Comment of the Day: Unlearning That Nasty Stopping for Pedestrians Habit

COMMENT OF THE DAY: UNLEARNING THAT NASTY STOPPING FOR PEDESTRIANS HABIT “I recently moved back to Houston after living in Colorado for a few years. I still find myself in the habit of coming to a complete stop any time that I see a pedestrian attempting to cross a street. In CO, it is state law to stop at any legal pedestrian crossing should someone be there. Many of those crossings have signage that illuminates when the pedestrian presses the button to cross. Some even illuminate the crosswalk itself á la Galleria crosswalks, but it’s expected that you stop whether those are in place or not. Also, most people there abide by the rule of allowing people to cross at major intersections (traffic lights) before passing through in their vehicles; this is something that my fellow Houstonians always honk at me for doing here.” [TD, commenting on Walk This Way] Photo: Kevin Trotman (license)

33 Comment

  • Yielding to pedestrians is a state law here, but most ignore this unless there’s a sign there. Kind of like the law requiring drivers on the feeders to yield to traffic exiting from the freeway. Houston is car town, despite efforts to undermine this with mass transit and bike lanes, and will always will be for now.

  • TD just perfectly encapsulated reason number 8 on the list of Why I’m Decamping to Denver* in a year or so.

    * Yes, that city has its issues too and lots of them.

  • All the discussion about the danger pedestrians face when crossing our local streets, even in our most “walkable” districts reveals a big part of the problem: even our walkable areas are designed for cars, not people, with 3 or 4 lanes of traffic whizzing by. We design around this by placing buffers like street parking and “greenspace” between the traffic and the people. But all those buffers just make the distance between destinations even further. If we designed our rights of way for people instead of cars, this wouldn’t be a problem.
    Take 19th St in the Heights. You have two blockfaces of street-facing retail with a 4-lane road and two rows of angle-in parking in between. However, on both sides of 19th, the buildings have a paved alley behind them, which provides access for deliveries and to parking areas. Why not close 19th St to car traffic between Yale and Ashland and sell the middle 40 feet of the right of way for retail development, leaving a 20-ft pedestrian corridor on either side? That would take 50,000 s.f. that the city currently pays to maintain, and turn it into tax base. At $100/s.f. (the waterworks site sold for $110/sf) the city would net $5M on the sale, plus easily $1M per year in additional sales and property tax once build-out is complete. It would increase activity density by at least 50%. And pedestrians wouldn’t have to dodge cars to get from one side of 19th to the other.
    Everyone wins.

  • What’s a pedestrian? The only people I see walking down a Houston street are people who’s car has broken down a block back.

  • Blake, yielding to peds is indeed the law, if they have a crosswalk.
    Colorado law takes it a step further, if there is a ped in the street, you cannot go. even if there are 5 lanes of traffic, and the ped is 3 feet from the other side of the street. it is law that you have to stop.

  • Actually, my home neighborhood in the Energy Corridor has a surprising number of pedestrians, given that it’s definitely a suburban part of the city. And no, it’s not just homeless people. It’s people both walking for pleasure / exercise and walking to actually get somewhere. While Eldridge and Briar Forest definitely need more safe crossings and most commercial development is set back behind parking, the fact that there are continuous sidewalks in relatively okay shape, signalized intersections with pedestrian crosswalks (too far apart, but at least there are a few) and a mix of retail, housing, office, and schools means pedestrian traffic. It just goes to show that even in Houston, a halfway decent mix of such factors will entice walking.

  • My husband damned near killed a pedestrian near Banff, Canada a couple summers back. The pedestrian was holding his daughter’s hand and literally stepped into the street (onto a marked crosswalk) without even looking for traffic, as they are so used to cars stopping for them. We could hear the cursing even after we had passed him by. Hubby was cursing him back for stepping out into traffic. I suppose Texas drivers should be in marked cars so as not to be a danger to others.

  • ah we’ll miss the days of pedestrian danger once everyone’s in a bunch of driverless jonny cars.

  • This happened to me in Cali. I thought the guy was suicidal for walking into the road with a vehicle coming at him at 40mph.

  • San Antonio has intersections where all of the traffic has to stop and pedestrians can even cross diagonally. It really makes a big difference on safety when it gets packed with people and cars around the Riverwalk. There are a number of intersections in Houston that could really benefit from having a pedestrian only four way stop. My wife got thrown to the ground by an SUV when she was trying to cross over Allen Parkway at Waugh. The light turned red and the SUV came to a stop in the right hand lane. My wife started to cross the street on the white walk signal. The driver of the SUV looked left to make a right hand turn on red and started to pull into the intersection just as my wife walked in front of the vehicle. My wife got thrown to the ground and ended up at Ben Taub because she hit her head and was in and out of consciousness. But the right turn on red is the most dangerous interaction between people and vehicles because drivers are too focused on squeezing into oncoming traffic that they only look left and do not see pedestrians crossing to their right. A four way stop eliminates this risk completely.

