Sunday, 6 December 2009

Look left, right, left again. Oh, just bloody cross the road!

Being a pedestrian in London is pretty much unbearable, what with the zillions of crossings you have to contend with on every road. If you’re actually trying to get somewhere on foot – as opposed to just mooching about, as so many people in London – cough, tourists – seem to be doing – you actually have to add on about 10 minutes just to allow for the huge, exasperating faff of having to get across roads.

Firstly, there’s the fact that you always, without exception, arrive at the crossing just as the green man is being swapped for the red – that absurdly long ‘safety’ period in which it would actually be perfectly possible to cross, comfortably even, but you end up hovering there at the curb while car drivers stare at you like you’re a total idiot for waiting. I’m just never quite confident I have enough time to get to the other side, so the cars and me are just there, at a standstill, the green man having disappeared from view but the red man having not yet made his appearance.

Then there’s the terrible situation when you have chanced your luck and stepped into the road during that ‘no man’ period, but you’ve left it just that little bit too late due to a few seconds of stupid dithering, so you end up starting to walk at exactly the same moment that the cars move off. Do you break into a silly little run to get to the other side? Do you retreat? I’ve tried the retreat before and actually ended up backing into another person who had also risked crossing, and that person became a sort of bumper, bouncing me back into the road again, leaving me with no option but to dash across and make an exhibition of myself, causing cars to brake to let me across.

What about when you approach a crossing to find a clump of moronic fellow pedestrians who, due to absurdly strong group dynamics, are all just standing there waiting, blocking your opportunity to dash across if you found a gap in the traffic? I’ve been known, many times, to duck through the clump and dart into the road, self-righteously and quite rudely – ugh, if anyone pushed past me in the way that I do other people, I’d be writing them a strongly-worded letter for sure – leaving all the timid people behind on the curb while I relish the feeling of having used my individual initiative. Usually, though, I’m punished for my self-righteousness by finding the road not actually as clear as I thought, and having to trot the last few steps to avoid getting run over.

But, even if you do misjudge it occasionally, isn’t it better and more intelligent to make your own decision about when to cross, using your own eyes and brain, for goodness’ sake, than to just stand there like a total lemming until some poxy little green man says ‘go’? We are built with legs and brains; getting across a road is elementary human instinct! It’s just so irritating when crowds of people are utterly obedient like this, gawping up at the traffic light for a signal to take action, rather than just looking and bloody going.

And don’t get me started on diagonal crossers. Oh, it makes me bristle! It happens on zebras, mainly. You get the picture: man starts into the road beyond the corner of the zebra on one side, taking big strides right across the middle on a diagonal, gradually squashing over everyone else who has been waiting at the curb, so now everyone’s unavoidably crossing in a big, diagonal wave when many of them want to be walking the other way.

It’s all just unutterably irritating. Of course, if I look at pedestrian crossings from the point of view of a driver, I get thoroughly annoyed by these arrogant pedestrians who think they can attempt to cross when they don’t have a green man. But then that’s exactly the prerogative of a Grumpy: anything that irritates you is wrong, unless it’s you that’s doing it. Read more by Maddie.