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Crossing The Street (sohailprasad.com)
26 points by sohailprasad 1695 days ago | hide | past | web | 30 comments | favorite



You forgot one type of person. "People who wait for the walk sign because they've got other things on their mind and make the conscious choice to leave deciding when to cross the street up to the street light." Waiting for the light lets you cross the street with hardly any thought at all, freeing that thought up to do other things.

These people realize you can only do so many tasks so why not delegate the least value-added (what are you going to gain by earning 15 seconds) of the tasks to someone - or something - else? It's a no-stress, win-win to give yourself one less thing to worry about.


I was about to say the exactly the above.

    People who evaluate the situation for themselves and cross on their own terms
What if you are someone who has evaluated the situation and decided that you will wait for the sign, or you will just cross as other people are doing so? How can you tell when someone has evaluated the situation and exhibited on of the above behaviours?


Now that we've read his post, if we follow his guidelines, we're back to being a follower.


He also forgot "people who have been fined or otherwise hassled for jaywalking, and therefore think twice about crossing when the light is against them."


I came in here to say this. People are multi-faceted. They can be risk-averse in one area, but risk-taking in another. I suspect there are better indicators on someone's nature than how they cross the street. IMO, just how they carry themselves is probably a better indicator than whether or not they wait for the light to cross.


Think of the kind of person for whom deciding whether or not to cross the street is so mentally taxing that it's a net gain to not.

Those are not the kind of people for whom that extra brain power will do any good.


And then there's people who understand how risk compunds over a large number of instances.

Yes, I wait for the green light. Because every single time I make a judgment call that it's safe despite the red light, I have a tiny increase in the likelihood that there might be an accident. (No, waiting for green alone is not good either. There's always a risk. Situational awareness is good. But walking on red carries a bit more risk than walking on green, all other things being equal)

And since I do cross many traffic lights every single day, that tiny risk compounds. And compounds. And compounds. And if only a single, tiny accident happens, the time I saved by "making a judgment call" for thousands of crossings is all gone.

But hey, if you think life passes me by, more power to you. Glad you get to feel like a rebellious risk taker, living at the edge, always aware.


As my high school drivers ed instructor always said: "Colored lights are physically incapable of stopping a moving car."

If there's one thing that I've learned being a pedestrian in NYC for the last 10+ years: Traffic lights are very loosely correlated with driver behavior. In my experience, you're far better off making decisions based on observing cars and drivers than faith that a red light means anything to a cabbie in midtown during rush hour.


See above: "Situational awareness is good. But walking on red carries a bit more risk than walking on green, all other things being equal"

Trust me, even in NYC, cars are slightly more likely to drive on green than on red.

Or, in other words, a green light is a necessary but not sufficient precondition if you want to achieve minimal risk for your crossing.


Hot tip: filter uncommitted make-your-own-rules types by looking at driving instead of walking.

Any Joe Schmo can jaywalk, but it takes a real free spirit to decide no cars are coming and run that red light.


That's a neat bit of people-watching. My favorite way to learn about someone is to physically spar them. You learn a lot about a person -- how aggressive or defensive they are, their cleverness or ability to improvise creative solutions, how they respond when backed into a corner, and how they react when given control over the ring.


While this might be a nice sociological observation, or a neat metaphor for life, I think it's taking it too far. Yes, we judge people a lot. But trying to pidgeonhole people's personalities based on how they cross the street is a bit ridiculous. I think people need to be aware of the subconscious judgments we make, and how wrong they often are. Open-mindedness is one of the greatest virtues to strive towards IMO.


My new micro-hobby is waiting for the walk sign. The whole point is to experiment with self-discipline and not following the herd. It's hard to stay put when someone crosses while I wait, and I find that fascinating!


I used to be a "cross on my own terms" type. Then I moved to Seattle.

On my first day exploring downtown, I crossed when no cars were coming (or even approaching from far away) and got dirty looks from the gaggle of Seattlites in front of me waiting for the signal to change. (It did finally change as I stepped onto the opposite sidewalk.) After a few weeks, I just stopped putting myself in the spotlight like that.

