EVERYTHING BUT: Wizard of Odds
By Ridley Greene | Wed, August 01, 2012 - 12:00 AM
Some don't have a care in the world; others seem burdened by all the worries there possibly are, and oblivious to their environment and the other people in it.
They cross the street in front of your vehicle anywhere and everywhere. They are not even the callipygian type my good friend Charlie Whittaker now ruminates on, or over whom Richard Lowdown Hoad salivates.
They are mean-looking, carrying a “screw face”, with such grimace that bespeaks a bad mind and an aversion to humanness. You would not give your ugliest daughter away to any of them.
These street corner daredevils play the odds with their lives and limbs, fully aware that drivers will play the wizard and acrobatically avoid running them down, lest they be held up with statement making for the police and be quite late for their appointment, if indeed they ever make it afterwards.
And who wants to mess up a just washed and polished car with blood and scrapings of someone else’s epidermis? No matter how incensed he makes you!
This come-hit-me-if-you dare attitude of these reckless pedestrians is a practice, no doubt, with its feet planted firmly in the United States. Over there, they call this apparently thrilling but certainly dangerous habit jaywalking.
It is their informal term for the illegal or reckless crossing of a roadway by a pedestrian. Examples of such irresponsible public behaviour include a walker bestriding intersections outside or, in some jurisdictions, also inside a marked or unmarked pedestrian crossing, without yielding to drivers. Or, a pedestrian starting to move onto a crosswalk (as the Americans call it) at an intersection with traffic signals without waiting for the Walk Now display or symbol.
In the United States, statutes generally reflect the Uniform Vehicle Code, requiring drivers to yield right of way to pedestrians at the crossings; at other locations, crossing pedestrians are required to yield to drivers. And under some conditions, walkers are even prohibited from crossing outside the zebra.
Britain apparently does not formally describe priority regulations for drivers and pedestrians at road junctions or any other location, except with respect to the marked zebra crossings, where motorists must give way to pedestrians under defined conditions. And elsewhere, its Highway Code relies on the expectation that pedestrians crossing the street at unmarked road junctions would receive priority by common law.
As in Britain, this is pretty much what obtains in Barbados; or what would be expected to obtain. Except that the jaywalking – the doan-cay-walking – circumvents all reason and thus every semblance.
No driver has greater right to the road than a pedestrian, but common sense strongly suggests that a pedestrian going about his business smack in the middle of the street will inhibit the reasonable and practical progress of a vehicle travelling at 60 kilometres an hour. And unwisely endanger life and limb.
That a pedestrian has a right to the road does not give him permission to bring commercial and public life to a crawl or standstill – not for the exercise of a perceived privilege!
Somebody needs to tell these young men who congregate on street corners and criss-cross from end to end, at their very pleasure, with beer in hand, repeatedly during crosstalk, especially on Friday evenings, that this slow motion walk in front of busy bonnets just won’t do. I never see them risking their lives with the minibus; not even the route taxi. There is this notion a moving car is easy to navigate far from behind the wheel.
Worse yet, the “screw faces” look you over with scorn, daring you to “Touch me!” It is scary sometimes observing the women drivers who are intimidated by these dead silent road rogues. Truth be told, the police need to put a stopper on the practice.
And I don’t buy the proposition that it is any protest against the deliberate effort by car dealers and auto clubs to redefine the street as a place where pedestrians ought not to be, and hence the jaywalking.
• Ridley Greene is a Caribbean multi-award-winning journalist.
- Editor's Choice