I Hate Walking Pt. 2 – Walking in Athens, GA

Walking...If you’ve been paying attention to my blog (in which case I really want to thank you, btw, this is exciting!), you’ll already know why I hate walking. The enterprise is particularly arduous in this southern, Georgian, university town. Mind you, the relatively small size of the town makes it a more pleasant task than in Atlanta, for instance, where I truly dreaded a journey on foot. The fact remains, however, things could be much better here, precisely because it is a fairly small university town. Unfortunately, the reality is that near-death-on-wheels abounds in this town, and that should not be.

My husband and I tend to be sticklers for the rules of the road. This is especially true when we are on foot: wait to have the light; never jaywalk, but use an intersection; don’t run, but don’t dawdle either, and so on. The same cannot be said of the drivers in this town (or in many other Georgia towns I have been to so far, for that matter, but that would goo beyond the scope of this story).

Picture this: you are at the intersection of a busy street, with streetlights. You need to cross the street, so you press the button that activates the pedestrian light and wait for the light to turn green. A minute or two pass. The light turns green in your favor. You are about to step off into the street when a straggler, obviously convinced the rules don’t apply to him (or her) screeches by, making a right hand turn right in front of you. Startled, you beat a hasty retreat and wait for this moron person with more important things to do than wait the 10 seconds it takes for you to get out of his or her way to make that all important turn.

After the TriathlonI can’t tell you how many times that has happened to my husband, less than a thousand yards from our place of residence. I myself, on my way to and from work, have learned to look at all traffic to make sure no one intends to blow the red light.

Without meaning to generalize, I will say this: it appears most Georgia drivers have no idea what the rules of interaction between drivers and pedestrians actually are. Before you dismiss this assertion as the mere rantings of a disgruntled pedestrian, know this: I’ve lived or visited some large cities, including Montreal Quebec, Toronto Ontario, Ottawa Ontario, and New York New York. Lemme tell you, on the whole, drivers there know what not to do.

So, for those of you who have either forgotten what the rules are or never knew them, here they are, taken directly from the GA driver’s manual(PDF). ((You can use your favorite search engine, such as Google, to search for your state or country’s “Rules of the Road“. Follow the link, and enter the name of your state/province/region/country for specific information.))

Should I stay or should I go?Don’t feel like reading all of this? That’s ok, you can bookmark my “rules of the road” page and come back to it any time for a refresher course. Meantime, feel free to skip down to my summary.
Pedestrians are less protected from the harmful effects of a crash than occupants of motor vehicles. Consequently, pedestrians are more likely to be seriously injured or killed in the event of a collision at low speed than are occupants of motor vehicles.

Sharing the Road With Pedestrians

Georgia’s Law Concerning Pedestrians

The driver of a vehicle shall stop and remain stopped to allow a pedestrian to cross the roadway within a crosswalk:

  • When the pedestrian is upon the half of the roadway on which the vehicle is
    traveling, or when the pedestrian is approaching and is within one lane of the half of the roadway on which the vehicle is traveling or onto which it is turning. “Half of the roadway” means all traffic lanes carrying traffic in one direction of travel.
  • When making a left or right turn at any intersection.
  • At stop signs, after coming to a complete stop and before proceeding.
  • At traffic signals, even when the light is green, if pedestrians are still in crosswalk.
  • When entering a street or highway from an alley, driveway, or private road.
  • When approaching a blind person who is crossing a street or highway if he/she is carrying a white cane or being guided by a dog.


Crosswalks exist on all four corners of intersections even when they are not marked by painted lines. A crosswalk is the part of the pavement for pedestrian traffic where the sidewalk would extend across the street. Crosswalks can also exist mid-block if they are marked.

Respect Crosswalks

When pedestrians are in crosswalks, they have the right of way over motor vehicles. Do not block crosswalks. When stopping at red lights or stop signs, always stop your vehicle before the crosswalk so pedestrians can cross safely.

Even at crosswalks without traffic signals, drivers must stop and remain stopped for pedestrians in the crosswalk when the pedestrian is upon the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling. “Half of the roadway” means all traffic lanes carrying traffic in one direction of travel.

Blind Pedestrians

Pedestrians using guide dogs or white walking canes must be given the right of way at all times.

Always Remain Alert for Pedestrians When Driving

Look for pedestrians on both sides of the street when approaching intersections, when turning, or near schools, parks, bus stops and other places people are likely to walk. Look behind your car for children or other pedestrians before backing up in driveways and parking lots.

Turning Right at a Red Traffic Signal

Before turning right on red, drivers must come to a full and complete stop before the crosswalk. Do not block the crosswalk when waiting to make a right turn at a red light. This puts pedestrians at risk, forcing them to walk around your vehicle.  After looking to your left to find a gap in traffic, you must look to your passenger side to ensure a pedestrian is not crossing in front of your vehicle.

Passing Stopped Cars in Lanes of Travel

Use extreme caution when passing stopped cars on multi-lane roads. A pedestrian you can’t see may be crossing in a marked or unmarked crosswalk. This is a frequent cause of pedestrian related accidents. When you stop at a crosswalk on a multi-lane road, stop at least 10 feet before the crosswalk so a driver in the next lane can see the pedestrian.

Exiting and Entering Driveways

When exiting or entering a driveway, alley, or parking garage, drivers must stop before the sidewalk area and proceed only after pedestrians have safely passed.  Drivers waiting to turn left into a driveway must wait not only for a gap in oncoming traffic, but also for pedestrians to finish crossing the sidewalk portion of the driveway.

