district court, but I've lived in all 4 cities mentioned above so lemme give my two cents here.
What's going on is that a generation, dare I say "a class",  of people are coming of age who expect cars to stop.
No matter what.
Crazy huh?
It's their right.
And they're not wrong about that. Legally.
 When you walk into a lane, and....maybe you've got your head down updating your twitter feed, maybe you've just turned up the volume on your headphones, and you're juggling a paypal or a bitcoin account as you switch hands, the fair trade Americano (no milk !) going from left to right, and, with nary a glance to see that the 2000 pound object coming your way is obeying the laws of the land or physics, you amble into the street...when you do that...Maybe there's a better way?
I mean, you're not going to re-spawn.
When I see someone put their life like this into the hands of automotive fate the first word that comes to mind is "Stupidity."
The next is "Entitlement."
A new generation feels like they don't need to look. It's beneath them. It's not their job.
Now we're all glad this gang has chosen Pittsburgh as the next center of a new and righteous economy but when I watch someone cross a street without the slightest acknowledgement that someone else - who could have just spaced out, or passed out, or who might have a job to get to, or a semi's worth of payload to deliver, or who might be late to pick up their kids from school, or who -hey- could be on the way to their virtual coffee shop office in their Prius- just stopped their car in the no-man's land between law and common sense and allowed them to live, something seems kind of off.
It's their right, I know, but it still doesn't seem "right".
I grew up in a city where you agreed mostly that everyone was part of a plan. That everyone in one form or another was "going to work". So if you had a chance NOT to slow them down, not to keep them from getting to whatever work it was they had to do, you took it.
 If you waved a car thru when you could have walked it wasn't a sign that the evils of urbanity had triumphed. It was simple decency.
 There were simple gestures. Take some quick steps getting across the street if 30 cars were waiting for you. Jaywalk whenever, but don't do it into oncoming traffic. Nod at the plumber who held his truck, even if he could have slipped past you. 
You were in it together.
I don't see that now.
 Well I see it in Pittsburgh still, but I certainly don't see it in Seattle or San Fran, and it's even starting to slip away from New York.
  What I see instead is a class of people letting everyone else know that they don't need to be rushed, they don't care if you have to wait, and they don't even have to register your existence, because history's on their side. You and they are not part of the same plan. You have a car, they have to mind their carbon footprint. You make a wage, they make content. You're post industrial and they're posting, as you hit the brakes. 
 I know that cars are bad. I know more people should walk or ride bikes and that everyone would feel better about themselves and the world if they moved thru it more slowly. Sure, ban cars from Manhattan. From Inner City San Fran. Tax every company that uses heavy trucking and that consequently bankrupts the ability of small municipalities to do anything BUT fix their roads. Require all parking structures be permeable concrete or better, raise gas taxes thru the roof (and into the basement tax structure of Europe), eliminate any subsidies to oil companies or to the highway commissions. But until the 80% of the nation, working to prop up these as of yet unreachable goals, feels some benefit from the new economy, take a second and lift your eyes as they pass you on the way to one of the 4 part time jobs their family's juggling. It's called class.
 When you don't. When you assume everyone should have had your education and if they didn't then screw em, it's called arrogance and in Pittsburgh it's kind of not how we do things.
 The average grandmother who's crossing Carson to get to her church on the Slopes, the family of four pushing a Giant Eagle cart across the lot in Homestead, the guys jay walking E Ohio.... when a car stops for them, they nod, they throw a smile, they wave. Join the club.
 Someone cuts you off, or gets a little too close to your kids in the crosswalk, go ahead and make an entirely different gesture but either way engage, make contact. Make believe that there's still a social contract. 
 Now I'll admit that the drivers of the new economy -so proud they're not driving at all- might lose a text or two if they look up and make eye contact with a fellow citizen, they might have to delay an email saying the real email's on its way, but would that be such a bad thing?
  Give me a little Pittsburgh aggression once in awhile if mostly what I see is decency.
  Puritan pedestrians can have Seattle, and Portland, or they can leave their bitter hearts in San Francisco.


  1. It’s tyranny. Power. Tyranny of entitlement. Tyranny of intolerance and ignorance and ego and indifference.

    And it takes advantage of decent people. “Oh yeah? Whadya goin’ ta do ‘bout it?” If the little guy goes up against Goliath these days he gets stomped on by the politically correct mob if you’re not on “their” side.

    So what do we do? Is it the Alamo and fight the good fight? Sometimes being a hermit is looking better and better. :)

  2. "...everyone would feel better about themselves and the world if they moved thru it more slowly." Fantastic line! I'm getting that on a pillow.

  3. Read your blog posting and finally got around to reading the article. I was going to post my comment on the actual site, but I would have had to 'create an account' and I have already lost 5 minutes of my precious time reading such a dumb and pretentious article. Tom, If you are reading this, can you please write about something that actually matters? Thank you.

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  6. Wow! I deeply apologize if I offended anyone. That was certainly not my intent. I am a driver and a pedestrian and I can see both sides. I agreed in my own mind with many of Mr. Conrad's points, however I thought the article that was posted in the gazette was a bit precious. Again, my apologies if I sounded harsh or angry.

  7. Jacks, I realize now after reading your reply that I misunderstood your comment. Please forgive me for any hurt that was caused. I sincerely apologize to you, and to the host and readers of this blog. My fault. Please accept my apology.

  8. No problem, these things happen :)

  9. Hey Dave, waiting for you to post another article/story!

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    Will you be there Dave?? :)

  11. This is the article :)
    kicks off this Sunday! 

    BikePGH is proud to be part of the team working to bring an amazing new experience to Pittsburgh. This Sunday, OpenStreetsPGH will connect Lawrenceville, the Strip District, and Downtown on Penn Avenue and Butler Street with a safe, car-free corridor for people to bike, walk, dance, play, and shop. From 8am to 12pm these streets will be transformed.

    3.5 miles of open road. 4 programming hubs. 4 hours of fun open to everyone – plus it's totally free!

    CLASSES, TOURS & EVENTS - Biking and walking along the car-free corridor will be an exciting experience all by itself. But there will also free Zumba, yoga, Tai Chi, and other classes open to all. Check out the full programming schedule.

    BIKE SHARE MASS RIDE - Healthy Ride, Pittsburgh's brand new bike share system, is launching at OpenStreetsPGH with a mass ride! Sign up to join in the procession on a Healthy Ride bike or your own bike.

    SHOP - Don't leave home without your panniers, backpacks, or reusable grocery bags. OpenStreetsPGH is a great time to visit the delicious eateries, cafes and other businesses along the route. Learn more.


    OpenStreetsPGH will take place along the Penn Ave/Butler Street corridor the last Sunday of May, June, and July. See you in the streets!

    ShareTweetForwardCopyright © 2015 Bike Pittsburgh, All rights reserved. 

  12. Dave, I just read your blog and it made me smile. Not because I thought it was funny or because I thought it was a load of bull but only because I've been saying everything you did to my daughter since day one of her starting college. She graduates in she's been hearing it for awhile but I just had to say THANK YOU ! Thank you for validating what I've been trying to explain to her all these yrs and that it's not because I'm 46 yrs old and know absolutely nothing! ; ) now that I've found your blog, I'm looking forward to reading your other posts!

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  14. Hello David!
    Hope you are fine, as well as your Family.
    Today is a very important day for Portugal: it is our National Day - Portugal, Camões (one of our greatest Poets), the Portuguese Communities (all over the world) and Saint Guardian Angel (of our country) Day.
    Just wanted to share this with you, because we must all be proud of our own countries and maintain the tradition to remember and cherish it," honouring our past".
    Take care,