In the wild, wild west of urban pedestrians, it is not the fast and furious, but rather, the fast or the dead; at least in cities where the rule of law is neither the law nor even a suggestion; but a joke that has turned into legend, then into mundane every day reality.

In one country, I frequent a district which, by most local standards, is considered among the best already. But you should not be misguided, else you become roadkill.

In the last 18 months alone, I have had three (3) close calls (the closest was 2 inches from burning rubber tires and an oddly looking fellow jumping for his life on the pavement) while crossing pedestrian lanes; most with the drama of screeching tires and shouting taunts with drivers of taxis, limousines, SUVs, and vehicles of all sorts whom you would be hard-press to trust even a toy car with.

This has become my pet peeve of late, which I will explain why, to close this segment.

I went out to do more observations in the wild to get a pseudo-scientific view of the situation: non-rush hour, fairly early morning, non-weekend, non-holiday, weather is not too hot and not too cold, shoppes are just about to open…

 

Figure 1: All Seems Normal

Figure 1: All Seems Normal

Looking deceptively safe and non-threatening, there seems to be nothing wrong here until you notice that multiple signals, signs, suggestions, and solutions (like the speed bump before the pedestrian lane) are in place to “ensure” pedestrian safety. This is highly suspect already for the keen but uninitiated observer.

 

Figure 2 : Still Looking Normal

Figure 2 : Still Looking Normal

Taken less than two (2) seconds apart from the previous image, an SUV zooms by. Apparently, all these speed bumps and signs are just wastes of resources.

 

Figure 3 : Interesting(ly blurred) Sign

Figure 3 : Interesting(ly blurred) Sign

Walking to another angle to learn more, one would be grateful for the reassuringly placed signage for most to see; that is until you realise that the people (motorists) who has to read it (quickly) and stop accordingly (quicker) will never see it.

This sign is facing the pedestrians. It ominously feels like an invite for the pedestrian to go “trust the lane” and cross it. No worries. There are speed bumps and signs and ordinances and penalties…

 

Figure 4 : A Microcosm Of Cities, People, Cars, And Everything Else

Figure 4 : A Microcosm Of Cities, People, Cars, And Everything Else

Around 20 meters from the previous pedestrian lane exists another one. It has what one would expect, from experience, all the bells and whistles to highlight the rule of law … That is until … Take note of the actors/variables in this city snapshot.

 

Figure 5 : What just happened?

Figure 5 : What just happened?

Whooopppsss. For people like me who dealt with this, there seems to be nothing wrong with the last 2 images.

Taking a step back you will be able to identify some key incongruities: first, this IS a pedestrian lane with all the bells and whistles aforementioned; second, why did the car passed the poor dude (Number 1) properly using a crosswalk; third, hey, the motorcycle was not there a second ago, again whizzing by the signs and speed bumps and penalties and etc (this blind spot approach causes most of the accidents); fourth, notice Number 2 in the figure, this will prove an evolutionary advantage in the life of a urban dweller; and finally fifth, number 3 in the figure, not quite sure what is happening there…

 

Figure 6 : Here Comes The Law Enforcer

Figure 6 : Here Comes The Law Enforcer

Finally, poor dude (Number 1) got to cross the street, after running headlong in front of a small truck and skirting a law enforcer (Number 3). By the way, less than 20 meters aways, when you turn left, is the police station for the neighbourhood.

The real gem of the situation is Number 2, who started the cross outside the pedestrian lane, ahead of all the mess. This is wisdom in this town, apparently.

On another note, the street where the police station lies is a 4-lane street, perhaps 200 meters long. Two lanes has been claimed, by the police, for parking purposes, in particular for those willing to pay 3x-5x the going rate for parking elsewhere. No, the fees to do not go to city coffers; it goes directly into the pockets of the cop who happens to be on duty outside when vehicles come and go.

 

Figure 7 : Or Not

Figure 7 : Or Not

Told you, he (Number 2) was not there to uphold any law. He must be on a rush to go on duty at the street parking they carved out. Number 3 is on her way. Success…

Notice Number 1? We almost forgot her in the microcosm of urban pedestrian life. Looks like Number 1 is stuck, waiting.

 

Figure 8 : Remember the poor lady? Still unable to cross. Not from here, apparently.

Figure 8 : Remember the poor lady? Still unable to cross. Not from here, apparently.

Almost 3 minutes have passed by since we started at this point, the poor lady is still unable to cross. We’ll help her in a bit, don’t worry. Surely, she needs a lesson in local road etiquette.

If you are a motorist, when you near a pedestrian, just continue as you were. If nearing a pedestrian lane (or any part of the road, actually), if you see someone crossing, accelerate to your heart’s content. Don’t worry, the fools would run. If they don’t, horns baby, beeeeep. If they still don’t run, that’s fine, you have got wonderful reflexes, brake at the last moment. Everyone gets a good laugh and scare.

If the brakes don’t work, do not worry still. Worst, it is just roadkill. Less worse, you hurt someone for the rest of their lives; destroying human worth and potential has been reduced to the price of an idiot behind a wheel or motorcycle. No worries mate. All’s good.

If you are a pedestrian, run whenever you can, especially in places where neither law nor common sense nor goodwill exists as a rule, and the exception is diminishing to infinitesimal proportions.

Or just don’t be there in the first place…




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Dean Marc - Citi IO

Dean Marc - Citi IO

Part of the more nomadic tribe of humanity, Dean believes a boat anchored ashore, while safe, is a tragedy, as this denies the boat its purpose.

When not serving in citi.io, Dean normally works as a strategist, advisor, operator, mentor, coder, and janitor for several technology companies, open-source communities, and startups.

Otherwise, he's on a hunt for some good bean or leaf to enjoy a good read on some newly (re)discovered city or walking some roads less taken.