The Power of Moose

This is a strategy for crossing the street safely in situations where vehicular traffic is reluctant to yield to pedestrians.  A friend of my brother’s explained it to me years ago.

It is based on a simple principle: Nobody will risk crashing a car into a moose.  Hitting a moose obviously would damage the car and driver.  Many drivers are sadly less concerned about hitting a person, perhaps because they figure a person will dart out of their way–moose are not known for darting.  Therefore, if you want cars to let you cross the street, you need the mass of a moose.  That means 3 to 5 people, depending on size.  Wait until “a moose” of people are ready to cross, and then step out into traffic together.  Cars will stop.  Especially if you firmly believe they are going to stop.  Put on your moose-mind while you are gathering your moose-mass, and prepare to walk confidently, even if cars honk at you–a moose would not flinch and skitter away; a moose knows its rights.

(Most state laws give pedestrians the right of way in marked crosswalks and at intersections, in accordance with any traffic signals in use.  This means that you do in fact have the right to cross the street, even if a car wants to turn and right turns on red are allowed there.  If the intersection has stop signs or no signs/signals at all, cars are supposed to stop for pedestrians crossing.  That’s the law.  Tragically, some drivers do not yield when required by law.  That’s how my friend Evelyn was killed.  That’s why I end up yielding to, or dragging my child out of the path of, people who think they have an inalienable right to drive as if pedestrians don’t exist.  I was hit by cars 3 times–not seriously injured, luckily–before I became so cautious.)

The Power of Moose was useful after a thunderstorm knocked out the electricity in the neighborhood where I work.  Everything I had to do was on the computer, so after half an hour I decided to give up and go home a little early.  I walked out into Pennsylvania’s third-most-congested traffic zone and found that the traffic lights were out completely–usually in a power outage they have emergency power–and nobody was directing traffic.  At rush hour.

I had to cross the intersection of a 5-lane street and a 3-lane street, where many cars want to make left turns; this intersection is so busy that the traffic light cycle includes a 4-way stop, which is the only reliable time for pedestrians to cross safely.  Without the lights, the drivers apparently were trying to follow the rules for a 4-way intersection with stop signs, but of course nobody quite knows how to apply those rules when there are 16 cars all panting to go next and all with more cars stacked up behind them breathing down their necks, so it was chaos.  And none of the drivers was making space for pedestrians.

I waited until there were 3 people on my corner and 3 people on the corner across the 5-lane street, all right on the curb clearly waiting to cross that street.  Then I made eye contact with a pedestrian on the other side and stepped into the street.  As soon as I did it, the person on the other side did, too, and we were quickly followed by the other pedestrians on our corners and a few people who had been approaching the intersection and ran ahead to join our moose.  All the cars waited for us–all 5 lanes of that street, plus the left-turn lane of the other street–and none of them even honked.  They respected the moose.

The Power of Moose works for me!

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About 'Becca
author of The Earthling's Handbook, about the environment, parenting, cooking, and more!

4 Responses to The Power of Moose

  1. Pingback: Show. No. Fear. « The Earthling's Handbook

  2. EcoCatLady says:

    OMG I’m so sorry to hear about your friend Evelyn. That is just plain horrifying.

    I got hit crossing an intersection on my bike in a similar situation last summer. Thankfully I wasn’t badly hurt but it scared the begeezus out of me, and I confess I haven’t done much riding on the roads since. Get this… the driver kept saying “But the signal started flashing Don’t walk so you were supposed to turn around and go back!”

    My boyfriend is an avid cyclist and his philosophy is that when you’re on a bike or on foot, you must assume that every driver is actively trying to kill you. I used to think that was an extreme point of view, but I’m starting to see his point. I really like the moose philosophy though… if only I could find someone else on foot or bike in my neighborhood!

  3. Since I just started reading Tom Vanderbilt’s book Traffic (yes, the topic is just what you think it is) I found this post especially interesting. I don’t think he’d argue with your concept. People respect the moose! Can’t say I’ve thought of it like this before, though!

  4. Pingback: 7 Quick Takes on visiting New York City again after 21 years « The Earthling's Handbook

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