ASK Musings

No matter where you go, there you are.



November 2009



An Open Letter to Pedestrians in London

Written by , Posted in Random

The letters continue! This week – a message to the folks who pound the pavement in Central London on a daily basis.
Dear London Pedestrians:
Hey, how's it going? Nice flats – I love that the women here seem to embrace the flat and don't all wear extremely high heels all the time. It's refreshing. And men, your smart suits are really quite lovely. I didn't work near the financial district in NYC, so I didn't see as many suits as some did, and I enjoy it.
You all look so sharp, so professional, that I do have to ask:
Where is your mind? It seems as though you are completely and totally unaware of your surroundings at basically all times of the day and night. You stand in the middle of the sidewalk talking on your mobile (or texting), you walk on the wrong side of the sidewalk, and you literally ram into people who are clearly in your path and have nowhere else to go.
Let's talk about these point by point.
First, the texting. Now, I walk down the street texting. I also walk down the street READING (I know, right?). But I've been walking and reading since my days at UW, and I've never caused an accident, tripped, or walked into someone. The key is to scan one's surroundings while reading. It's a bit like driving in that sense – you focus on the thing ahead of you (the car) but also scan around for obstacles. But you, texter man and texter woman, seem to think that once you start texting, the seas will part, traffic will stop, and no one will ever be in your path. I'm here to tell you – it's not true! I see you texting. I see that you are not paying attention. Because I am not a big fan of bruises, I will get out of your way, but sometimes I can't. Sometimes I'm walking in a crowd or on a narrow sidewalk with busy traffic to my left and there's nowhere for me to go. So please, look up. Or at least get better at multi-tasking.
Next, the flow of traffic. You insist on being a nation where people drive on the left. That's fine – you want to be contrary and unique, that's your right. But that should apply to all modes of transportation, including your feet. So you walk on the left, I'll walk on the left, and never the two shall meet.
Finally, the most obvious and obnoxious action – the intentional ramming. You see me. I see you. There's no question. I have nowhere to go – I'm surrounded by people, or I'm teetering on the edge of a narrow sidewalk. And you can't be bothered to shift your stride a bit to your left to avoid literally ramming in to me. It's not okay. I know that in many ways the British are seen as exceedingly polite. I'm here to point out that this does not hold for pedestrians. In fact, if my only experience of London consisted of walking in Central London, I would wager that 50-75 percent of the people here are utter jackasses.
I realize that isn't the case. I realize that people are distracted, or busy, or in a rush. But how about a little respect for your fellow pedestrian?
PS – I spent the last seven years in NYC, and it was never this bad. However, crossing the street there is a bit more of a challenge:
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