27 March, 2007

The Pathway Code - Part 2: Advanced Techniques

(Read Part 1 first.)

Yesterday, I looked at a few simple rules for pedestrians so that we can all use the streets a little more safely. Today, I consider some rather more advanced techniques.

My own view is that walking about without a license should be a criminal offence—but nobody listens. Once you’ve mastered the basic techniques, you should be able to walk in a straight line, turn a corner and stand still. For most people, this is enough. For some it is too much (these people should avoid standing still in public unless they have a competent friend to help them). However, for the few who find themselves unsatisfied with this, here are the rules for the more advanced pedestrian skills.

First: walking backwards. You might ask, as I often do, why on Earth anyone should want to do this. Yet there it is. The length and breadth of your nation, people are causing mayhem by suddenly reversing direction or, more frequently, starting out backwards from having stood still (hole-in-the-wall cash dispensers are death-traps as almost everybody leaves them walking backwards). I can only think of two reasons why people do this. One is that they have to concentrate so hard on standing still, or walking in a straight line, that they grow confused and forget which way is forward. The other possibility is that people suffer frequent, brief delusions that they have inexplicably found themselves in the presence of the Queen (perhaps the delusion is triggered by shocks—like finding a working cash machine). Anyway, if you want to walk backwards, here’s how it’s done.
  • Look all around you. If there’s nobody there, proceed. If there are people you might walk into, don’t move.
  • When walking backwards, try to keep your speed down and don’t forget to keep checking all around you as you go.
  • If you bump into someone, don’t just apologise profusely—get therapy (it’s probably a good idea to get therapy anyway).
Second: walking with other people. This can be a real challenge. People who walk in pairs are bad enough. Two people side-by-side is enough to block most pavements. Many people, however, following some atavistic herding instinct, like to wander the streets in gaggles of four or five, or even more. This kind of thing presents a real problem for the legislators because, while behaving in such a mindless way is clearly anti-social, it might seem over-rigid to compel families and groups of friends to walk in neat, single-file crocodiles like schoolchildren on an outing. The best that seems achievable is a Code of Conduct but, herd animals, beware, if this fails to have results, I shall be lobbying for legislation.
  • When walking with one or more others, try to bear in mind that none of you is immaterial.
  • Contrary to what seems to be believed, staring straight ahead with a glassy-eyed, fixed expression does not make oncomers disappear.
  • If a pedestrian approaches you, maneouver to avoid him or her (he or she can’t avoid you, you see, because the pavement is packed with your half-wit family or friends).
  • Never attempt this with small children. It is just not possible.
  • Never stand still. You simply cannot find a spot that is out of the way for two or more people. All that happens if you stop is that you become the object of the collective hatred of the five hundred people who have to struggle past you before your group lumbers back into motion.
  • If you encounter another herd coming in the opposite direction, do not panic. Just wait patiently until the emergency services arrive and sort things out.
Finally: the evasive maneouver. This is perhaps the most difficult of all the pedestrian’s skills and yet one which is so frequently necessary. You need it almost every time you pass a cash dispenser as someone is bound to walk backwards into you. Then you have to execute either the Emergency Stop or the Little Sideways Dance both of which will invariably land you in more trouble as a little old lady carreens into your back or you find a 150 kilo salesman in the spot you needed to dance sideways into. Only the following advice can be offered.
  • Be vigilant. Walk defensively. Never let your attention wander for a moment.
  • If you are approaching a hazard (like a herd of accountants on their luch break, a cash dispenser, or a shop doorway) slow down. Proceed with caution and be prepared to stop.
  • Keep to the road side of the pavement. This will keep you out of the way of window-shoppers and other menaces.
  • Use the Saab Tactic. Wear heavy boots, a crash helmet and padded clothing. This will ensure that, should anyone catch you unawares and make a collision necessary, they are the one who is going to come off worse.
Well, there it is. I can do no more for you. Learn the rules. Practice the techniques and let’s all be a little safer on the pavements this year. Mind how you go.


Bex said...

Google's advertising placement program suggests that we might all want to visit a site selling crowd control barriers, which seems fairly reasonable (at least, if they offer a portable version).
It also suggests, though, that we might want to save 40% off bronze statues of young people and children...?

graywave said...

I believe that these bronze statues are used extensively in Queensland driving schools to give learner drivers practice at aiming for pedestrians. It is no coincidence that there is such a high incidence of drivers ploughing into crowded bus-stops in Brisbane. It takes a great deal of practice. Pedestrians not wanting to be mown down in their prime should stay off the Brisbane streets, or carry crowd control barriers which can be placed around bus-stops to deflect incoming traffic.

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