Why did the Expat cross the road?

16. 03. 2010 | 07:27
Přečteno 23706 krát
I was never one for taking risks. My luck just isn’t that good.

Look left, look right, look left again, right again… then listen, really hard. Look up, just to be on the safe side and if all is clear… cross.

Getting over any road is a serious journey and one you can’t undertake lightly, or it’s liable to be your last.

It was a beautiful Spring morning. The snow had finally gone. Well most of it at least. Dotted along the pavement was still the odd mound of black grit and permafrost mixture that stubbornly refused to liquefy.

I kicked one idly as I passed. It was like concrete. Perhaps it wasn’t old snow after all but a new David Cerny creation.

As I headed onwards my mind was momentarily distracted by the questionable state of modern art. As I considered if there was in fact any good reason for pickling an entire shark, it suddenly dawned on me.

I was slap bang in the middle of the road!

Clearly I am blessed with an innate subconscious defence mechanism for I’d somehow managed to navigate my way onto a Zebra crossing.

We call them Zebra crossings in the UK because of the stripes, obviously … And they’re very popular too. Particularly amongst old ladies, small children and The Beatles. (See Abbey Road album cover if you don’t believe me)

I’ve seen plenty of them on the streets of Prague. Bold black and white pathways offering safe passage across the ever dangerous stream of flowing traffic.

Oh sorry, did I say safe?

Drivers don’t appear to share this view. Not here at any rate.

Mind you, I’d made it half way across so perhaps this paranoia was all in my head. One foot over the dotted line, the point of no return and I see it.

A big brute of a car comes roaring round the corner. I’m in his way, this is his domain, he’s talking on his mobile phone and clearly hasn’t seen me. My only hope is he’s driving an expensive car so might not want to damage it. However as the vehicle nears I spot the driver has all the ridiculous fashion sense of a man with too much money and no taste. He doesn’t slow down.

So now what? Run forward? No time. Back up? Cars are whizzing centimetres behind me again. Jump in the air? Tempting but not very practical …

I settle for standing totally still, in the middle of the road. He clearly decides he can’t be bothered to have his paintwork re-sprayed so slams on the brakes.

We stand/sit, opposite one another, natural enemies. I’m thankful to be still breathing, he’s just angry.

I finally take my next step onward and he’s off again like it’s the start of Le Mans 24hours race. He barely misses my heel as he tears off in a wheel spinning cloud of testosterone heavy dust.

A single word lingers in my mind. Arsehole.

Now you may say, it’s just this one guy. But alas this isn’t an isolated incidence. I’ve had a sting of near death experiences on the crossings near where I live.

Course it could be me. Maybe I still need to work on my local road craft but truth is drivers in Czech Republic have a totally different attitude than I’m used to. They seem to consider pedestrians crossing as an annoyance to be ignored. If you drive at them fast enough they tend to get out of your way.

Well at least I worked this out before I bounced off a luxury car bonnet. I’m just more cautious these days.

So be careful next time you venture across the street and be thankful, for the sake of world music, the Beatles chose not to record Abbey Road in Prague.


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Libor Stejskal, editor blogů (blogy@aktualne.cz)

Midori napsal(a):

To be a pedestrian in this country is a sort of adventure and not for the fainthearted, I regret to say.
This pitiable status should be taken in much greater consideration by authorities and solved. Only in case that pedestrians are safe in traffic we can consider ourselves to be cultural people.
16. 03. 2010 | 07:45

Lukas napsal(a):

You have this partisan thing in American politics, in CZ it´s partisan on the streets and there must be an underground radical pedestrian movement working on a bloody and violent revolution, judging from the many middle fingers raised in vain protest when an arsehole blocks tram, zebra crossing or races the engine in front of 20 people waiting on a tram stop. I sincerely hate all car-drivers in Prague, you will soon too, no worries:-)
16. 03. 2010 | 10:56

Samantha napsal(a):

I'll get your mother to send you a high visibility vest!
16. 03. 2010 | 16:54

Jirka napsal(a):

Recently I moved from a small town 20km east from Brno in a small village 40km north from Brno.

It´s hard region here, I said to myself from time to time observing nature and people arround.

I have similar inner experience like you. Difference is that I walked along the sidewalk.
Red VW, dark windshield was tightly following another car. Suddenly VW stopped to follow the slowly curving road and continued straight.
First across the opposite lane and than on the footway where I coincidentaly walked.
First my brain thought - it´s strange, than - he is after me and when car was 10 metres in front of me my body jumped aside.
I think the driver doesn´t know about me. Car went continuously back on the road without even slowing down, like footway = the road.
It´s hard region here, I said to myself again and treated myself slivovicí.

After two decades I still see behavior of an animal torn from the chain.

It seems that the laws are trying to create the external boundaries in order to replace the lack of inner innate boundaries that were damaged.
Hard work.

So I try to look arround and be as brave as I can even with honking car behind me.
16. 03. 2010 | 17:49

TomT napsal(a):

Crossing the road in Prague, even on zebra crossing is quite dangerous, maybe as dangerous as riding a bike. Some drivers are reckless and seem to be in competition with each other - the goal is to pass the pedastrian as close as possible. Unfortunately, some of the drivers are more than successful. After some of my experiences i am glad to be still alive.
16. 03. 2010 | 22:07

GIC napsal(a):

The whole business of attempting to cross the road safely is hampered by some strange rule which seems to allow cars to continue to turn right even if the light is on red. I'm told by Czech friends that you're only supposed to do this if there are no pedestrians trying to cross the road, but I don't think Prague drivers take a blind bit of notice.
18. 03. 2010 | 17:44

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