May 25, 2014

Pedestrians.. And their Right of Way.

Image Courtsey Wikipedia
It was simply a crossing. A Pedestrian crossing to be precise. And of course, it was being used by the people it was meant for. The Pedestrians, the people who walk as opposed to the ones who were driving or were in a car / bus that was being driven by some one else. 

Now this is not a high handedness post against people who walk or a post praising the people who drive.. After all, the ones who drive too, have to walk some times and yes, they too need to cross the road. I mean, if John, Paul, George and Ringo crossed the road, why not you and me. 

Back to the post, issue being more of our wonderful pedestrians who consider crossing the road at any time their natural birth right without being stopped, challenged and is the responsibility of the car drivers to stop, even if it means that the traffic is on hold for 20 minutes, while people saunter across a street line of 10 - 20 meters to cross over. 

I remember during my College and initial working days, when I used to alight at Churchgate station and come out either on the Eros or the Fountain side, the entire bunch of people used to stand near the signal, with a traffic police man holding a rope to stop people from running across the street. Evenings, the same on the other side. 

What I could never stop wondering was, that there was a signal that provided the Walk / Stop Sign. Despite the sign, there was always a traffic cop standing holding up a rope to prevent the pedestrians crossing off the street when the cars were in motion. Same action when the signal turned Red. The cars had to be flagged to be stopped, else they would not. The Walk signal turns red, the pedestrians had to be stopped, else they would not! The question always was, why cant people follow rules? 

Going to Bombay to study, from a country where I had grown up and people followed such traffic rules, to see a case where there were none, was always a mystery. I also recall an article that had read long back, with an image to support. Comparison was between Bombay and Beijing, people crossing the road. Both Metropolitan cities, with millions residing in it. 

The comparative was that outside Bombay stations, two cops stood with a rope in hand, preventing people crossing, and yet people pushing the rope or getting down on the road. The Chinese version was a single lady cop standing at a crossing, without a rope, hands behind her back and not even looking at the crowd. Yet, not a single person broke out of line or dared to step on the road when the signal was Red. It was quite a funny comparison, but now when ever I recall that photo, cannot but think, that was probably reality.

The difference one may say could relate to the level of maturity and education that is passed in society from one generation to another, an impact of children seeing what their parents follow and ingrain within themselves, or simply due to fear of rules and penalties for non compliance. Of course, the other fallout also is in countries, where the Pedestrian is considered king and the fault no matter what remains of the driver.

In a place like Bombay, one can only imagine the wrath of the people who would break a persons car for no reason, for the slightest injury to a pedestrian, even if the pedestrian's fault, to a city where people know the cops will fine the driver if they are hit and they will get compensation. 

As I cross across inner lanes and even when driving across roundabouts where I have the full right of way and can drive at a full clip, I always meet Pedestrians, who either take it as their right of way, to walk across no matter if a car is coming down, to idiots (dominated by women), who are busy texting while crossing the street (one actually stood in the middle of the road), to a few who simply saunter across, as if a walk in the park, to those, who casually cross while chatting on the phone.

The combinations are many and yes, I too cross the road often, but then, I pride myself on following rules, following the signs, waiting until the light is green and wait my turn. Looking at the various species that are filled across, I wonder, am I doing something wrong?


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