Archived Story

Drivers ignore walkers during bad weather

Published 9:29am Friday, November 15, 2013

Column: Things I Tell My Wife, by Matthew Knutson

“Snow!” I exclaimed to my wife via Facebook message. The semi-fluffy puffs were descending outside my office window, so I naturally had to make sure she was seeing it.

Her response? “Nooooooo.”

She’s lived in the Upper Midwest for seven years now, yet the snow and cold are somehow still her bitter enemies. Apparently her high school years in Nairobi, Kenya, taught her to appreciate only one temperature: hot.

As a native Minnesotan, my heart grew three sizes at the sight of the big flakes. After walking home for lunch, my heart sank. Winter driving had arrived.

Please note that the rest of this article will appear to be written by a 70-year-old curmudgeon, but it is in fact written by a youthful 24-year-old man.

It’s not my driving that’s the problem. In fact, I walk almost everywhere I go since I live in a small town. Not everyone here feels the same about walking though, so I all-too-often encounter reckless drivers on my five-minute walk to work. I wish reckless was too strong of a word.

Is it really that difficult for people to come to a complete stop at a stop sign? Even on the best summer days, many drivers seem to slide through the intersections like there is black ice in July that I’ve just never happened to encounter. Their lack of stopping means I’ve nearly been hit three times walking to work in the past year simply because someone was in a rush.

After your life flashes before you that many times in a year, you start treating intersections differently. Now I’ve become the awkward guy lingering at the edge of the sidewalk as a lanky high school student driving a minivan waves me across to safety. I’ve obviously never felt more cool.

Occasionally I’ll get the friendly wave from someone indicating that it’s OK for me to cross. This person will promptly start driving toward me the second my foot steps off the curb. What kind of cruel joke is that?

My whole walking commute simply gets worse with winter weather. I don’t mind the cold, but the drivers are even less inclined to obey the rules. The ice will naturally carry them through the intersection, so why should they even bother to stop? Is it the small town living that makes these laws flexible? Who knows.

To me it seems like common courtesy to let someone waiting outside walk across the street first. At least the drivers have their cars to keep them warm. I’m stuck standing outside in the cold waiting for someone to obey the law long enough for me to walk across the street. Sadly, it’s longer than you’d think. To be fair, nobody seemed particularly willing to let me cross the street in the middle of a thunderstorm either.

Ignoring stop signs isn’t the only driving problem. The first real snow also brought out the most drivers using cellphones that I’ve ever seen on my walks to work. I like to imagine them all calling other people to warn them of the potentially bad road conditions. Surely that could be the only thing that they just couldn’t wait any longer to talk to someone about.

I’m a big believer in walking to my destination if it isn’t too far. It saves money on fuel and is better for the environment. Because I live less than a half mile from work, it simply makes sense to walk and gives me the tiniest amount of exercise.

As the winter season is just beginning, I hope the biggest worry on my walk to work will be the ice on the sidewalk. For my sake and others, please put down your phone and pay attention to the stop signs. If you’re feeling especially nice, let the pedestrians you encounter cross the street safely before rushing off to the rest of your busy life.

 

Matthew Knutson is a marketing specialist at Waldorf College in Forest City, Iowa. Find him online at thingsitellmywife.tumblr.com.