The District of Columbia cares about its pedestrians. It cares so much it puts signs in the middle of busy thoroughfares, reminding drivers that people on foot have a right to cross the street without being run over.

It doesn’t take long for the signs themselves to be run over:

The sign boasts a curious combination of words and pictures, for the convenience of the hurried and harried commuter: “D.C. LAW [stop sign] FOR [silhouette of pedestrian] WITHIN CROSSWALK.” At least, that’s what is shows before it has been battered by passing cars and inevitably knocked off its mooring in the middle of the street (in this case, upper Wisconsin Avenue). The poor sign usually gets replaced eventually, only to be wiped out again. And again.

This would be almost funny if it weren’t for the fact that actual pedestrians are knocked over, sometimes fatally, at an alarming rate in the District and surrounding ‘burbs. I have seen cars stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk, and I have also seen them not stop. I remember seeing someone who looked like Chris Matthews shout at a car that failed to yield to him crossing Wisconsin Ave. near the “social Safeway”: “Know the law!” (and maybe a few other choice words). This was a few years ago, before the signs started appearing … and getting whacked. And he was right: the law protected the rights of pedestrians in crosswalks back then, just as now. What’s touching is Matthews (or his doppelgänger) actually expected drivers to know that!

Personally, I think you’d have to be crazy to expect anyone to stop for you when you’re in the crosswalk. People in cars just hate to stop. Period. For anything. It’s a fact.

When I cross with the green light at any intersection, I always look left and right five times before stepping off the curb, and glance over my shoulder for turning cars when I’m in the street. And I’m ready to run for my life.

So, I appreciate these visual reminders of pedestrian rights. They’re really cute. Maybe they’ve saved a life or two. But it’s a bad sign they all get flattened, don’t you think?

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