EDITOR'S NOTE: Pat Muir is on vacation this week, so here’s some classic complaining from 2016.
Back when I was a kid (in the days of the dinosaurs), I was taught to walk against traffic, not with, so I might have a fighting chance to sidestep an oncoming car.
Apparently, that has either changed or there are many people willing to clean out the gene pool. Especially with all the distracted drivers these days, I can’t believe how many people walk with traffic along a narrow shoulder. Often at night and in dark clothing! A person doing that has no chance whatsoever.
Have the rules changed, or am I just old? (I mean, I found myself using my blinker in the parking lot the other day.)
— Still Sidestepping, Albeit a Little Slower
Dear Still Sidestepping,
The rules haven’t changed.
According to the Revised Code of Washington (RCW 46.61.250), when there’s no sidewalk a pedestrian must “walk or move only on the left side of the roadway or its shoulder facing traffic which may approach from the opposite direction and upon meeting an oncoming vehicle shall move clear of the roadway.”
Those are the rules now, just as those were the rules when I first addressed this issue with the hilariously headlined Nov. 21, 2012, column, “Dear Crabby has no problem with errant streetwalkers.” As that column explained, I don’t care which side of the street people walk on. (I also, for the record, don’t have a problem with errant streetwalkers. Everyone’s gotta eat, and I’m no moralist.)
Yes, people should walk on the left. It’s safer and it’s the law. But I can’t remember a single instance in which someone walking on the right side has actually upset me. It’s just not an issue I care about.
What I do care about — deeply and with more passion than is necessary or advisable — is the use of blinkers in parking lots. So I’m glad you brought that up.
It’s weird that you think using one is weird. I’m pro-blinker to a fault anyway, but especially in parking lots, man. Those places are obstacle courses — pedestrians, people pulling in and out of parking spots, idiots cutting across rows. You’ve got to use your blinker to let people know which way you’re going.
Just in general you’ve got to be on your toes, driving defensively in parking lots. I am what my wife calls “an aggressive driver ... no seriously you are; like you think you’re not, but you are.” (She’s wrong about that. But I will admit to being an assertive driver and an overly fast driver.) And even I cool it when I’m in a parking lot. I get overly cautious. That’s not an old-guy thing; it’s an I-don’t-want-this-SUV-to-smash-my-car thing.
I guess I kind of hijacked your question to make that point. But in the five years I’ve been writing Dear Crabby, nobody’s ever complained about parking lot danger. And this is the second letter I’ve gotten about pedestrians on the wrong side of the street. So I figured it’d be all right to go off on a tangent.
Hope that helps.