As someone who tries to walk to work as often as is practicable, my sense of self-preservation is quite well honed. If I get the timing wrong then I have to protect my ankles from the fleet of scooters from children on the way to school, or their parents juggling scooters on the walk home.
If I see a car coming towards me as I am crossing the road I tend to walk a bit quicker to make sure I make it to the other side safely. Or decide not to cross the road at all.
However I am beginning to think that I have a rare skill as more and more these days I come across people putting themselves in danger.
I live in a quite a built up area – houses built before everyone had cars – so a lot of people parking their cars on the road. This can cause minor amounts of congestion as cars try to pass. This is mostly avoidable if people had a bit more patience and used the road to its fullest extent.
I also live between three schools. During the school run I take my life in my hands as I try to leave my house. As a pedestrian, or a driver, crossing the road outside my house can be tricky. Although it is parked up, there are trees obscuring the view, and it is on a bus route, drivers insist on speeding. Not driving at, or below the speed, limit in case of children crossing the road or people pulling out of drives. That would be sensible. Some cars drive so fast that even when you have a clear view they appear as if from nowhere just as you are pulling out across the road. Some drivers, determined to get to their destination, drive so close to the parked cars that my neighbours and I frequently loose wing mirrors. I expect if any of these drivers did have an accident they will spout on about how safely they drive. They rarely stop to to admit to the damage they have caused in their rush.
There are some points where the road bends, so you have little choice but to drive on the wrong side of the road to pass the parked cards. It never ceases to amaze me that oncoming drivers seem unable to slow down for the obstacle in the way – even if it is the number 98 bus. Its as though they feel that you are on their side of the road and so you should get out of the way, and they should not have to do anything about it. Drivers also seem to have a tendency to speed up when they see something in their way. Its as though they see the space in front of them as theirs and theirs alone.
Supermarket car parks are a good example of where self-preservation gives way to this feeling of owning the space around us. If you watch car drivers in car parks you will see that they have very little patience for pedestrians. Almost as it is a surprise that people are walking across car parks. How dare they! Why can’t they walk somewhere else?
The car drivers, park, get out of the car and turn into pedestrians. Taking the shortest route to the store, avoiding squeezing between parked cars to get the designated footpaths. Loosing awareness of the cars moving around them. Crossing oncoming traffic and wondering why the driver inside has not seen them. And thinking these drivers are rude and inconsiderate. Five minutes before they were the drivers wondering why the pedestrians are not taking more care of themselves.
Why does getting behind the wheel of a car take away our ability to be responsible for our actions? Why do we feel the need to claim the road, to speed up when something is in the way? We don’t own the road. The Highway Code does give driver the right of way in certain circumstances, however when does common sense kick in? All drivers have been in the situation where being across the middle of the road has occurred when they as far as they can see the road ahead is clear. Driving at speed towards an object or person in front of you sounds like madness. But so many drivers do it. Why do we punish each other by insisting on being aggressive when all we need to do is slow down and take control of the situation? This has to be better from a car insurance perspective?
Why do we stop thinking about traffic when we are pedestrians? It is easy to drive fast but a lot more concentration is needed to drive within the limits of the highway and the other road users around us.
When will our need for self-preservation kick in?