In Seattle people wait obediently on the corner for a green light before they walk across the intersection, even if no car is visible in any direction as far as the eye can see. I could hardly believe it when I first moved there. Didn’t make any sense to me, and I ignored the admonishments of friends that I would get a jaywalking ticket and continued to exercise my New York street crossing behavior.
Waiting on the corner for a green light is not common in New York. I think the goal for New Yorkers is to walk briskly and deliberately, crossing street after street without breaking stride no matter what the traffic lights say. A red light in your direction simply serves as a reminder that a taxi might come barreling through at 40m.p.h., so you should look at oncoming traffic and gauge how slow or fast you need to jaywalk. There are a lot of close calls here, but everyone seems to make it to the opposite corner just in time.
There are lots of people, locals and tourists, walking up Fifth Avenue in late June — at any time, really. A New York friend visiting me in Seattle when I still lived in Belltown asked where all the people are? She found Seattle streets surprisingly empty. I replied, tongue in cheek, that the people are all in New York. That’s only partly in jest. One point six million people live in Manhattan, plus tourists and tradesmen and drivers and delivery people and messenger services. You get the idea. Seattle has seven hundred thousand or so. It makes a difference.
Wednesday was cool and cloudy, temperatures in the low 70’s. That’s not a bad way to see New York if you’re walking. Thursday is supposed to be rainy, and after that it will be sweltering. All the concrete and black pavement here soaks up and retains a lot of heat. By then I’ll be at the Jersey shore, cooling off in Linda and Ron’s pool.