Eric Thompson: Pedestrians walk a fine line

Cyclists and pedestrians often act before they think, with disastrous consequences. Photo / Dean Purcell
Cyclists and pedestrians often act before they think, with disastrous consequences. Photo / Dean Purcell

I read recently that there has been more cycle rage on our roads to the extent that unhinged pushbike riders (and you are unhinged if you take on a car) are resorting to taking bits of cars away with them after a slanging match.

I always thought dressing up in Lycra, like a professional cyclist about to take on the Pyrenees in the manner of a Tour de France rider, was the sign of early onset of madness, especially when out for a wobble along Tamaki Drive in Auckland. Not so. There is even more rabid madness on our roads now, and it appears to be an ever-increasing problem. Pedestrians who have abandoned the footpath and now think public highways are the new place to strut their stuff.

The first time I witnessed such behaviour I thought someone from a pre-footpath era had found a wormhole and been whisked into the 21st century and assumed horses were still the only form of transport. The second time I was nearly home in the winterless north when I came around a blind corner and there was this woman ambling down the road.

What's wrong with that you may think?

Well, the road I live off is a narrow affair, and because it's a relatively new development, there is a bloody great footpath on the other side of the grass verge.

What the woman thought she was doing using the road defies any sort of logic. I have noticed over the past few years that when urbanites move out of the city they tend to bring their bad habits with them. And a big problem is assuming the road their lifestyle block and house is on is just like the one in the 'burbs they came from. Wrong. A load of them are open roads with speed limits up around 80km/h, if not more.

Only the dumb, stupid or inept would think a rural country road is a place to go for a walk anytime, let alone in the dark. But guess what? I'm seeing more and more people, and some in groups, wandering along country roads in the dark as if was some sort of Sunday afternoon jaunt.

These are the same people who also drive around in 4x4s because they think they need them now that they live outside urban centres. It sort of makes sense when you think about it. Urbanites who walk along a country road in the dark, in dark clothing, probably do think they need a 4x4 to get up a small concrete driveway.

Now I see pedestrians on the road everywhere. They have abandoned pedestrian crossings, or the green man at traffic lights, and simply launch themselves off pavements without so much as glance either way.

God forbid you should be anywhere near college when the students are allowed out. It's like a swarm of locusts pouring out all over the road, standing within inches of moving cars. Mark my words, more and more people will get flattened in the not too distant future and it'll be the poor car driver who will be vilified, not the self-centred, selfish gits who think they're invincible.

I'd like to throw a thought out there for the road stalkers. When you're in your car on the open road with your family, cresting a hill at 80km/h, and there's some idiot ambling along with his/her headphones on and a cement truck coming the other way, which one do you hit? Have a good think about that next time you think you own the road.

I hear a lot talk about pedestrians always having the right of way. Well, if you're dumb enough to test that theory by stepping out in front of a moving vehicle, good luck to ya. I prefer the laws of physics. If there is something bigger, heavier and faster than me I will always give way and let it have the right of way.

For the ignorant, the arrogant, the self-anointed, the delusional and the plain dumb, here are some NZTA general pedestrian guidelines for staying alive when out for a walk.

* Footpaths provide a safe place for you to walk, so use them.

* Where there is no footpath, walk on the side of the road facing oncoming traffic.

* At night, wear light-coloured or reflective clothing, or carry a torch to help you be seen.

* Cross only when it is safe to do so. Always check all nearby roads for vehicles before you cross and quickly walk straight across.

Remember, it takes time for a vehicle to stop. Be sensible and wait for a gap in the traffic before crossing.

* When crossing at an intersection, remember to check behind and in front for turning vehicles.

* At night, cross near a streetlight if you can.

If you need to cross the road when you get off a bus, wait until the bus has moved away before checking for moving vehicles.

* If you have to cross between parked vehicles, move out as far as the headlight of a parked car nearest the traffic, then check for moving vehicles and wait for a gap before crossing.

* Young children should hold an older person's hand.

PS. I'm going to keep count of the idiots who think the road is a glorified footpath and list every instance. Feel free to email me, if you have also witnessed this new lunacy. We must stop it before someone gets hurt.

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