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Complaints About Our Pedestrians

August 16, 2013 Downtown, Featured, Walkability 14 Comments

I’ve done my fare share of complaining about motorists — blocking crosswalks, nearly hitting me making right turns, parking on sidewalks, etc. Today I want to talk about bad behavior among pedestrians.

First thing I should get out of the way, I’ve been known to exhibit bad pedestrian behavior. Specifically, I can think of one time crossing Tucker, I didn’t wait for the pedestrian signal. I started across because I knew the pattern of the lights. What I momentarily forgot was cars can legally make a right turn on red. They had the right of way but I cut them off by crossing when I did.

Pedestrians crossing Tucker against traffic
Pedestrians crossing Tucker against traffic

So what are some of my complaints?

  1. People walking 2-3 abreast, expecting others to step aside so they don’t have to walk single file. We have very few sidewalks downtown where pedestrians can walk 2-3 abreast while meeting others going the opposite direction. So sorry folks, I’m not going to stop and wait behind a planter or trash can so your trio can remain intact.
  2. People come out of stores clueless that anyone else is using the sidewalk.
  3. People in front of me walking slowly but not letting me pass them, especially when they’re smoking.

We’re not Manhattan, but it would still be nice to have our pedestrians be more aware of their surroundings. To be fair, I probably encounter many pedestrians who are tourists so they aren’t familiar with downtown, they may not even be used to walking in a downtown context with crowded sidewalks.

— Steve Patterson

  • JZ71

    How about pedestrians, mostly young, who jaywalk and/or completely ignore pedestrian crossing signals, essentially “daring” motorists to hit them?! Even when motorists clearly do have the right of way?

    As to your specific complaints, could they be because you usually use an electric chair and are able to move more quickly than normal pedestrians? While many pedestrians are clueless about their surroundings, many are just going with the flow and enjoying life at their pace, which just happens to be slower than yours.

    • Mike Roberts

      I agree about the jaywalking. It’s ridiculous. At least if you’re going to jaywalk, be alert and certainly don’t mosey across the street.

  • backprop

    Here is exactly why I cross against the signal at the intersection in your picture. There is no protected walk signal; the Washington light is green as you’re crossing.

    If you wait for the walk signal, westbound traffic on Washington wanting to make a left onto Tucker will be RIGHT ON YOU when you reach the southbound lanes. Not only that, but it’s coming from behind you, so you have much less warning of an impending collision.

    On the other hand, if northbound tucker is clear and you begin walking against the signal, by the time you get a walk signal, you can clear Tucker before that left-turning traffic gets to you.

    On a scale of 0 to 10, that particular pedestrian complaint rates a negative 6, based on my experience at this and other intersections in the city.

  • moe

    Totally agree Steve. Just yesterday I was turning onto Skinker at Wash U. I came into the intersection with the light so I did not have to stop but I was going slow, yet crossing the street oblivious to traffic was a middle aged man, alone, with no ear buds or blue tooth…just walking across the street when the walk sign clearly said NO walking. And his comment as I drove by was “really?” (that’s how close and slow I was going) . Yeah really. He’s damn lucky I didn’t turn around and run his stupid ass over. I realize that most pedestrians, cyclist and such not are bad apples but those few sure make it tough for the others.
    Cigarette smoke, jabbering and having conversations one can hear 3 blocks over without regard to anyone else, being a ‘wall’…etc.
    Now I’ll hear it….well drivers need to be more careful and the rest of the retorts. But that’s not the point. The point is that BOTH sidewalk uses of al types and road users of all types HAVE TO BE BETTER AWARE OF THOSE AROUND THEM. How much more simple and to the point can it be?

  • Cheryl Hammond

    As a pedestrian, I have more complaints about other pedestrians than drivers. Pedestrians in the Loop are the worst. They slowly walk in groups blocking the whole sidewalk. They gather together in groups on the sidewalk oblivious to persons who may be just trying to walk down the sidewalk and blocking all pedestrians. Sometimes it’s like a game of chicken. A group of of pedestrians will just walk toward you, with no room for you to walk forward on your side, seemingly unaware that you are approaching them. It’s like you are invisible to them.

    I blame this type of behavior on people’s lack of experience in pedestrian environments. Maybe they have never actually been on a sidewalk where people weren’t just walking to their cars.

  • StlBluz

    Actually according to Missouri law, pedestrians always have the right of way. So even crossing without a walk signal is legal and not affecting a vehicles right of way. And when was the last time a cop in STL gave out j-walking ticket? Not in this century!

    • Joseph Frank

      Supposedly there was a “crackdown” in summer 2005. Um, sure.


      I admit I’m a pretty bad jaywalker, especially out in the suburbs after getting off a bus. There just aren’t that many convenient crosswalks, and half the time on major commercial routes there are no sidewalks.
      But I do try to be considerate of other pedestrians in busier environments. This is an issue indoors as well as outdoors — many people walking through the Barnes-Jewish Hospital/WUSM complex link system are moving pretty fast!

    • JZ71

      More urban legends . . . per St. Louis City Ordinances, you are wrong – see http://www.slpl.lib.mo.us/cco/code/data/t1720.htm

      Specifically: “17.20.030 Crossing at other than crosswalks.
      A. Every pedestrian crossing a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway.”

      Sorry to burst your bubble . . . . You prbably thank that “STOP” signs are also just suggestions, and that rolling stops are OK . . . .

  • Michael Bierman

    Rude is rude so agreed. But then again, six people on a St. Louis street: Now that’s something. I’d love to meander, dodge, bump into, watch, and otherwise be surrounded by other pedestrians in this city. Where do I get in on that?! Where are those crowded sidewalks you mention? Other than maybe the Loop or Grand Center when there’s a show, 15 feet on either side of the doors to Rooster at 11am on a weekend, or, well, that’s about all I can think of. But seriously we need more people on the street. I had a meeting downtown a few weeks ago around 2pm on a weekday and it was as if I was left behind (not an unlikely scenario by the way). My client said something like “Oh it’s such and such day so nobody is out.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that!

  • Tom

    Just don’t try to J-Walk in or around Los Angeles. If you do, from a mile away, the cops will see you do it, and they’ll chase you down until they catch you so that they can issue you a $125.00 citation! And it’s funny, but the locals seldom J-walk in LA. Visitors do! But cops are as eager to cite a visitor as a local.

  • Eric

    What I find incredibly annoying and dangerous for pedestrians is the width of streets like Tucker (pictured above), Market, and Olive. If the parking lanes were replaced by sidewalk bulbs next to intersections, and pedestrian islands of comfortable width added in the middle of streets, then crossing the street would be much easier and more predictable.

    See for example http://goo.gl/maps/JYshG
    Crossing Tucker here currently means crossing 10 lanes of traffic in 2 directions, it should be 4 lanes in 1 direction (done twice). Crossing Olive means crossing 8 lanes in 2 directions, it should be 4 lanes in 1 direction (assuming both parking lanes removed near the intersection, one of them turned into a traffic lane, and one left-turn-lane turned into an island). You’d have exactly the same car capacity and a much friendlier pedestrian environment.

    • Eric

      Oops, I means Market in my example, not Olive.

      Crossing Chestnut is also ridiculous due to the angled parking. It’s a long distance even though the street has little traffic. Seriously needing bulbs at the intersections.

      Look on Google Maps a bit, you can find many more locations where the fix is obvious.

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