It’s an old joke — A nice old lady encounters a little boy standing on a street corner holding a bundle tied to the end of a stick. She asks where he’s going and he tells her that he’s running away from home. Concerned, she asks where “home” is and he points to a house just a couple of doors from the corner where he’s standing. Less worried, she asks if this is as far as he’s going and the boy sighs and tells her “I guess so. I’m not allowed to cross the street by myself.”
But in the real world, is there really reason to worry about kids a crossing the street? Certainly, when they’re four or five years old, they shouldn’t be going anywhere by themselves but what about at, say, age ten or twelve? Is a middle-school student old enough to cross the street by himself? You might think so, but watch this video and you may very well change your mind.
Artist Ron Gabriel took video of one New York City intersection and then highlighted bad behaviours exhibited by pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers. The result is almost frightening in its confusion and continual jeopardy. People are nearly run down by cyclists, cyclists get pushed off the road by cars, cars battle each other, pedestrians block cars; it seems like chaos — deadly chaos. As Gabriel points out, four people are killed or seriously injured every day in intersections like this.
Take a look at the video and see what you think:
Gabriel wants to do something about it. “The video is supposed to be part of a wider campaign,” he says, “with a poster series on the street level, followed up with a web site that specifically addresses the bad habits that were highlighted in the video. The plan is to try to offer a solution.”
To be honest, I’m not sure this is as serious an issue for most people as you might think. New York City is an environment unlike any other; most of us don’t see that sort of traffic, especially anywhere our kids might be wandering about on their own. Even if they did, I think one learns quickly to judge and deal with traffic situations such as these. San Francisco is certainly no New York, but growing up in downtown SF, I learned pretty early on how to weave through traffic on foot without getting killed.
I’m still not going to let my kids go downtown by themselves, however. How about you?