Coming back to the UK after a spell in Houston, Texas, I am once again struck by the different attitudes of drivers in the UK and US, when it comes to pedestrians.
The contrast could not be more vivid. In US residential areas you only have to think about crossing the road and drivers will slow down and wait to see if you cross. In the UK such courtesy is rare. More often, drivers insist on their right of way and force the pedestrian to wait, even when it is raining.
And it seems to be getting worse, particularly at the supposed safe haven of the zebra crossing. Many drivers accelerate as they approach the crossing, daring the pedestrian to step onto it, and only stop if they do so. Timid pedestrians are just left waiting as the car gleefully flashes by.
Similarly, at the entry to a garage forecourt where cars have to cross the public pavement, driver courtesy is sometimes strangely lacking as they thrust forward in that relatively invulnerable tin box. I was once loudly tooted at for walking too slowly across such a pavement in the rain.
At the end of the day, two-way courtesy is what makes society work, particularly on a small island such as Britain. We’ve all been there – in a hurry, late for an appointment, busy day… – the temptation is there, but the present is what matters, and that pedestrian is a person of real flesh and blood, someone’s child, mother, grandma… Inconsiderate drivers need to wake up.
Who’d have thought Americans would be giving lessons to Brits on good manners?
The driving was impressively accurate, the car zoomed just past the front of our toes as we were crossing the road. He’d appeared as we were walking across that road at a small roundabout on our estate. Naturally, we’d assumed he was stopping to let us complete the crossing. No, he accelerated and just got through the gap between us and the pavement.
Now, that guy (of course it was a man) saved a few seconds of his precious time, at the possible expense of maiming another two human beings. How does that compute?
Which leads me to reflect that we all slightly change personality when we get behind the wheel of a vehicle. Pedestrians and cyclists become a bit of a hindrance – they’re just not operating at the speed we are – they get in the way. Who hasn’t driven in front of a pedestrian who was about to cross a side road when you were coming out of that same side road, or given a cyclist not quite as much room as you really should?
It’s a challenge for us all when we get behind that wheel, to stay aware, remember to stay courteous to real human beings of flesh and blood, and remember their frailty.
After all, it could be you or someone precious to you.
Incidentally, I’m pretty sure that incident would never happen in Houston, Texas. Our experience is that US drivers show extreme courtesy to pedestrians in residential areas. Maybe it’s something to do with the law there, but the behaviour of US drivers is more courteous than UK drivers. UK drivers please note!
Featured image by Trailer screenshot (It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World trailer), via Wikimedia Commons
There’s nothing like having two grandchildren with you, one in a pushchair, to realise just how rude and discourteous are many drivers in the north west of England. Within a few days we have had drivers
totally ignore us on a zebra crossing
drive across in front of us at traffic lights when the pedestrian ‘green man’ was showing
drive at speed within a few feet on a wet and rainy Knutsford high street, splashing pedestrians
drive down narrow high street past people with a pushchair waiting in the heavy rain, rather than let them cross.
This is not to mention the ignorant who insist on driving with windows open and playing loud music, the ignorant who driver large flashy cars and make as much noise with their exhaust as possible, the drivers who speed through crowded shopping streets at over 30mph, including the anecdotal case of a well known Liverpool footballer driving along the pavement at 40mph while laughing…
Let’s not go too far – most drivers are considerate and courteous; it is a minority who appear to consider the pedestrian an inferior species.
Our experience of drivers in USA (Houston) is actually much more positive. Much greater courtesy is extended on non-major roads if a driver even senses that you might be about to cross.
Wake up, drivers. Being in that metal box is no excuse for bad behaviour.
Featured image by Secretlondon via Wikimedia Commons