Before the story, a definition. The lights are timed on most avenues, so we can travel at thirty MPH and hit each intersection as the light turns green. Traffic tends to get in the way, for the cars that are stopped at the light take awhile to get up to speed. So, aggressive drivers look for empty lanes, so they can hit each light at thirty MPH, and shave a few minutes off their travel time. We call this trick "riding the lights." It is dangerous.
I was stopped at the light at 43rd and 3rd, about three cars back and in the center lane. Just before the light changed, a group of women started running across the intersection, hoping to beat the light. They didn't make it.
As the light changed, a cab was racing up 3rd in the far left lane, riding the lights. I couldn't see the crosswalk in the left lane, for my view was blocked by a minivan, but it looked as if the cab and the women were about to have an unfortunate meeting.
I was horrified realizing that these young ladies were just split second away from their possible deaths. And, painfully violent deaths. I heard the screech of the cab's tires, and winced, waiting for the thud of steel against flesh. But, no thud. Traffic started moving forward, and I looked over and saw the women, all having the look of frightened relief one has at a horror narrowly escaped, but still standing. With no one hurt, I kept heading uptown, relieved I didn't see a body lying in the street.
And, today's lesson:
First, for the pedestrians. The walk/don't walk signs are pretty clear. The white figure walking means "walk." The orange hand means "don't walk." And, contrary to popular belief, the flashing orange hand does not mean "run like hell and hope you can make it." It means "traffic is going to start racing up the avenue any second now, so stay the fuck out of the street."* Pedestrians die all the time in New York, often through their own damn fault. Jaywalking is considered a sacred right here, and people can become quite arrogant about claiming that "right." But a jaywalker versus a 3,000 pound hunk of steel moving at 30 MPH is no contest. In the worst case scenario, the jaywalkers' "rights" die with them. Traffic is dangerous, people. Treat it with the respect that your life deserves.
And, for the cabbies and other motorists. Riding the light may save you a few extra minutes, but it is dangerous. Even if you have a green light, and the right of way, it is your responsibility to make sure an intersection is clear before proceeding. Even if the pedestrian is jaywalking, your diligence can prevent a tragedy. And, sometimes, the pedestrians aren't even jaywalking. There are plenty of elderly and disabled who cannot move fast enough to cross a five lane avenue in the time a light gives them. Show them the respect they deserve. Slow the fuck down.
*Official definition. You can tell because you just read it on the internet.