Daily English
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Practical English

1177 Pedestrian Safety

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Complete Transcript
Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 1,177 – Pedestrian Safety.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 1,177. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Visit ESLPod.com and become a member of ESL Podcast. When you do, you can download the Learning Guide for this episode and for all of our recent episodes. Take a look at our website for more details.

This episode is a dialogue between Carla and Reuben about being safe as you are walking down the street. Let’s get started.

[start of dialogue]

Rueben: I never imagined walking our daughter to school could be so dangerous.

Carla: What happened?

Rueben: We were walking on the sidewalk approaching the intersection. The crossing guard was there to stop traffic so we could cross the street. We were halfway through the designated crosswalk when a guy driving like a demon whips around the corner.

Carla: And he didn’t stop at the stop sign?

Rueben: No, he didn’t even slow down.

Carla: Didn’t he see the crossing guard or the other pedestrians?

Rueben: There are several big trees there, so it’s a blind corner with limited visibility.

Carla: Still, he should have stopped. Was anyone hurt?

Rueben: No, we were able to get out of his way, but he could have easily taken out five or six people!

Carla: That’s crazy. What we need are flashing crosswalk signs. Maybe that would get drivers’ attention.

Rueben: And maybe armor for our daughter, too?

[end of dialogue]

Reuben begins by saying, “I never imagined walking our daughter to school could be so dangerous.” “I never imagined” means it had never occurred to me, or I had never thought. Reuben says walking their daughter to school is “dangerous” (dangerous). “Dangerous” is unsafe – something that is risky, something that could hurt you or injure you or possibly even kill you. Carla asks, “What happened?”

Reuben says, “We,” meaning he and his daughter, “were walking on the sidewalk approaching the intersection.” A “sidewalk” (sidewalk) is a narrow area next to a street usually made of concrete, though it could be made of asphalt or some other material, where people can walk safely so they don’t get hit by the cars in the street. The sidewalks are not in the street, they’re next to the street. In most American cities, the sidewalks are actually a couple of inches higher than the street. Reuben says that he and his daughter a walking on the sidewalk approaching the “intersection” (intersection).

An intersection is where two or more streets cross each other, where they meet. “The crossing guard,” says Reuben, “was there to stop traffic so we could cross the street.” Many times, schools will have people called “crossing guards” who work at the intersections during the hours in which children are walking to school or walking home from school in order to stop the cars so that the children can cross the street – go from one side of the street to the other – safely. We call these people “crossing guards” (guard).

“Crossing” comes, of course, from the verb “to cross,” which here means to go from one side of the street to the other. Here in Los Angeles, you’ll often see crossing guards, and they’re almost always adults who are paid to be there for a couple of hours every day, usually, in order to help the children cross the street.

When I was growing up, the older children worked as crossing guards. They would take the children, the younger children, and walk with them, and they would have “flags” – pieces of plastic, I remember them being – on long poles that they would hold out and indicate to the cars that they should stop so that the children could walk across the street. This, of course, was usually on corners or intersections where there was no traffic signal, no electronic signal to stop cars.

Anyway, the people in my school were called “police patrols” (patrols). A “police patrol” was a sixth grade student who helped the younger students – usually grades one, two, and three – to get home safely from school. This was also in a neighborhood where most of the children walked to school. This isn’t always the case nowadays, especially in Los Angeles, where the schools are farther away from children in many cases, and so they have to take a bus. But when they do walk, there are often crossing guards at the corners near the school so the children can get across the street safely.

Reuben says, “The crossing guard was there to stop traffic so we could cross the street.” “Traffic” (traffic) here just refers to the cars that are moving down the street. Reuben continues, “We were halfway through the designated crosswalk when a guy driving like a demon whips around the corner.” A “crosswalk” (crosswalk) is an area on the street that has two white lines and there is room in between the white lines for people to walk. A crosswalk is a place where you as a person walking on the street, especially a busy street, are supposed to cross.

Cars are supposed to stop if there is someone in the crosswalk. If there’s someone walking across the street in the crosswalk, the cars are supposed to stop. Now, not all cars do stop, but the law in most places says that if you are in the crosswalk, walking across the street, the cars have to stop for you even if the crosswalk is not at an intersection, even if it’s in the middle of a block, which sometimes happens if there are very long blocks – that is, long distances between intersections.

A “designated crosswalk” is just a crosswalk that has been painted and often has a sign next to it that says “crosswalk” so that drivers can see that there is a crosswalk there on the street. Reuben says he and his daughter were “halfway through the designated crosswalk,” meaning they were in the middle of the street, “when a guy” – a driver – “driving like a demon whipped around the corner.”

The word “demon” (demon) here refers technically to some sort of evil person or evil spirit. Here it probably just means something like a crazy person or a person who wasn’t driving very carefully. “To whip” (whip) here means to move very rapidly, so “to whip around the corner” means to turn the corner – to go from one street to the intersecting street, or the street that crosses the street that you are on.

