What is it with people when they are in a pedestrian role? Is there a sudden brain shift that gives us, walking down the footpath, a sense of total superiority to people driving cars? And makes us exercise that superiority simply because we can?
Like many of us I am both driver and pedestrian as the occasion demands.
When I'm in pedestrian mode, I am aware of people in driving mode, and I am mindful of them.
Let's take a zebra crossing for instance. If the road is clear in one direction, and there is only one car coming in the other, with no other cars in sight, I will NOT simply walk out onto the zebra crossing and make the poor bastard grind to a halt. I'll wave him on or stand back from the crossing.
Why? When I have the right to make cars stop for me?
Because it's polite is why. I can wait another couple of seconds for the car to pass and cross when the road is completely empty. It's easier for me to come to a stop than the car.
Additionally, when that car grinds to a halt for me, it has to take off again afterwards, and cars in low gear use a lot more fuel than cars running in a higher gear at a higher speed. It is a minor bit of karma (or carma) I'm doing for the environment by waving the car on.
I never see any other pedestrians wave motorists on at zebra crossings. Countless times I've been the one car driving down the road who has stopped at the crossing when there is no other bloody car in sight. Anywhere.
Another beef is busy pedestrian crossings. Some of these - in Eastwood, Sydney for example - have signs at the side encouraging pedestrians to wait and cross in groups to aid traffic flow, as Eastwood is super-busy. Do they wait and cross in groups? Do they hell! Nope, you'll sit there while a couple of dozen people amble in single or double file across the road, nice and slowly, while cars bank up in both directions behind them. Once that group has crossed one, perhaps two cars will get to go before the next person strolls out onto the crossing, solo and proud of it. Sitting at the Eastwood crossings reminds me that there is no slower, dawdling pedestrian than a teenager in a school uniform, except perhaps an elderly person. The elderly, however, have an excuse for being slow walkers, as do people with a disability. Able-bodied folk have no excuse for the 1km/h speed over zebra crossings.
Finally, there are the school kids. Here in NSW we have 40 km/h school zones which are active twice a day, even when there isn't a child in sight. 40km/h is a nice slow speed which enables teenagers in particular to play chicken and run across the road in front of you, because they are too lazy/impatient to walk to the nearest zebra crossing or traffic lights. This scares the hell out of me when I'm driving. I was driving down Lane Cove Road in Ryde two years ago when two teenage boys in school uniform decided to bolt across all six lanes of it when traffic was moving at a relatively good peak hour pace, i.e. 30km/h. They ran straight in front of my car. I was shaking afterwards. There were traffic lights only 100 metres behind me, but oh no, the kids couldn't be bothered walking up there and crossing safely. And if anyone had hit them, it would have been the motorist's fault even though the kids had put their own lives at risk with their stupid behaviour.
There is a law in NSW which pedestrians break if they cross the road within 20 metres of traffic lights or a zebra crossing, rather than using the lights or crossing. Every afternoon at my local high school this rule is smashed to smithereens despite a zebra crossing having been installed last year right outside the school gates. Prior to that, it was like dodging Brown's Cows as the teenagers ran or walked, even dawdled, across the road any old how. There is a set of traffic lights 100 metres up from the school and another zebra crossing 200 metres down the hill. But why use those when you can simply run in front of cars?
Seriously, people, think before you cross the road. Don't make one poor sap stop just for you if the rest of the road is clear. When you do cross, walk quickly so cars - on whose territory, the road, you are currently traversing - can get moving again. And at busy crossings, show a bit of consideration and try and cross with others. In short, do someone behind the wheel a good deed.
And it doesn't hurt to give a little wave or nod to people who do stop for you. Yes, I know it's the law that they have to stop, but it's nice to acknowledge that they actually saw you and stopped, particularly if it's that one car on the road, with nothing else in sight, who stopped for you.