Every foreign village has it’s own strange and incomprehensible customs, and San Francisco is no exception. One of the oddest, and most troubling for visiting New Yorkers are the rituals surrounding crossing the streets. Notably, that everyone here:
A) Waits for the light
B) Uses the crosswalks*
It’s truly a fascinating behavior to witness: A group of San Franciscans approach an intersection. They can see clearly for miles in both directions, and there’s not a car in sight. Hell, it may even be a part of town where there are no cars! But if the little man on the sign is red they WILL NOT CROSS THE STREET! They won’t even take a couple of steps into the road in preparation of crossing!?!?!
And when they do cross, they’ll always use the crosswalk! If you’re in the middle of a San Franciscan block and are in need of visiting a store directly across the street from you, you can’t just launch yourself into the street like a real-world game of Frogger. Oh, no…you are expected to walk to the corner, cross the street (with the light, of course) and then trek all the way back down the block. And yes, it could add minutes to your shopping day!
A Note for Drivers
The odd pedestrian customs effect your life too. Cars are expected to yield (AKA give the right-of-way) to pedestrians. San Francisco has turned the New York driving rule on its head, instead of pedestrians mustering the agility of ninjas to deftly avoid careening taxis, busses and perpetually agressive commuters, here drivers must avoid hitting pedestrians! It’s even a law!
Like intentionally bowling gutter balls or dining at a brightly lit restaurant, it just doesn’t make any sense and takes a while to get used to.
*Note for New Yorkers: “Crosswalks” are lines (typically white) painted on the streets near intersections.
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That area around Powell and Market is always congested with tourists and the worst drivers, which is why I always use the crosswalks. Other neighborhoods, I jaywalk whenever possible.
Thanks for commenting Rebekita and confirming that SFIW is on the pulse! Care on those streets out there!
Um, love this one. I ran into a kid at Canyon Market the other day who looked like one of the Beastie Boys long lost brother who saw my Mets sweatshirt and asked me how I was getting used to things. He was from LIC in Queens, and we had a chat – as I was walking away he said “you still crossin in the middle of the street?”, to which I responded “you know it.” I had never even realized this was a thing until he said it! Glad to know you captured this one on the blog too!