Carla says, “And he didn’t stop at the stop sign?” Some intersections have stop signs, which is usually a red sign that has white letters that say – surprise, surprise – “Stop.” Other intersections have traffic lights. These are lights – red, yellow, and green – that indicate whether you should stop or go. Of course, in most big cities, most intersections don’t have stop signs or traffic lights. You’re just supposed to slow down at the intersections and the first person to the intersection gets to go first.

Well, anyway, in this story, Carla is surprised that this driver didn’t stop at the stop sign, which of course the driver should have. That’s the law in most American cities. Reuben says, “No, he didn’t even slow down.” He didn’t even decrease his speed. Carla said, “Didn’t he see the crossing guard or the other pedestrians?” A “pedestrian” (pedestrian) is another name for a person who is walking – someone who is not in a car or on a motorcycle but who is outside walking on a sidewalk or crossing a street.

Reuben says, “There are several big trees there, so it’s a blind corner with limited visibility.” A “corner” (corner) is another word for an intersection where two streets cross, two or more streets cross. A “blind (blind) corner” is a corner where, as you’re driving down one street, you cannot see the cars coming on the other street – perhaps there’s a building there, or in this case, there are several big trees there. Because of the big trees, there is “limited visibility” (visibility). “Visibility” means the ability to see.

So, if there is “limited visibility,” there is not an easy way for you to see, or it is difficult for you to see. Carla says, “Still, he should have stopped. Was anyone hurt?” Reuben says, “No, we were able to get out of his way.” “To get out of someone’s way” means to move in order to avoid being hit by another person – perhaps that person is walking or perhaps that person is driving a car, as was the case here in this dialogue.

Reuben says, “He could have easily taken out five or six people!” The phrasal verb “to take out” can mean a lot of different things. Here, it means to kill someone. If the car had “taken out” five or six people, the car would have hit and killed five or six people. “To take out” can also mean to go to a restaurant and pick up your food – we call that “takeout food” as a noun, and the verb would be “to take out.”

“To take out” can also mean simply to remove. We usually use that phrasal verb in that sense, when we’re talking about the garbage or trash in your house. “I have to take out the trash” (trash). That means I have to take the junk inside my house that I no longer want and bring it outside, usually to put it in another container – what we would call a “bin” (bin), a “trash bin” – and then later take the trash bin out to the street so that someone can come and take the trash away. But here, “to take out” means to kill.

Carla says, “That’s crazy. What we need are flashing crosswalk signs.” “Flashing” (flashing) is when a light turns on and off repeatedly – on and off, on and off, on and off. That would be “flashing.” “To flash” has some other interesting meanings, but we won’t talk about those today. You can look at the Learning Guide for those. Carla says that they need “flashing crosswalk signs” – that is, signs on the side of the road that not only indicate that there is a crosswalk on the street, but have lights flashing so that you notice the signs. “Maybe that would get drivers’ attention,” she says.

Then Reuben jokes at the end, “And maybe armor for our daughter, too?” “Armor” (armor) is a word you don’t see a lot anymore. It’s basically a heavy metal covering that is worn for protection. We associate it with medieval days, of knights fighting in a battle, and they would have special clothing that would protect them from swords and other arms that the other soldiers would try to injure them with.

That’s why we know Reuben is making a joke here. He’s not actually suggesting that his daughter go out with metal clothing on so that she doesn’t get hurt, though here in Los Angeles, it might not be a bad idea.

Now let’s listen to the dialogue, this time at a normal speed.

[start of dialogue]

Rueben: I never imagined walking our daughter to school could be so dangerous.

Carla: What happened?

Rueben: We were walking on the sidewalk approaching the intersection. The crossing guard was there to stop traffic so we could cross the street. We were halfway through the designated crosswalk when a guy driving like a demon whips around the corner.

Carla: And he didn’t stop at the stop sign?

Rueben: No, he didn’t even slow down.

Carla: Didn’t he see the crossing guard or the other pedestrians?

Rueben: There are several big trees there, so it’s a blind corner with limited visibility.

Carla: Still, he should have stopped. Was anyone hurt?

Rueben: No, we were able to get out of his way, but he could have easily taken out five or six people!

Carla: That’s crazy. What we need are flashing crosswalk signs. Maybe that would get drivers’ attention.

Rueben: And maybe armor for our daughter, too?

[end of dialogue]

There’s nothing dangerous about our dialogues, I hope. Thanks to the wonderful work by our wonderful scriptwriter, Dr. Lucy Tse.

From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back and listen to us again, why don’t you, right here on ESL Podcast.

