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Drivers Behaving Rudely

Just because there's a livable streets revolution underway in NYC doesn't mean that drivers have gotten the message. Cars blocking crosswalks, drivers failing to yield to pedestrians, unnecessary honking and a slew of other quality-of-walking violations are still a routine occurrence to contend with on nearly every corner of New York City.

Mark Gorton, publisher of Streetsblog, wants to put drivers on notice of their rudeness. While he acknowledges the majority of drivers are not bad or mean people, their actions speak otherwise and they may not even realize it. After all, one rude driver sitting in a crosswalk can inconvenience or endanger dozens of pedestrians in one light cycle. Yet would that same person take a shopping cart in a supermarket and purposely block an aisle and make people navigate around him or her? The betting line says likely not.

So what is it about driving a car that allows people to get a societal pass on their rudeness?

Mark Gorton: [0:02] Look at these cars! Look at these guys here. The ability to magnify rudeness. Think about it. When was the last time you did something that inconvenienced 200 people? That guy did it right there. [0:16] Look at that person there. This is a sight that's so common, you don't even stop to notice it. It's a guy blocking a crosswalk. But just count how many people... He's just sitting in his car, but he has now been rude, profoundly rude, to probably 30 people. He's forced those people to walk an extra 10 feet to go around him, to walk out into traffic, to walk between two cars, which is always scarier.

[0:43] When you stop and look at interactions between motor vehicles and people, you will see just how many motorists do things that are rude. Not because they're bad people, not because they're mean, but because they are using such a clumsy, powerful instrument in such a delicate space.

[1:04] Look at the choice that these people have to make. Look at it. I mean, that is perhaps the most dangerous thing that happened to those people today.

[1:10] It's a very common thing. This happens all the time. OK, I'm crossing in front of a truck. Is the truck going to go? You look, and it's sort of like you have to be cautious. It's a dangerous situation. It's unpleasant. And those people. I mean, they have the light. Just look at this guy as he nudges his way through a crowd. Nudging your way through a crowd is a rude and threatening thing to do, but you see it all the time.

[horn honks]

Mark Gorton: [1:37] This guy honked because that guy didn't want to run over a person. The honking is rude behavior, too. What did he want them to do, run over the pedestrian?

[1:47] Look, you have your kid, and you have a turning car. Look, you have to protect your kids. This is a dangerous environment, where you have to make sure. If you don't hold your kid's hand, their life is in danger. Every time you decide to drive through the city, you are making a conscious choice to engage in behavior that you almost know for a fact will be rude and disruptive to other people.

[2:08] I have the walk. I'm going. Now that's a rude thing to do. [laughs]



Clarence Eckerson Jr. has been making fantastical transportation media in NYC since the late 1990s. He's never had a driver's license and never will.

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  • Chris Cox

    You sound like a typical driver - "driver has somewhere to go"...self obsessed, my destination is the most important thing in the world. Where the pedestrian is walking, who cares, right?
    You've illustrated the author's point perfectly.

  • Jay the Just

    That's a ticket buffet for any cop :)