  • Unfortunely, Houstonians and others in the region share the deranged mentality that it’s their right to run over pedestrians/cyclists.

  • As scary as the stories above can be, let’s also not forget that there is a small but real sub-set of Houston drivers who consider pedestrians fair game and will run into them not with indifference but malice. It’s happened to me more than once and I see enough reports from neighboring pedestrians and cyclists on Nextdoor to be able to state that, at the very least, it is not an isolated phenomenon.

  • I was turning right and waited for the pedestrian in the cross walk to cross. She had the walk sign. For my kindness I was rear ended. I saved that pedestrian’s life.

  • As much ire as there is for pedestrians from motorists also confirming they do exist (pedestrians) as I do walk regularly myself you’ll see even more angst from drivers toward cyclists (also do that). It’s inexplicable how much hatred there seems to be for cyclists and from my experience it’s usually a large truck or fancy foreign car, not sure how or why they feel entitled to rule the roads but having seen it near daily it’s nearly omnipresent and a lot of drivers have very poor if any situational awareness, which I’d chock up to being distracted, or just downright oblivious, no one considers just how dangerous a vehicle can be until they’re thrust into that situation and the penalties aren’t tough enough, see the former chief of police hit a pedestrian downtown with no signal and the mayor gave him a day off work. There is definite room for improvement fellow motorists with regard to pedestrians and respecting the right of way for cyclists too.

  • “San Antonio has intersections where all of the traffic has to stop and pedestrians can even cross diagonally.” This makes the most sense especially at very busy intersections in Downtown, Galleria, Montrose, Rice Village or any other area with lots of foot traffic. But rolling out out will be a challenge. Houstonians still can’t deal with the light rail and we have had it running for how many years now?

  • It is a nightmare to cross the roads in Downtown Houston. I always wait and watch before crossing the streets, and only when the white walk sign comes on.

    Drivers refused to yield or stop. And, last week a driver yelled and cursed at me for crossing on ‘walk ‘ sign. Also from observations, drivers who refused to stop have one hand on the wheel and the other hand holding their cellular phones — talking. I see people also texting and driving in Downtown and on highways, and I thought there is a law against that?

  • when i was a kid a guy ran into me on my bike rolling into the intersection to make a right turn on red (at low speed – no injuries). i was trying to cross in front of him while he was stopped at a red light just like some of you guys have described. ever since then i always make sure i make eye contact with the driver before walking in front of their car if i think they might be wanting to turn right.

  • I used to cycle near Rice U. in the mid 1980’s to the late 1990’s. I got “tapped” 3 times by “in too much of a hurry” ,CARELESS drivers. After several lawsuits those butt holes had their stuff handed to them via LARGE insurance settlements. Their premiums went WAY up. More recently, I’ve been hit once entering the Starbucks @ 2050 W.Gray @ Shepherd (the one if front of America’s restaurant on the NE corner of the intersection). Needless to say I lest loose with a volley of colorful words – ‘ Miss Doing her Makeup while leaving the Drive Thru with her Double Latte Espresso with 2 Double Shots ‘ was appalled I had the nerve to speak up. I told her to watch out or next time she’ll severely injure or worse KILL someone. And within the last 8 weeks another careless female driver almost hit me as she’s rolling out of parking lot in front of America’s restaurant. She got the middle finger salute and a few choice words. She was unnerved I had the audacity to ride on the sidewalk. She got an earful !!! So Houston drivers watch where the hell you’re driving. You DO NOT own the roads !!! And by law you MUST yield to pedestrians and cyclists and motorcyclists.

  • Lots of cyclists ride with an attitude where they won’t yield for you backing up in a situation where a car would yield. They also cut at the intersection but then demand equal treatment on roads designed for cars. Last time I got stuck in a critical mass rally I saw about 35 cyclists almost get injured ramming into the same sedan that was half pulled out and stopped. I have had a cyclist almost rear end me then give ME nasty looks. Then you have the cyclists who ride for exercise in their 2,000 dollar bike and too tight designer sports wear down a major thoroughfare during rush hour. The cyclists advocates all claim they are doing it so poor people can get around. But not many poor people live in river oaks and commute to discovery green every day for work. I call BS. My final complaint is we have sidewalks they can ride on that are never used by pedestrians. Obviously respect their safety but feel free to mock them on internet message boards.

  • HappyGoLucky, get off the sidewalk and ride in the street where you belong. Sidewalks are for pedestrians, and you on your bicycle are considered a vehicle. Drivers do not expect fast-moving vehicles to approach on the sidewalk.

