Look both ways
Note: This article was originally published to Albany 2 Cents.
Maybe it’s because I grew up outside of rural Altamont and suburban Colonie. Maybe it’s because it’s because I truly fear death, or at least, broken bones. Maybe it’s because my kindergarten teacher really drilled the concept of “left, right, left” into my adolescent head.
Whatever the reason, I still fail to understand why people refuse to safely cross Central Avenue.
It’s ten o’clock on a Wednesday night, and I’m finally getting out of work. As I leave the studio, I am tired, and simply cannot wait to climb into my Hyundai Accent, make the fifteen-minute drive home, plop on my couch and watch the latest episode of The Walking Dead. When I get into my car, I fasten my seatbelt. I lock my doors (“just in case,” Mom always said). I check my mirrors. I do not text. I safely pull into traffic and begin driving down Central Avenue in Albany.
Central Avenue is not the most interesting street in the area. Firstly, it’s very straight. It doesn’t curve much. When I lived in Altamont, I remember Route 146 being rather curvy, especially when met by roads leading to a drive to Thatcher Park. When I visit my parents in Delmar, I am subjected to a ridiculous series of three roundabouts which—after I clear each one—I almost expect to be greeted by Mark Summers to award me a trip to Space Camp and new pair of British Knight sneakers, or to have green slime dumped on my head. When I lived in Bethlehem, I remembered drives through Voorheesville, where I needed to be ever-vigilant for Bambi and his mom, who could be stealthily hiding in the shadows, waiting to dart in front of my car and ruin my evening (or, at the very least, my front bumper).
Central Avenue, however, is not any of these roads. It is a straight, well-lit road that is easy to navigate. There are so many gas stations, concrete buildings, and vehicle traffic that Bambi would not dare to venture near this paved pathway.
Central Avenue gives me more anxiety than any other roadway in the Capital Region.
When driving down Central Avenue, I need to be hyper-vigilant—and no, it isn’t because of Bambi. It is not because the roads curve so much that the centrifugal force plasters my shoulder against my drivers’ side window. It is not because there is the potential that a curling series of roundabouts might be laden with black ice (or worse: I am driving on a round-about after partaking in some oysters on the half-shell).
It is because of pedestrians.
I’ll admit: Sometimes, I think Bambi wants to get hit. I see Bambi there, standing on the side of the road. I slow down. His eyes glow, his tail flaps. Seemingly, he waits. I start to increase my speed—just a bit—in effort to sail past him, and hopefully, avoid the world’s most depressing car wash later that night. Bambi knows the possibilities, and stays put. Bambi is smart. Bambi has made one simple choice, and lives to play with Thumper another day.
People on Central Avenue are not as smart as Bambi.
You see, people on Central Avenue, in my belief, want to get hit by a car. Always. Unsuspecting Bambi may absent-mindedly run across the road after frolicking in the thicket. People on Central Avenue, however, intentionally walk in front of my car in an attempt to cross the street. And they do it at night. In the dark. Wearing all black clothing.
I don’t understand.
On my drive home from work, I have to constantly dodge people who, I swear, are trying to get hit by a car. Although there is a crosswalk often only a few feet away, they still insist on crossing in the middle of the road. They do not wait for the light. Heck, I’m pretty sure they do not look ONE, let alone BOTH ways, for oncoming traffic. They just start walking.
At any given moment while driving down Central Avenue, I can literally reach out of my window and touch someone. In their quick approach to cross the road, they walk within mere inches of my car and, at time, I swear I can almost smell their cologne.
These people do not make any attempt to make themselves noticeable. It’s dark outside. It’s late at night. Wearing dark blue jeans, a black coat with furry hood pulled over their face, and a black ski hat does not make for added visibility in the dark. At any given moment, I could hit someone while driving down a road where crosswalks exist under traffic signals every few yards; crosswalks that have been specifically put in place for the purpose of a person being able to safely cross the road.
And yet, people avoid these safety measures. They cross in the middle of the traffic.
The game of “chicken” does not stop with the initial attempt to cross. In the middle of busy traffic—in the middle of the road—they stop. They stop dead center on the double-yellow line and stand there, waiting for traffic to yield. So many times, I have nearly hit someone because I do not notice they are standing where a car is meant to drive.
So, what is the solution for this?
I believe that the pedestrians of Central Avenue can take a hint from our friend Bambi: Wait and watch for cars. When it is clear, cross the road. And for goodness sake, cross Central Avenue in the crosswalk. Although hitting Bambi with my car would be tragic, it would be more devastating to see you lying in the middle of the road.