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Morally Correct Commuter: Crossing the Street

Or A Tale of the Ethical Price of Getting to the Other Side

Ethics challenges lie in wait — everywhere and, often, unexpectedly. In this first case study, I had several books to return to the Fairfax City Regional Library Branch and pick up relatively rare batteries [not AA or AAA or even D] that very probably and were at a close-by Ace Hardware in a cramped city L-shaped shopping center.

The library and store were separated by a little more than a block of constantly churning and often turning traffic across four lanes going north and four lanes going south and three lanes going west and three lanes going east.  Admitting upfront, I had not thought through the problem as deeply as I should, there was an open lot about halfway between the two destinations.  Instead, I parked on the upper level of the library’s garage, putting me at the great distance from the second stop and return.

I took the stairs up and put the books in the return slot on the inside of the library. Not pausing to check out “Hot Picks” or “New Arrivals” because I was on a mission.

Ethical choice: Return to the car, move it the block, add to the churning and turning traffic to find a slot in the shopping center and add to carbon emissions.

But no, feeling morally correct, if not superior, I trudge outside, down the few steps to the first signal and push the pedestrian crossing button, waiting for the blessed “little white man” [green in U.K. and France; don’t remember Germany or Romania; no “little men” in the Balkans].

Important to add here, there were only two sets of zebra stripes, not four, indicating people using legs — pass through here.  No man’s land on the other possible crossing points.

Wait, wait, wait, wait and wait some more until.

Finally, make the first passage with 30 seconds to cross the multiple lanes going east and west.

Then press the pedestrian crossing button for the next stage to the hardware store.

Yep, you guessed it.

Wait, wait, wait, wait and wait some more until the “little man” gives me the high sign and less than half a minute to cross more multiple lanes.

[Far more time for left turns — east-west and north-south]

No need to go through the travails of being a pedestrian in a shopping center lot with cars with human drivers believing the right-of-way goes diagonally, preferably at 45-degree angles, to the exits. We all have been there — in both conditions, driver or walker.

The Lord or some higher power was on my side in the lot and for the batteries, but now weakening on morally appropriate pedestrian behavior when time is a’wasting and only two sets of stripes set aside for crossing.

So, I crossed the exit lanes — no zebra stripes here — to align myself with only one set of signals.  Of course, in this situation, there are no buttons to push, no “little men” will ever appear; but when the northbound traffic eases, I am halfway across; and soon blessed relief, the southbound lanes come to a rush-hour stop, meaning right turns keep happening but everyone else is riding a brake and at this point, your life is in the balance until the right turning lane is too clogged to move.

Safely across, victory in less than half the time to make the first crossing.

But at what price?

Sorta morally correct.

Soon, how to navigate traffic circles — that include rush-hour bicyclists.

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