Yesterday I took a drive down the old West Street in Durban – now called Dr Pixley KaSeme Street. The city of my youth. The landmarks were all there, and did a bit of a double take when I saw a sign 320 Pixley on a building, which I remember as 320 West. Now called the Heartbeat of Durban.
But I digress as this blog is about jaywalkers of the world. (3 cities in my survey – Durban, Hanoi and Perth)
In downtown Durban – jaywalkers abound, with total disregard to speeding taxis, cars, trucks and motorbikes. Here it appears that when you cross the road, the traffic travelling at the speed limit and those not…… are of no importance and that pedestrians have the right of way. It is almost as if the jaywalkers have a total disregard for their own lives. Driving down the length of West Street brought back childhood memories of the dodgem cars at the fair on the beachfront, but instead of little cars with rubberised bumpers, this was real life, almost like a surreal reality game of miss the jaywalker. Robots (traffic lights for non-South Africans) do not come into play and the colours displayed are totally disregarded. Here the Jaywalker is king.
In Hanoi – the city of millions of motorcycles, where there are more motorbikes than households, crossing the road is an art. To start with, the cacophony of sounds and never ending hooting is enough to dull ones senses. Here there are not many “formal” crossing points and where there might be a pedestrian crossing, unlike in Europe, where a car will very politely come to a stop when spotting a pedestrian waiting to cross the road, the traffic flow is never ending and never seems to stop. The speed of the traffic however is quite leisurely. Here a jaywalker must never try and run to get across the road, just walk slowly amongst the oncoming, hooting mass of two wheeled vehicles and a path opens up, not unlike the Moses and the Israelites crossing the red sea. Somehow it seems to work, and here jaywalkers are a wonder to watch, flowing, slowly, patiently and without any anger or entitlement, crossing the road.
(Photo – courtesy Shutterstock)
Then we go to Perth. One of the most law abiding city’s I know of. It was a Sunday afternoon. The roads were deserted, not a car in sight. No one jaywalked – apparently you can go to jail for doing so, okay maybe not jail, but will incur a hefty fine. The law abiding Australians stopped at the pedestrian crossing, which also emits sounds as to the colour of the robots (traffic lights to the uninitiated) for the poorly sighted. Not a car in sight, but the light was showing red, not one person even stepped off the curb. Light changed to green and only then was the road crossed. My take on jaywalkers in Perth – I don’t have one as they don’t exist.