It was still dark as I walked Perrymont to catch the bus this morning. I've walked it thousands of times before, and this trip was no different, except for walking instead of biking. I know the shoulder of the road well, I know what cars do at every spot, I know where to anticipate wildlife making an appearance, I know every barking dog and motion-sensor light. There isn't much to surprise me.
Except this morning, I saw a shape appear out of the gloom, walking toward me. In those first hundredths of a second, my mind tried to make any sense out of the signals my eyes were sending it, and not succeeding. It probably did take a full second to realize the shape was human, and another to size up what was happening.
In short, nothing. It was just a pedestrian, walking westward as I was walking eastward, on my side of the road. Tall, male, maybe 40s. The problem was, he was dressed about as darkly as one could imagine, and was walking on the wrong side. Contrast this with me, who not only was wearing a light colored jacket, but also had on a flashing amber light which reflected off the road signs 200 meters ahead of me.
Cyclists and non-cyclists alike gripe about "ninja" bike riders, all in black, neither lights nor reflectors, not following the rules. Same applies to pedestrians. If I couldn't see him, moving 3 mph, how would a motorist moving 35 mph? Of course if he was hit, the driver would be faulted, but pedestrians (and cyclists) being stupid do not help matters any. Heck, even a white baseball cap would have helped.
Walking Perrymont is no picnic. Being on the wrong side is actually necessary in a couple of places because it's safer to be, no matter the weather, or lighting or road conditions. But not there. I follow the rules when it makes sense to, and act safely when the rules make it less safe.
But safety starts with making it possible for anyone else not to hit you, thus highlighting the first component in my mantra of "Be Visible, Be Predictable, Be Responsible."