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The painful politeness of crossing the road

Why did the parent and child cross the road? I don't know, but I wish they wouldn't at the same time as I am.

On the way to our local shopping centre, a mere 5 minute walk from Clegg Towers, I have to cross a dual carriageway road. This is equipped with an effective but rather overwhelming crossing system that demands some concentration, as getting from one side to the other can mean crossing as many as five road segments, each with its own button to press and red/green lights telling you when to walk.

Once you get to know the crossings, it's often possible to cross quite smartly, making use of the traffic flows to ensure that various segments are safe to cross. But here's the thing. The little crossing light is often red even when it is totally safe to cross that segment. While one of the set of lights switches to green whenever's it's safe to cross, for some reason the other ones only bother to go green if you've pressed the button - and even then can wait an inordinate time before changing.

So here you are, about to charge across against a red light as it is totally obvious that it is safe to do so, because there is a flow of traffic blocking the lane you are crossing. And then you see a parent with a small child. And instantly you are faced with a difficult decision. That parent, being a responsible parent, is nobly waiting for the little green man to indicate it's safe to cross. (S)he is teaching junior the safe way to cross. Excellent. But this means that either you get bored, waiting with them even though you know it's perfectly safe to cross, or you blunder on anyway, facing evil looks from said parent as you set junior a bad example. You can't win. They should have to ring a bell, or something, so you can avoid them.


  1. I loathe those sorts of crossings - a great way to make pedestians feel they're bottom of the heap when it comes to traffic priorities. Perhaps you could look upon it as an opportunity to teach a small child that as a pedestrian you have the freedom to cross when you like and don't have to be stuck at a red light like a car? Or else lobby for a ninja crossing (where all the traffic gets stopped in all directions and the pedestrians can take a direct route) on that road

  2. I think the way to cope with the is to treat them as a game - I see how often I can get right across the road without ever stopping (childish or what?)

    I think most parents would rather small children obeyed the lights, as they aren't very good at judging speeds etc, so crossing on red can be risky for them.


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