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Dear Tell All: I'm new to town and puzzled by crosswalk etiquette in Madison. Maybe you can shine some light. When I first got here my inclination was to stop at every crosswalk, but there are so many pedestrians and crosswalks it's impractical. And because no one else stops, I worry about traffic crashing into me from behind.
But I'm also a pedestrian at times and get frustrated at how difficult it can be to cross. I worry about kiddos in particular. University Avenue is the worst.
What to do?
Dear Driver: I find it touching that you care so much about pedestrians. You must be from a kinder, gentler place. Here in Madison, we have no such scruples.
In my experience, many local drivers simply break the law when a person has entered a crosswalk. They're supposed to yield (duh!), but often they just keep driving. It's up to the pedestrian to stop in order to keep from being hit. Many times I've actually had to jump back to avoid the car speeding past me. This happens even in crosswalks with stoplights, where I have the "Walk" light. It should probably be changed to read "Walk If You Dare."
You're right to worry about being rear-ended if you yield to a pedestrian. The driver behind you will probably not expect you to do such a sensible, lawful thing. Pumping your brakes wildly so your rear lights flash would be wise.
When it comes to University Avenue, I can't always blame the drivers. The UW students are prone to jaywalk, to cross against the light, and to act as if they'll live forever. But, as you charmingly put it, they're "kiddos," so imprudent behavior is inevitable. Drive slowly between Bassett Street and Breese Terrace and expect to hit the brakes a few times.
Please resist the temptation to go native, Defensive Driver. Watch out for pedestrians and obey the laws, the way you did in your old hometown. Maybe we can learn from your example.
Do you have a question about life or love in Madison? Write Tell All, 101 King St., Madison, WI, 53703. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org.