I live in the city of Toronto with three young children. I am a driver and I am a pedestrian. I don't really cycle. But I am a pedestrian first. We all are. If I were to run for mayor of this city, "Pedestrians first," would be my slogan. (Though it's probably easier to buy crack in the "Subways, subways, subways.")
Unfortunately, many of the drivers in this city (and other cities, too, I'd imagine) do not share my love of pedestrianism. They do not, in fact, seem to care about the safety and well-being of my children at all. Perhaps they do not have children of their own. Perhaps they've just returned from a decades-long expedition to the Antarctic and have never encountered children at all in their entire adult lives. I don't know.
So I put together a few simple rules to help them avoid running over kids with their cars. Because that's really freaking annoying when you're already late for work.
1. Wait for us to reach the sidewalk.
Listen, I know you want to make your turn. I know that we appear to be safely past the amount of space you need to make your turn. If it were an able-bodied adult or two crossing the street, I'd also make my turn before they were completely across. But I am with children. I have a stroller or a wagon or one of those stroller/trikes that you can't steer worth a damn. There are other kids hanging off me or straggling along behind. There is a better than even chance that the wheels of my child-containing device will hit the lip of the sidewalk and stop suddenly. It could even overturn. Sun hats might be blown off heads or balls dropped or something suddenly forgotten, and my kids could turn around with no notice and try to dart back to the other side of the road. Yes, I will yell at them if and when they do those things. They have already been told countless times not do them and they will reprimanded. But first I'm going to yell at you as you careen around the corner inches away from my kids because they are CHILDREN and you are the responsible adult, not them.
2. Give me half a minute to make sure we're all together when walking past a driveway.
Here's a newsflash: Pedestrians have the right of way when you are leaving a parking lot or private parking space through a driveway. Even if there's a lineup behind you and there's finally a break in traffic and the pedestrians are small children, elderly or otherwise not moving fast enough for your liking. Even then. So I'm the lady that's going to walk right up in front of your car and then stop until I can make sure all of my children are safely with me and then make it across to the other side. Because I don't trust them to stick with me every second of every walk and I sure as hell don't trust you to do the right thing. Sometimes I'll see parents with children waiting and waiting as car after car exits the grocery store parking lot like it's their god-given right. Don't do that.
3. Slow the fuck down.
When you see children on a side street, slow the fuck down, dude. I don't even care what the speed limit is. I don't care whether or not it was reasonable to expect the child to stay on the sidewalk. Kids dart out onto the road. They just do. Even when they are under the care of good, loving and responsible people. Older kids on bikes make errors in judgement. Balls and frisbees and favourite rocks go rolling out onto the road. If you're driving slowly, you give yourself enough time to react. If you go too fast, then you don't. It's pretty simple.
4. Stop at the damned crosswalk and stay stopped.
Guess what? I don't know if you're going to stop. Lots of cars just don't. So I'm not going to push my baby stroller out in front of me, blindly hoping you'll obey the rules of the road. I'm going to wait until you are clearly slowing to a stop. I'm also going to stand there waiting until the cars in the other lanes are slowing to a stop. And if that takes too long for you, if the extra 30 seconds I take to make sure I don't kill my baby by reckless stepping out in front of moving traffic, inconveniences you in some way, I'm not really concerned. And when you decide to start driving again before I've started crossing because I'm waiting for all the traffic to stop, I will yell at you from down the street and silently fume for the rest of the day, wishing I believed in voodoo magic.
5. It's a parking lot, not the Indy 500.
Do you even know how short children are? If they're standing right in front of your car, sometimes you can't see them. The bigger the car, the more you can count on not being able to see a child directly behind your vehicle. I hold on tight to my kids in parking lots. The danger seems manifold and constant. I don't care that the eight-year-old doesn't want to hold my hand anymore. We make a family chain and I like to keep the youngest in a stroller or in my arms. But even then. Sometimes I have to put down the two-year-old for just one second to fish out my car key, or the older two are overcome with a sudden impulse to break free and scale a concrete barricade. Sometimes my kids slip away for just one second. The disappear around the car and I am shouting and making a scene so they will listen, yes, but also so everyone around me will know there's a child on the loose. And then I'll catch them again and it won't even have been a minute. But still. When you gun it in reverse out of a parking spot and then whip around the corners on a mission to beat your personal best, I think it's only going to be a matter of time. If not my kid, then someone else's.
I know that the majority of people, the majority of time, are not ruthless speed demons. Just try to be aware all of the time. And while I'm talking about people with young children, clearly we need to be respectful of anybody with mobility or impulse control challenges. Please and thank you.
This post originally appeared on Playground Confidential.