March 3, 2023 | FEATURES | By Beatrice Roussell
This is the story of a very ambiguous crosswalk: a place where red and green meld together, where an attempt at order facilitates confusion, and where vexation is common.
I am talking about the crosswalk located on North Nevada Avenue that bridges the east and middle campuses of Colorado College. Consisting of two one-way streets (each with two lanes) and a median, it appears normal. But the feature that sets it apart is the stoplight. If you live on east campus, are involved with Greek life, like to party, or have another reason to frequent this crosswalk, you probably have a good idea where this story is heading.
Let me pose two different scenarios.
Scenario one: The light is red, and the little white man gives me permission to walk across.
Scenario two: The light is green, and while I stand on the edge of the street watching the cars drive past one of them slows to a stop. The cars in the second lane of this one-way street continue to go.
The first situation is one in which everyone seems to know their place, and I cross the street with both ease and confidence. The second is where things get complicated.
Let’s think logically: if I cross the street in scenario two, there is a large probability that I will get hit by a car in the other lane. So, what do I do?
I stand there and wait for the light to change, as the driver sits in ignorance and impatience. The driver’s eyes scream at me to go, and occasionally the driver attempts to nudge me with their horn. In response, I plant my feet further into the ground, shoot back a glare, and eventually they give up and keep moving.
In this scenario, the students around me all share a knowing eye roll and chuckle. But is that fair?
There is also a situation in which one car stops and there are no cars in the other lane. And what do I do? I cross. I reinforce the behavior that I was so frustrated with in scenario two.
Many elements combine to make the installation of this stoplight on Nevada tricky, particularly the identity of the people crossing: college students. As students, we are often in a hurry – rushing from one meeting to another while trying to get out of nippy wind and bitterly cold temperatures associated with Colorado weather.
We regularly have headphones in or are looking at our smartphones, a perfect combo to distract us from oncoming traffic. Our campus also contains many bikers and skateboarders who ride with a demeanor that seems like they won’t stop. If I were a driver, I would brake too! No one wants to gamble at a crosswalk, and I’d rather piss off a 20-year-old than hit them with my car.
As students, we perpetuate the chaos and confusion of this crosswalk while maintaining an attitude of exasperation. And it’s funny because the people we orient this attitude of exasperation towards are the ones trying to be nice – they are the ones we would thank if only we happened to be crossing the simpler crosswalk on Cascade Ave.
But it is not simple, because the person assigned with the urban planning on Nevada chose to insert a stoplight. And, in an attempt to facilitate traffic and increase order, they produced a self-sustaining cycle of ambiguity and chaos.
I don’t know what can be done to reduce this ambiguity, but if I’ve learned anything from the two English classes I have taken at CC, it’s that the best way to deal with ambiguity is to accept it.
So, my advice to you, reader: accept that the drivers on Nevada are going to stop. And instead of filling with irritation, interpret their braking as kindness (or just overly cautious, which doesn’t make a difference). They are kind enough to take a second out of their day to let you cross. Replace that eye roll with a smile or wave and keep on moving.