Archive | April, 2008

US Impressions #2 – being a pedestrian

1 Apr

Traffic light

Watching the concrete highways of the USA on the small screen, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the country was a horribly unfriendly place when it comes to pedestrians. This doesn’t seem to be the case however. Yes, the place seems far too dependant on the automobile, but it’s hardly surprising when you consider the vast distances that the country is spread over. The transit systems are efficient enough where they exist, and certainly cheap compared to the privatised but more frequent services in the UK. But if you don’t live close by to your place of work and the shops, you’d find it difficult to live without an automobile.

Driving skills in general don’t seem to be as good as in the UK, as a drive along the California highways will highlight: anecdotal evidence suggests it is much easier to gain a driving licence in the States. One place where the UK is lagging woefully behind however is stopping for pedestrians at traffic lights. Over here, you’re dicing with death if you try to cross Kingsway directly on the red light. On the other side of the Atlantic – no problems at all. Cars will have stopped on red. They will give way to you if you’ve started crossing. And there are handy countdowns on the most recent installations, that tell you how long you have left until the lights change again. Fantastic and liberating.