  • Commenter7 – riding a bike on the sidewalks in urban houston is against the law.

    Lawsuit person gives riders a bad name. Always make eye contact with drivers when crossing intersections.

  • Wrong, riding your bike on the sidewalk is legal in all but the central business district (downtown) and some have told me the Galleria area. Otherwise as long as you yield to pedestrians it’s perfectly legal. Source HPD. It’s the motorists that force cyclists onto the sidewalks not vice versa, purely for safety reasons.

    Sec. 45-302. Riding on sidewalks.
    (a) No person shall ride a bicycle upon a sidewalk within a business district.

    Talking of riding bikes on the sidewalk within a business district, I was almost ran over by a cyclist about an hour ago.
    I was walking straight on the sidewalk and a cyclist made a turn from another corner, and almost ran into me — he kept cycling away as if nothing happens.

    Critical mass rally is really bad, I had to wait for a very, very long time so that they can run through red lights (several, and for the longest time). I said, “Red lights”, and they shouted “Red Lights!” They will not allow me to cross on ‘walk’. I have several pictures … to prove that it was on red.

  • Commenter7: Get over it. We are allowed to ride bikes on roads, even if it’s just for exercise. Also, those $2,000 bikes might actually cost $15,000. And those skin tight clothes are for comfort and efficiency, not fashion.
    Sure, there are some bad cyclists out there. Guess what? There are some bad drivers out there, too. We try not to generalize.
    Calm down, slow down and share the road.

  • cm: Cyclists can’t ride on sidewalks in “business districts”, but almost all of Houston is technically a business district.

  • @cm,
    The same ordinance chapter 45 that @Pedestrians linked to, which outlaws riding a bicycle on the sidewalk within a business district (not just the CBD, but any BD), defines business district as follows:

    Business district means the territory contiguous to and including a roadway when, within any 600 feet along such roadway, there are buildings in use for business or industrial purposes which occupy 300 feet of frontage on one side or 300 feet collectively on both sides of the roadway.

    That pretty much describes most of the major roads in the city of Houston, even Richmond/Westheimer out past the Beltway. So your HPD friend is wrong.
    Bicycles are vehicles and belong on the roads, not on the sidewalks.

  • Sidestepping the raging waters of the internal debate of “bicycles versus pedestrians on sidewalks” and returning to pedestrians and vehicles at crosswalks, I do think Houstonians tend to really regard walkers as oddities of nature.
    Our climate doesn’t really foster a natural desire to walk outside so it is a strange sight to see someone actually – outside. Walking. As a native Houstonian, it has taken me decades to realize that walking along a bayou trail – and using relevant sidewalks to get to/from it – is actually quite nice.
    That being said, I’m more mindful of fellow pedestrians when I’m in my car. I yield for them not only out of lawful duty, general Southern courtesy, but also as a slight “Atta boy!” for them actually walking.

  • I have never said to endanger cyclists. I was simply commenting that many of these cyclists lack basic common sense and ride with a chip on their shoulder. They are crazy but I will always drive safely around them.

  • I am from CA where it is also against the law not to stop for a pedestrian. I have had Houstonians scream out their window at me when I stop, but my best moment was when the honking was going on the pedestrian stopped and bowed a thank you. There are painted cross walks in CA, and the police set up plain clothes cops crossed and ticketing (big time $175) those drivers that do not stop. Ah come on Houston, respect pedestrians and bikers. Cars do not own the road in case someone hasn’t told you.

  • @GoogleMaster
    Do you know for sure that your interpretation of business district is correct? I really like to know the answer.
    I would interpret the definition of business district as having the building adjacent to the sidewalk, like those in downtown and Galleria area (the Central Business District). Over there the danger is real as bike traffic is a and pedestrian stepping out from the building to the sidewalk will not mix well.
    On most of Houston’s major roads the building are separated by parking lot and strip of lawn from the sidewalk – not so different compared to residential streets district, except maybe for busier driveway traffic.
    Vehicles exiting driveway are already subject to Texas Transportation Code § 545.256. The first requirement is to stop before moving onto the sidewalk.
    > EMERGING FROM AN ALLEY, DRIVEWAY, OR BUILDING. An operator emerging from an alley, driveway, or building in a business or residence district shall:
    > (1) stop the vehicle before moving on a sidewalk or the sidewalk area extending across an alley or driveway;
    > (2) yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian to avoid collision; and
    > (3) on entering the roadway, yield the right-of-way to an approaching vehicle.

  • As much as drivers love the right on red, it creates all kinds of danger for pedestrians and bikes.

  • Don’t worry, just fill Colorado with enough Texan transplants and pretty soon it’ll be just as bad there, if not worse, because they’re not expecting it! And then the Texas-sized traveling circus is off to ruin somewhere else.