English as a Second Language Podcast was written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan. Copyright 2015 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
dangerous – unsafe; with the risk of causing damage, injury, or death

* Cleaning windows of a 50-story skyscraper is a very dangerous job.

sidewalk – the narrow, paved area next to a street, where people can walk safely

* When you park in your driveway, make sure your car isn’t hanging over the sidewalk, because that makes it difficult for people in wheelchairs to get by.

intersection – where two or more streets meet, crossing each other

* Always look both ways before crossing at an intersection.

crossing guard – a person whose job is to help people cross the street safely, making sure that cars stop, often placed in front of schools when students are arriving or leaving

* The crossing guard wears a bright orange vest and carries an orange flag with the words “Please stop.”

traffic – vehicles that are moving in a particular area

* The traffic is heaviest from 7:00 to 9:30 a.m., and from 4:00 to 6:30 p.m. on weekdays.

designated crosswalk – an area that is painted on the road as a place where people should cross the street

* I almost hit that pedestrian! Why did he cross in the middle of the road, instead of in the designated crosswalk?

demon – an evil person or spirit; someone who is mean and wants to hurt or kill others

* If you believe in angels, do you believe in demons, too?

to whip – to move very quickly; to make a sudden, often dangerous movement

* When Jenna heard her name, she whipped her head around to see who was speaking.

stop sign – a large, octagonal (8-sided), red sign with the word “STOP” written on it, used to show cars where they should stop in the road

* The police officer gave the driver a ticket for not stopping fully at the stop sign.

pedestrian – a person who is walking, not in a vehicle

* For safety, pedestrians should always be aware of the cars and trucks around them.

blind corner – a turn in the road where it is difficult or impossible to see what is ahead

* This winding road is very dangerous for cyclists, because there are a lot of blind corners where drivers cannot see very far ahead.

visibility – how clearly something can be seen

* This location is inexpensive, but it has poor visibility from the road, so it isn’t a good place to open a new retail store.

to get out of (someone’s) way – to move out of the path of someone, especially to avoid a collision or to avoid interfering in some way

* I’m carrying a heavy pot of hot soup. Please get out of my way.

to take out (someone) – to kill someone

* The gunman took out four people before the police were able to stop him.

flashing – with a light turning on and off repeatedly

* A flashing yellow light means to proceed with caution.

armor – heavy, metal coverings worn by knights and police officers for protection, especially when fighting in battle

* Knights must have been very strong to be able to walk around while wearing several pounds of heavy armor.

Comprehension Questions
1. What happened to Rueben and Carla’s daughter?
a) She fell down while crossing the street.
b) She got lost on the way to school.
c) She was almost hit by a passing car.

2. What is a blind corner?
a) A place many pedestrians get hurt.
b) A place where blind people can safely cross the street.
c) A place where drivers cannot see well.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
blind corner

The phrase “blind corner,” in this podcast, means a turn in the road where it is difficult or impossible to see what lies ahead: “If we put a mirror on that tree trunk, we could help drivers see around the blind corner.” The phrase “blind spot” refers to something that one is unable or unwilling to understand or accept: “Many parents have a blind spot that makes it impossible for them to see problems with their own children.” The phrase “to turn a blind eye” means to ignore or pretend not to notice something: “Almost everyone turned a blind eye to the accountant’s unethical practices because he was helping the company save money.” Finally, a “blind date” is a date where two people agree to meet and possibly begin a romantic relationship, but they have not met each other previously: “My roommate has set me up on a blind date with her cousin.”

flashing

In this podcast, the word “flashing” means with a light turning on and off repeatedly: “The flashing light on the car’s dashboard is very distracting.” The verb “to flash” can mean to appear very quickly and very briefly: “The researchers flash an image on a screen and then ask people what they can remember about it.” The phrase “to flash a smile” means to smile at someone very quickly: “James didn’t have the courage to ask the woman for her phone number until she flashed a smile at him.” Finally, the phrase “to flash (something) around” means to use or display something in a way that makes other people notice, especially when one is trying to appear rich: “Did you see how she was flashing around her diamond engagement ring?”

Culture Note
Pedestrian Rights

Being a pedestrian can be a “dangerous proposition” (something that is difficult, challenging, or dangerous) in many “car-centric” (designed for cars, not for people) cities. However, there are many laws that are designed to protect pedestrians, and many communities are “striving” (trying) to improve their “walkability” (a measure of how easy and safe it is for people to move through a neighborhood by foot, without a car).

All states require that vehicles stop when a pedestrian is in a “controlled” (marked and designated) crosswalk. “Uncontrolled” (not marked) crosswalks are a little more challenging. Some states require that vehicles “yield” (allow to move first) to pedestrians in uncontrolled crosswalks. However, in many states, the vehicle does not have to “come to a full stop” (stop completely), so the pedestrian must hurry out of the way.

What about pedestrians who “jaywalk” (cross in the middle of a street, not at an intersection)? Many states have laws against jaywalking, and pedestrians can be “fined” (forced to pay money as punishment) for crossing in the middle of the street. But some of those states nevertheless require drivers to stop for or yield to pedestrians who are jaywalking.

In addition, many states require that drivers stop if they see an “intoxicated” (under the influence of alcohol) pedestrian. This is because many pedestrian deaths are “alcohol-related” (involving someone who cannot think clearly due to the drinking of alcohol).

Comprehension Answers
1 - c

2 - c