Pedestrians rule the streets of Fresno and all of California

Mark-John Clifford
New York City StreetsTrip Advisor

I'm sure this post will help me acquire large numbers of haters, but this story needs to be told.

To be exact, as many of my followers know, I'm from the east coast, New York City, and Boston. If you're not a follower, now you know my background, which will give you the background to this rant.

I moved in 2005 and lived in southern California first. I lived with some friends in North Shore, next to the Salton Sea. 

When I first moved here, I didn't do much driving, but I didn't think I was ready for California traffic or pedestrians from what I saw with traffic and pedestrians and how they ruled the roads.

New York City

 Have you ever been to New York City or lived there? If you have done either, then what I'm about to describe will be familiar to you.

Pedestrians don't have the right away in reality. There are laws that pedestrians have the right of way when crossing the street or just walking along the road, but that law is seldom followed by drivers of cars, buses, taxis, and limos.

For that matter, it isn't followed at all by most. That goes for pedestrians and vehicles. No one seems to be on the same page when it comes to the roadways in New York City, no matter what you've seen or heard.
Pedestrians in New York CityThe World

I lived and worked in New York City on and off for 15 years. I've almost been hit by vehicles traveling on the street too many times to count during that time.

Most of the times that these almost accidents happened, it was my fault, or so I was told by numerous drivers yelling out of their windows. I've been called every name you can think of, but through it all, I lived to tell this story.

Granted, there are street lights to let you know when to cross and not to cross, but in New York, most pedestrians don't follow the lights. Everyone is in a hurry in New York City. Places to go and people to meet, why should they wait for a crossing light?

Come to think of it, the thrill of the run to avoid being hit, or at least that was the case for me, was a rush.

I don't want to sound like I broke the cardinal rules of being a pedestrian all the time, but there were times when I just had to get somewhere fast, and I need to bend, no break the rules, and I did.

The rules for pedestrians are about the same throughout the world, with one exception. In New York City, drivers of vehicles don't care; well, most don't care.

If you step off the sidewalk in New York City like I have seen pedestrians do here in California, you're taking your life in your hands.

If you step out in a crosswalk and just start walking without getting a wave from a driver, you may get hit in New York City. No, make that a probably get hit. There is no room for doubt on this one.

It's something to learn over time when living in New York City. You don't own the road as a pedestrian no matter what the law says. The driver of cars, limos, taxis, and buses own the road, and you're just an ant trying to cross a busy street.

I'm not saying that New York City is the only city like that either. It happens all over the United States in major metropolises like Boston, Chicago, Detroit, and Miami, and numerous other states, cities, and towns.


I grew up in Boston and quickly learned the rules of walking, biking, and enjoying the city's roadways. 

It came down to this. Respect the drivers of cars, taxis, buses, limos, and generally people in a hurry.
Boston StreetsTrip Advisor

My uncle would always warn me not to take chances when crossing the streets of Boston. He would say that there is no regard for pedestrians in Boston, New York, and other major cities, so beware.

Instead of worrying about whether I had clean underwear on or not before I went out, my mom would warn me of walking and crossing the streets of Boston. These warnings went on for years, even into my '20s, '30s, and '40s. 

She didn't get that Boston was easy compared to New York City, but she loved me and cared about my wellbeing. 

Fresno, California

I arrived in Fresno in January of 2006. Upon arriving up here from Southern California, I noticed a few things right away. One was the speaking crosswalk warnings—what a great idea. These lights tell you when to cross, when not to cross, and then there's the countdown clock as you cross. California has the best for pedestrians and drivers.
Fresno PedestriansMaison Law

The one thing that I wasn't prepared for was the rights of pedestrians and how seriously the pedestrian takes those rights.

I have to be honest when I started driving here in Fresno and the surrounding cities, and I drove like I was still in New York City or Boston. In other words, I drove offensively, not defensively. I wasn't prepared for what was about to happen.

People have the right away, and the majority of drivers in California respect that. California drivers need to take a trip to New York City and teach them a few things about pedestrians.

Back to My Experience

My first few months of driving here were torturous for me. I couldn't get t through my mind that pedestrians have more power on the roads than drivers of cars and other vehicles. In California, like many other places, I assume, the laws protected the pedestrian, not the drivers of vehicles. 

I'm not arguing that these laws are good for pedestrians. I think it's great that California cares that much for its residents who walk the roadways. I wish New York City felt the same way, but that just isn't the way it is.

California almost begs pedestrians to test a driver's emotions. To try the driver's mental health as they walk in front of a vehicle without glancing at the on coming traffic.

Out-of-state drivers like myself, when first driving here, should be forwarned about what they are about to face when driving to the market, doctor's office, or to work.
Downtown FresnoI Love Fresno

Pedestrians, while having the right of way, don't always abide by the rules. Some jaywalk. Some just decide to walk in front of you because, according to the law, they have the right of way. I understand that, but, yes, there is a but.

Why can't they look both ways? Why not take your head out of your screen on your phone and look before walking? Why not wait for a driver to wave you by? Why not just be as courteous as you expect a river to be to you to them?

I don't think I'm asking too much, am I? If you have just moved to Fresno or California, do you feel the same way I do?
Crosswalk in Fresno-This is how it should be all overTwitter

I've been living in California for over 15 years now, and you would think I would get the picture by now. Every day Patti has to hear me complain about pedestrians just stepping in front of us while we're driving, and then I elaborate on what you have happened in New York City to that person.

I believe she's tired of hearing the same old story. I know this because she reminds me all the time that I'm not in New York City any longer, and I can't just run over pedestrians. Why not? That's my only comeback to being told I can't.

In the end, I've resigned myself to understand that no matter how rude a pedestrian is when crossing the street, a driver has no say. You can cuss, yell, have a little road-rage, but if the police are summoned, the driver loses no matter what law the pedestrian broke. 

Of course, there is a positive side to this: if you're the pedestrian, you can do what you like. 

What a country!

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Patti, my wife, and I write about life here in Fresno, California, and the Central Valley. We especially enjoy writing reviews about restaurants we've dined at, along with the food that is served. From time to time, we also write about and share recipes that we are fond of and hope you'll try them and let us know your thoughts. We are not traditional food critics. We don't have to worry about restaurants making unique dishes for us. We're just the average customer going in to dine, and then we write reviews.

Fresno, CA

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