Vehicle Speed

Pedestrians are less protected from the harmful effects of a crash than occupants of motor vehicles. Consequently, pedestrians are more likely to be seriously injured or killed in the event of a collision at low speed than are occupants of motor vehicles.  […] When a collision occurs between a motor vehicle and a pedestrian at 40 miles per hour, there is an 80% chance that the pedestrian’s injuries will be fatal.

Laws Governing Right-of-Way

Right-of-way is a phrase used to describe who has the lawful authority to enter a roadway, change lanes within a roadway, make a turn from a roadway, travel through an intersection, or make any other traffic related movement. Georgia law establishes right-of-way in all situations. Vehicle drivers (including bicyclists) and pedestrians should always understand the rules related to right-of-way, and remember that right-of-way is something to be given, not taken. There may be instances in which you as a driver or pedestrian have the legal right-of-way over someone else, even though the other person does not realize it and is not obeying
the rules of the road. In those instances, yield the right-of-way in order to prevent a crash.

  • When traveling on a roadway that intersects with another roadway, if you are faced with a stop sign, but other traffic is not, you may proceed only after stopping and  yielding the right-of-way to any other vehicle or pedestrian either in the intersection, or so close to the intersection as to make it dangerous to travel through the intersection.
  • approach in the proper lane; stop before reaching a pedestrian crosswalk and remain stopped until all pedestrians have cleared the crosswalk on the side of the roadway upon which you are traveling; move through the intersection only when you may do so safely.
  • Yielding Right-of-Way: Always yield right-of-way to pedestrians, vehicle operators, and bicyclists who move into the intersection before you by stopping and remaining stopped until they have cleared the intersection.
  • At a four-way intersection where all drivers are faced with stop signs, all drivers must yield to pedestrians; otherwise the vehicles should proceed through the intersection in a “first to arrive, first to proceed order.” If two vehicles reach the intersection at approximately the same time, yield to any vehicles on your right.
  • Care, courtesy and common sense should govern your actions.
  • When entering or crossing a roadway from an intersecting road, alley, or private drive, you must stop immediately prior to driving onto a sidewalk or onto the sidewalk area extending across the alley, building entrance, road, or driveway. After stopping, you must remain stopped and yield the right-of-way to all other pedestrians and vehicles already traveling on the roadway or sidewalk you are entering or crossing. If police, fire, or ambulance service vehicles are using their emergency lights (blue or red) and sirens, safely maneuver your vehicle out of their way. You should slow your vehicle and move over to the shoulder of the road, or if that is not possible, as far to the right of the roadway or lane as you can, and stop.  You should always use caution to ensure that you do not endanger other motorists, bicyclists, or pedestrians while doing so. Do not position your vehicle so that it blocks an intersection or otherwise prevents the  emergency vehicle from making a necessary turn.
  • Unless a sign posted at that intersection prohibits doing so, it is permissible to make a “right turn on red” at an intersection controlled by a traffic control light. You may proceed only after making a complete stop, yielding to all traffic and pedestrians, and making the determination that you can safely make the turn.
  • When stopping to allow a pedestrian to cross in front of you, leave sufficient room between your vehicle and the crosswalk so that approaching traffic can see the entirety of the crosswalk.
  • Slow down and prepare to stop if you are approaching an intersection at which other vehicles are stopped, even though the traffic control devices indicate they are authorized to proceed. If they are stopped because they are allowing a pedestrian to cross the roadway, their vehicle may block your view of the pedestrian.
  • A red light means you must make a complete stop before entering the crosswalk or intersection and wait until the light turns to green before proceeding.
  • A green light means you may proceed if it is safe to do so after stopping for pedestrians and yielding to vehicles within the intersection.
  • A green arrow means you may proceed carefully only in the direction the arrow is pointing after stopping for pedestrians and yielding to vehicles within the intersection.

Crosswalk Lines

These white lines are painted across, or partially across the pavement. Sometimes
they will be painted in a ladder pattern. When pedestrians are in the crosswalks, they have the right-of-way over motor vehicles.  Crosswalks are sometimes in the middle of a block in residential areas, and in some cases, a pedestrian crossing signal is located at the white line.

So, did you read all that? If you didn’t, at least go back and skim the things that are either bolded or underlined. If nothing else, PLEASE read the paragraph detailing what happens to a pedestrian at low speeds.

You will notice one important thing here: generally speaking, pedestrians have the right of way.

Let me say it again: pedestrians have the right of way.

That means when you are driving a motor vehicle, you are supposed to keep an eye out for people on foot. That’s the basic, bottom line. If you are driving and hit a pedestrian, the odds are unbelievably good that you will KILL that person. No ifs, thens, or buts about it. Yes, pedestrians are annoyingly slow. Yes, we get in your way. But consider this: with an uncertain future, from the risk of losing your job to the risk of losing your house, some day YOU might find yourself walking. Moreover, walking is a great way to go from here to there while:

  • preserving the environment
  • enjoying the scenery
  • getting some fresh air (and yes, especially in a small town, there is some fresh air to be found)
  • getting a little excercise
  • just plain enjoying life
  • The next time you’re out on the road, I hope you will take a little more care. No appointment is so important that it’s worth risking someone else’s life, after all. Besides, this town isn’t so big that you can’t wait an extra minute at a light, while keeping someone else safe.

    Peeling crossThink about that. The next time you choose to wait for the light, thereby allowing a pedestrian the right of way, you will actually be helping save a life.

    When’s the last time you got to do that?

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