Sunday, February 9, 2014

Watch Your Step! - Six Hazards of Being a Pedestrian

Today we're going to look at some things that make being a pedestrian more difficult. Most of the things on this list could be prevented, and in an ideal situation wouldn't be an issue. Let's take a look at some hazards involved with being a pedestrian:

1. Poop. Dog poop, everywhere.

We’ll start the list off with a bio-hazard. I love seeing people out walking their dogs, but I hate that nobody in this area picks up after them. There’s poop in the planters, poop in the grass, and poop on the sidewalk. Where do dog owners get off thinking it is acceptable to leave a steaming pile of feces on the sidewalk? Our building doesn't have any trash cans or disposal bags outside, which would make a big difference, but I don’t think it would solve the problem. If you own a dog, pick up after them. Period. It’s disgusting, unsightly, and selfish. If you can’t pick up after your dog, then you don’t deserve to own one.

Right on the sidewalk that's still covered in snow a week later.
Good grief; do you dog owners have no decency?
Oh come on! Horse poop?! In Midtown?!

2. While we’re on the subject of animals… 

Being chased by a dog is no fun… well, that’s not always true. We were chased down the street by three adorable puppies the other day, and that was the cutest attack ever. But I still felt like I had the responsibility to make sure the pups got back to their owner’s property, which wasn't easy. If you have dogs, please put them in an enclosure or have them leashed. We've been chased down by barking angry dogs and I’m not sure what to do in the situation. I don’t want to hurt an animal, but I’m not going to let an animal bite me or my wife.

Pit Bulls can be sweet, but I'm not willing to wait to find out when one is charging me on the street.
Other animals can pose a hazard as well. In downtown OKC when the weather is warm grackles are EVERYWHERE;  Thousands of them sitting on electrical wires and on the ground, just waiting for the moment to drop poop on you from above.

It’s amazing how much of an issue poop is when steps aren't taken to control animal populations.

Multiply this by several hundred, and you've got the flocks that swarm downtown OKC.
"This is my turf!"

3. Okay, no more poop. Another hazard is the weather.

If you’re a pedestrian you have to be prepared for Mother Nature. Whether it’s hot, cold, or both hot and cold at the same time (Oklahoma City has demonstrated to me that this is possible several times; freezing wind and baking hot sun. How do you prepare for this?!) you need to be sure that you've got the appropriate clothing and accessories. An umbrella, sunglasses, scarves, gloves, hats, and other appropriate clothing choices will keep you comfortable regardless of the weather.

4. Distractions

Texting and talking on the phone while driving is a serious issue that creates a hazardous environment for drivers on the road, cyclists and pedestrians. But pedestrians are not innocent here by any means. I’ve seen people texting while walking and walk right out into an intersection when they don’t have the right-of-way. This behavior is bad for many reasons. It puts your life in the hands of drivers who may not be paying attention either. It also gives pedestrians a bad reputation, which is the last thing that needs to happen if we want to successfully campaign for better pedestrian infrastructure. Groups of pedestrians that are too engrossed in their conversation to be aware of their surroundings are also at risk of injury.

Here Elizabeth demonstrates how not to cross the street.

5. Unsafe Intersections

In Oklahoma City there are plenty of road intersections that are perfectly safe, but there are also those that are potentially dangerous for pedestrians. In particular the Classen diagonal that runs from Midtown up to 16th Street has several difficult intersections. These three intersections have very poor pedestrian crossings, either no crosswalks, faulty signals, or no signals. 

Classen and 11th: A six way intersection with two crosswalks
Classen and 13th: This intersection is HUGE. There aren't sidewalks on each side of the road, so this one is particularly difficult.
Classen and 16th: Do you want to cross this on foot?

6. Poorly Maintained Infrastructure

Sidewalks can fall into disrepair and become hazardous for daily use. This can be realized in many different ways: vegetation can be allowed to take over the sidewalk, with street trees making the sidewalk uneven, or shrubs having to be pushed out of the way. With all the snow and ice we've been having lately it’s become apparent that clearing sidewalks is not a high priority. While none of the streets are covered in snow thanks to the snow plow trucks, I have to walk like a penguin so that I don’t slip and fall on the ice-covered sidewalks in downtown. There should really be some effort given to ensuring that sidewalks are maintained as well as streets. It’s not fair that pedestrians have to deal with snow and ice for a whole week after it has fallen because pedestrian safety isn't a priority.

Where'd the sidewalk go? It snowed 5 days ago.
It's areas like these that make me glad I'm not wheelchair-bound.
These are just some of the hazards we face as pedestrians, and the majority could be avoided by taking personal responsibility. The others require municipalities to properly implement pedestrian infrastructure, which is our main goal at CarlessInOKC; walking needs to be a safe and easy option. What other hazards can you think of? Feel free to comment and start a discussion!


  1. I would add aggressive panhandlers, but I'm not sure tbat poses as much of a threat in OKC. If you're walking downtown in Chicago though? They will follow you, stand right next to you on the train or bus, sometimes block an entrance to a building you're attempting to go into! There's a law against it, but if you walk up to a cop and point the person out the cop will more than likely roll their eyes at you.
    Also, the poop issue drives me nuts. It's a city ordinance to clean up after your dog but people are lazy and obviously disgusting. Ugh!

  2. There are plenty of aggressive panhandlers in OKC. That patch of dog poop they show is right next to the building (I live in the same one as the carless folks) and all the dog owners use it but the building owners say nothing. Granted they don't provide a trash can or "doggy bags" for the waste, which MIGHT help, but they could AT LEAST post warnings in the community newsletter threatening forfeiture of one's pet deposit.