Thursday, March 12, 2009

“At The Kerb, Halt …

… Look left, look right, look left again. If the road is clear, cross quickly.”

Remember that? The old mantra taught to children, when I was one, for safely crossing a street. Before they made it more complicated and therefore presumably less safe. Still a good routine to follow if you want to remain a live pedestrian, especially now there is so much more traffic on roads everywhere.

But not quite as necessary for a walker here in New Zealand. Not much of our walking is done in urban areas here because as a rule we avoid cities, and everywhere else the country is so well equipped with walking (or “tramping” as they say here, presumably because it seems more manly) trails.

Nevertheless, in ten days or so we shall be spending a couple of days in Christchurch. Not just the lure of the date scones mentioned when we were there in January, but we also have a few bits of business to transact.

Our walking in Christchurch largely involves walking from our motel, across the enormous Hagley Park, into the town centre, and back. With the marching around in the CDB this gives us a good 10 kms even if we then sloth for the rest of the day, which would be unusual.
As we do that walk, we shall experience something we have never come across in any other country, something which almost makes a pedestrian crossing code unnecessary here. Almost always, as we walk towards the kerb with the intention of waiting for a gap in the traffic, a miracle happens, which makes one feel like Moses shaking his stick at the Red Sea. The cars, travelling in both directions, stop! Motorists who take note of, and adjust their behaviour for, pedestrians! Can this be true?

It was one of the things which we first noticed, on our first visit to New Zealand in 1995. It is extremely refreshing, but not to be taken advantage of. It would be tempting providence to step straight out without the invitation of the drivers. Not to mention bad mannered. And most pedestrians do not thank the drivers, which will one of these days result in the drivers behaving as they do in other countries.

1 comment:

Margaret said...

We have drivers here in the Edmonton area who will often stop for pedestrians, causing visitors much amazement. But as in your NZ experience it would be dangerous to assume you can just walk into the road whenever you want!