05 November 2009

Wave Your Flag, Pedestrian!

A reader mentioned pedestrian flags in Berkeley, California in a comment and added "I'm serious!" so I thought I'd check out this fantastic example of victim blaming in Bubble Wrap Society.

He was serious. Is that scary or funny or both? Not sure. Flags are placed near intersections and the idea is that pedestrians pick one up and hold it when they wish to foolishly exercise their human right to safe urban mobility.

Most of the flags have been stolen and few use them apparently. Ironically, 48 hours after these went into [non]use, a pedestrian was hit by a car. Here's what Berkeley City Councilwoman Polly Armstrong said about it at the time:

"We hope over time - when drivers are paying a little more attention than that driver was - that the flags would be helpful." She added that, "Pedestrians have to be on guard and aggressive with their flags."

"After hitting the pedestrian, the driver swerved into the oncoming lane and collided with another vehicle. The driver was cited for failure to yield to a pedestrian. While saddened by the news, Berkeley officials saw the accident more as a testament to intersection's danger than the flags' effectiveness."

Read that first paragraph again... she hopes drivers will become 'a little more attentive' but pedestrians have to be "on guard and be aggressive with their flags."

Ignoring the bull. I don't know why Berkeley doesn't just go all out and legislate mandatory all-ages pedestrian helmets.

Or just ban walking altogether. Nevermind lowering the speed limits on the streets or installing traffic calming measures. Nah. Blame the squishy traffic users who are only stunting society's progress by showing up sans car.

The San Francisco Chronicle has an article about these pedestrian safety flags from 'back in they day' - 2002. Are they still in use in Berkeley?