Reader view: Be safe — walk on side of street facing oncoming traffic

Students learn to walk on the street facing traffic during a City of Edmonds pedestrian safety exercise in 2023. (File photo by Larry Vogel)

After the latest pedestrian/car incident where a woman was pushing a stroller with a baby in it, I am compelled to write this.

The woman was struck from behind, and I have noted that in many similar incidents where the victims have also been struck from behind. In each of these incidents, the victim was walking on the wrong side of the street.

I also note that these types of accidents occur primarily in more urban settings.

As a child growing up in rural Washington, I was taught to always walk on the side of the street facing oncoming traffic. Walking facing traffic gives you the opportunity to quickly move away from danger when you see it coming toward you.

 With so many distractions drivers have available to them — phones, eating or drinking, fiddling with mirrors or entertainment options and many more — it’s easy to see why they might swerve or meander off the street onto the shoulder of the road. If you, a pedestrian, are walking with your back to oncoming traffic, you’re walking on the wrong side of the street. This has a very strong chance of you being struck from behind and killed.

I see this every day on the streets around my home here in Edmonds, it’s disturbing to see this happening, and rightly or wrongly, I suspect that pedestrians didn’t come from a rural environment where this rule of the road was taught at an early age.

Let’s start a campaign to teach everyone out there walking for your health or whatever to always walk on the left side of the street facing oncoming traffic Do not walk on the right side of the street with your back to oncoming traffic.

— By Robert Doug Petersen

Author Robert Doug Petersen lives in Edmonds

  1. Let’s also get serious about adding more sidewalks in Edmonds!

    More and more traffic, more and more speeding… and the same old sidewalks.

    1. I see this behavior also on the steep narrow hill near my home. And then there are the pedestrians wearing ear phones making it difficult to hear traffic. Also electric vehicles are so quiet, their noise is barely discernable. Somewhere I was taught or read to walk in the direction of oncoming traffic, esp when there are no sidewalks. Maybe a pedestrian awareness campaign is needed – posters in places people are likely to see them depicting the safe way to traverse streets when there are no sidewalks.

  2. Good advice, but we also have an epidemic of speeding going on as well. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter which side of the street pedestrians are walking on if drivers aren’t going to behave. Speed bumps had to be installed recently a few blocks over on a residential street near me because too many drivers selfishly just can’t help themselves.

  3. I am almost 80, and I walk all the time in Edmonds. Whenever I see a person walking NOT facing traffic, I ask them if they can hear my Mom their ear. They always look at me with a puzzled expression. Then I say, “Always walk facing traffic.” We sometimes chat a bit about the importance of that habit. I agree with Pamela about the reasons that this habit is even more important today than it was when I was a kid.
    Happy SAFE walking, dear neighbors.

  4. This is good advice for pedestrians to be “street smart”. Shameful that children have to walk to school without sidewalks, while leaders pander to special interest groups as in requiring expensive bike lines where there’s going to be marginal use and only the illusion of safety.

  5. YES! Walk on your left and FACE your death! Sound View Place is the worst: people walk with their backs to the traffic, in dark clothing, there’s a low sun in the driver’s eyes, children and dogs are in the middle of the road (walker is happily in the side of course)…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Real first and last names — as well as city of residence — are required for all commenters.
This is so we can verify your identity before approving your comment.

By commenting here you agree to abide by our Code of Conduct. Please read our code at the bottom of this page before commenting.