Wednesday, January 12, 2005

a traffic rant

Note: I wrote this piece for the Heckler section of the Sydney Morning Herald, but it looks like it has been ignored (sigh), so I'm putting it here.

Last week, David Gunter wrote about pedestrian life and implored
drivers to give him 'a brake', complaining that the drivers are too heedless of pedestrians and that they don't stop to let pedestrians cross the road. I am a student here in Sydney, fresh from India, and I believe that he is exaggerating quite a bit. Atleast 70% of the cars I've encountered stop to let me pass. To put things in
perspective, in India and most of the (non-westernized) world, traffic
favors the motorized vehicle. It's only here that cars actually slow
down and stop for a pedestrian to cross. Such behavior is completely
alien to me, I would much rather wait for the vehicle to go its way
and cross the road when the coast is clear. Believe me, the first time
a bus stopped in front of me to let me pass, I found it terrifying.
I'm seriously worried that when I get back to my home country after
three years of social traffic conditioning, I will unthinkingly step
out onto the road and be run over by the first car that comes along.
It's good to let the cars and the buses have their way. I'll tell you
why. This system is wrong- it depends on a tacit understanding
between the driver and the pedestrian. And since it takes only one
error on the part of the driver to turn a pedestrian into so much
roadkill, a better system is to let them have their way. Let them roar
through the roads, and we pedestrians can cross only when it's safe to
do so. It's foolproof, and you wont have to depend on the patience of
some unknown driver. And it's much easier for a pedestrian to stop or
wait; the drivers have to brake and burn fuel to do the same. I think
the best approach to vehicles, from a walker's point of view, is to
view them as bloody dangerous things and treat them accordingly. No
more cursing at drivers who almost ran you over; just stay out the
way. There's a small satisfaction in knowing you're in the right when
you're lying by the curb. And if pedestrians have enough sense to
cross roads when it's clear, then accidents can be few and far