Heatherside Lane resident Jean Barry, a faithful reader of “The Outsidah,” went ballistic last week and had to sound off.
She sent me an email so hot, little puffs of exhaust squirted out of my inbox. She employed alarming phrases like “pet peeve,” “drilled into your head,” and “I might add,” and utilized no small number of CAPITAL LETTERS.
I was relieved to realize, however, that I was not the target of Jean’s rage.
She had apparently just encountered one too many pedestrians walking on the right side of the street.
Which makes her crazy.
For the sake of Jean’s mental health, and for the safety of the pedestrian public, I now pass along Jean’s wisdom:
When it comes to pedestrianism, right is wrong.
If you’re walking down Linebrook Road, for example (perhaps searching for a sidewalk), it is unsafe to walk on the right side, because vehicular traffic is rushing toward you from behind, and you can’t see it coming. You have no warning that a wild-eyed washing machine repairman, crazed with endorphins at the sheer thrill of escaping Saugus for the day, is about to nick you with the handlebar of his Schwinn. You can’t leap into the brambles to avoid being whacked by the side-view mirror of a teenage texter in a Toyota. If your hearing is as bad as mine, you could actually be flattened by the slow-motion Marini tractor without ever realizing it.
So if you’re walking on the road, you should be walking on the left. This has not only the advantage of safety — you can see the enemy approaching — but also the advantage of enhanced communication. You can offer helpful suggestions to oncoming drivers, like, “Slow down!” And your communications need not be verbal. You can, as I have often done on my own street, simply hold up a number of your fingers to indicate the speed limit which the oncoming driver is blatantly exceeding. Of course, this isn’t a foolproof method. You may be holding up two fingers on one hand and five fingers on the other, indicating that the speed limit being utterly ignored is 25 mph. But if the driver is doing 40, as virtually all Ipswich drivers do, he or she will have less than two seconds to count your fingers. This may not be enough time for them to do the math.
(Let me also suggest that you resist the urge to attempt further finger-signal communications after the driver has passed you. An expression of contempt observed in one’s rear-view mirror can be distracting, and cause even more danger on our roads.)
Certainly if you’re the someone on the Schwinn, then the right-left rule is reversed. You shouldn’t be riding your bike on the left side of the road. You’re a moving vehicle, so you’re supposed to be in the flow of traffic. If you ride your bike on the left side of the road, you might overrun, from behind, a good-citizen pedestrian who is properly walking on the left. This would be a tragic irony.
A number of these concerns will be beautifully addressed by the newly approved $3 million plan for repaving and redesigning Linebrook Road to make walking and biking safer. The plan was OK’d by a vote of 662 to 585 at our usual polling place, the Y. The margin might have been greater, but an unknown number of voters walking to the Y were sideswiped and sent into the weeds near Washington Street.
See? Jean’s right. They should have been walking on the left.
Doug Brendel dodges 40-mph drivers to get to his home on the 25-mph section of outer Linebrook Road. Contact him via Outsidah.com.