Now that we’ve thrown the Serenity prayer out the window, let’s set aside that big thing we can’t control in favor of one of the old things we shouldn’t have to.
Yes. The pedestrian/bicycle beg button. The thing you’re supposed to push to get the green light to cross an intersection. The thing that’s almost as useful as an unconnected thermostat in an office building, which is another thing that promises control while delivering learned helplessness.
First, an apology.
This is a lousy picture. It’s hard to see what this is a picture of—that little out-of-focus post on the other side of the sidewalk.
Here’s why it’s lousy: I’m riding a bicycle and the button I’m supposed to use to trigger the traffic light is, what, about 20 feet away from the lane?
I’m pretty bad at estimating distances. Just spitballing, I’d say that button is farther away than economic recovery.
Anyway, this isn’t a dissertation on how cities prioritize the movement of people in cars and trucks over people on bicycles and foot. This isn’t even a complaint about beg buttons.
This is a question about the Law of Unintended Consequences.
Shouldn’t it be kicking in right about now?
I don’t expect Peoria to fix a problem—inadequate traffic control signals—that it’s never been able to identify. I waited on my bicycle for a car to trip traffic lights in 1985. I wait for a car to do the same thing today. A beg button is not a solution.
But what about the tech revolution? While the gods of Silicon Valley didn’t set out to destroy New York’s taxi business, they did a pretty good job. The pantheon of pasty white males in their mom’s basements didn’t set out to destroy the newspaper business, but they did a pretty good job.
As far as I know, the tech heads have never set out to destroy beg buttons, traffic lights and car-centric design.
So why hasn’t all that destruction happened already?
Why do we still have beg buttons?
In the absence of planning, shouldn’t it be easier to get around by now?