Now, when I go back to NYC, people seem irritated when I forget where I am and stand there waiting.


Here in Seattle, the pedestrian signals are serious business. A colleagues dad was given a $70 ticket for crossing on Stop.

Going back to London / NYC, I always forget to just do it and walk across whenever the opportunity presents itself.


Also a "cross on my own type" here in Seattle and I watch people get jaywalking tickets on a weekly basis.

Seattle's jaywalking law makes it illegal to cross, even when not obstructing a vehicle, and the cops love to write tickets for it.


This how people wait to cross in Berlin.


I suspect you are going to get a lot of "you are wrong" comments; primarily from people who would say "I cross slowly, but I am not average!" Good post, I liked it.


Thanks!

That's expected - after all, everyone think's they're above average (http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-205_162-57568186/everyone-thinks...), it's the phenomenon known as illusory superiority... "On a scale of one to 10, you probably think you're a seven. And you wouldn't be alone."

(Disclaimer: though granted, I'd hazard a guess that most HN readers are generally above average.)


This is a great analogy of why I prefer New York City over San Francisco.

SF is filled with "wait for the walk sign" type of folks, while NYC is filled with "cross on their own terms" types. If you ever see someone waiting for the walk signal in NYC, it's a good bet that they're a tourist.


The "risk takers" who "cross on their own terms" can be equally judged as "gamblers" who gamble with their life. I mean this whole analogy given by article poster is pointless first of all. And then comparing SFers with New Yorkers based on their road crossing habits is even more pointless. In developing countries (like India), where in most cities/towns there is no designated zebra stripe crossing (and definitely no push button pedestrian crossing signals), every one crosses at their own terms, some times dodging medium sized vehicles, giving respect to large vehicles and stopping smaller vehicles(bicycles, bikes etc) by waving their hand as they cross over. From the street hawkers to the bankers, from a school going teen to the old man with walking stick, every one does that. How does that give you any insight into the psyche of a person !! Or the psyche of a geographical region? New Yorkers cross on their terms more often possibly because there's just more people, lot of whom are in rush and "crowd learns soon from the behavior of few"

Trying to glean any meaning from such behavior is a futile exercise.


I've had the opposite experience. When I got to SF I was amazed at all the pedestrians just walking out in front of cars, crossing the street however they feel like it. Most people don't even seem to look. In NYC pedestrians seem aware that moving cars can kill them and purposefully don't walk out in front of them.

I'm actually stunned that you've made the opposite observation. For me it hasn't been an occasional thing, it's a constant, everywhere-I-look-in-both-cities kind of pattern.


Certainly true that New Yorkers tend to cross more quickly than SFers, but can't most of them still be lumped into the OP's second group, as people who just follow?

If 30 people are crossing when the cars have passed but the signal hasn't changed, surely some of them are crossing because the group is, not "on their own terms," as the OP would put it.


If you ever see someone waiting for the walk signal in NYC, it's a good bet that they're a tourist.

Or they are crossing an avenue above 14th street.


Just hop on over to Berkeley and you get plenty of aware jaywalkers. Though it does seem way more aggressive in NYC.


What about "People who would like to 'evaluate the situation for themselves and cross on their own terms' but must instead wait for the walk sign because the cops in their town have nothing better to do than give jaywalkers a $200 ticket"?


Metaphorically speaking, the cops around town that "keep people in line" are just like people in life who "make the rules." They're there to enforce social norms; thus people who say "this is just how it is" when faced with a new situation. Point being, not enough people are willing to ask "why?"

Not arguing the technicalities of crossing the street or why laws are made, just noting parallels between a decision that people make unconsciously every single day and its relation to life and the "big picture."


Your metaphor is based on people breaking laws or not. I bet the risk takers are mostly wealthier and whiter than law abiders.


If someone crosses an empty street (i.e. no honking and swerving) how do you tell if they're #1 or #4?


You are under arrest for jaywalking!




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