Monday, June 01, 2009
It's a given -- some people will end up crossing streets without using the designated spots for crossing despite the presence of those designated spots called pedestrian lanes. Need I stress the possible life-threatening consequences of acting as if those white stripes don't exist? Normally, a driver tends to slow down when there's a pedestrian lane coming up; otherwise, it's full speed ahead! Imagine if he had to be on constant alert-mode-for-the-possibility-of-running-over-someone every few seconds or, worse, do the step-on-the-brakes-then-step-on-the-gas cha-cha routine every few meters. Being the pedestrian in this scenario is no "walk in the park" either (unless you're talking about a deserted road in the middle of nowhere, in which case strolling to the other side of the road whenever you feel like it would hardly pose any threat to your life).
I often wondered why people in Manila refused to use those white stripes despite the obvious danger to one's life that doing so exposes the pedestrian to. (Maybe it was just to me or to regular drivers that it was obvious) But then the most common reason, I suppose, for making a dash for the other side of the street without using the designated lanes is the same reason for which we make many choices easily taken for granted: personal convenience.
Why walk a hundred meters more to the overpass when one can easily cross the street right here?
Why approach the TV set to change the channel when the remote allows one to do just that without getting up?
Why look for an authentic DVD copy of that movie when right there on the sidewalk is a much cheaper, (albeit pirated) version of it?
Why pick up the phone to dial your colleague's number and discuss some urgent matter when he's on available status on your buddy list?
Bottom line is, ignoring street signs and traffic rules -- particularly when following those signs and rules entails effort on one's part -- is usually due to a case of laziness.
Not long ago I spent five days in Davao and stayed with friends who lived outside the city. It was only five days yet one thing I realized was that anyone who grew up in a place like it would understandably grow accustomed to walking on any part of a street he pleased. I certainly found myself walking on the middle of the roads I passed (except the main roads that were part of jeepney and tricycle routes) on the third day of my stay there -- and looking for pedestrian lanes and finding none, I crossed bigger roads wherever it seemed like an okay spot to cross.
I often wondered, too, why people in some parts of Manila seem to walk on the middle of the street with much ease, and -- when warned of approaching motorists, zooming or not -- would nonchalantly adjust their path gradually to head for the side of the road, out of harm's way. Such a relaxed countenance, nary a sense of urgency. Which is what I noticed, too, during my brief stay in the South. People walked fairly slowly, passengers got on and off tricycles sans the hurried manner so characteristic of fellas in Manila. Even among drivers of private vehicles temporarily wound up in some intersection, it was pleasantly puzzling to hear no invectives and see no trace of impatience whatsoever. What serenity these people have!
I suppose I long for the slow pace of daily life in Davao. And I guess I understand more the tendency of some people who probably grew up outside Manila who tend to treat entire streets as pedestrian lanes. I understand them more, but I still know that those white stripes aren't mere decorations, painted for aesthetic purposes. And, I still believe in street signs and traffic rules (some of them being senseless and inappropriate is beside the point). And though it's obvious that there will always be people who end up ignoring those rules, maybe we should stop using silly excuses like "rules are made to be broken." Unless we savor the stress of Manila traffic and would love to keep it as it is :-)