Tuesday

Life as a pedestrian

Road accidents involving pedestrians are common, partly due to the speeds involved, but also due to lack of concentration by the pedestrians themselves.



26 pedestrian road fatalities were recorded in the first few months of 2009, which, considering the size of the population - is waaaay too many.

I found that my extensive wandering about the city in those first couple of weeks was the best thing I could have done to get a solid feel for how things move. The first thing I noticed was how many side streets and slip roads there are, and that how they didn't all have traffic moving in the direction that I expected. Another point of interest is that large arrows painted on the road indicating the direction of traffic are an indication only, and certainly not gospel or always adhered to.

Something I got used to reasonably quickly, for while I may have be crossing a narrow entry into a car park, and that narrow entry might be angle in such a way that would allow traffic to only enter it, AND that it had an indicating arrow painted on the ground, AND had a no exit sign facing the car park... yes despite all these things, it was MY fault that the guy in a Mercedes, who must have had to do a 900 point turn in order to get his car to go against all the Traffic Authority's instructions, had to slam on his brakes as he was leaving aforementioned car park at warp factor 9 to avoid squishing me.

At least that is what I think he was gently trying to explain to me while shouting so hard he was spitting on the inside of his windshield. I can only assume that has is what he was doing - I didn't speak enough Arabic to understand it fully.

He became even more "Explanatory" when a car tried to enter (legally) through the drive that both he and your glad-I-was-wearing-brown-pants blogger were occupying. He became so enthusiastic that he decided he would continue educating me by shouting at the driver of the other car... then that driver started educating me. How lucky, MORE education free of charge! (?)

Look, the point I am trying to make is this - I found that sticking to the elementary rules that I used to have to follow. Back when it was a pedestrian's responsibility not to step in front of a car as much as it was a driver's job to drive with care, bears alot of fruit. I like being right (ask anyone who knows me) , but the desire to be right, for me at least, is over-ridden by my lack of desire to pose as a hood ornament on the front of the Bentley that has just "Shared my space".

The mantra I follow is this:
Look both ways, work out which way the traffic is coming from.
Look both ways again.
Move quickly across the road.
To add to the experience it seems that 90% of people don't indicate, and 95% turn at the very last moment they can. I worked out VERY quickly that just because a car is not indicating AND just about to pass the entry the driver might wish to turn into does NOT mean they won't turn, and haven't been planning it all along.

Oh.. and the bits that look like pedestrian crossings .. you know the ones, a striped white line affair on the road where, in an ideal world cars will notice you standing next to it and slow to a stop, and cheerfully wave at you as you stroll by?

Not a chance - this is opposite world - I swear they speed up as I am crossing, forcing me to scamper (I am 6 feet tall and 100+kgs - I am NOT a natural scamperer) to safety.

It's not all bad, they do have an animated walk signal which I really like. When it's your turn to move the green man appears on the overhead light just like anywhere else except he walks.. nay saunters, until you are half way across and then his walking becomes far more brisk, follow his lead and everything will be okay.

When the sign turns to don't walk - sort yourself out quickly - there is NO grace period, and traffic here takes off like it has been shot from a cannon.

Sound scary?

It's not - just take absolute responsibility for your safety, and all will be well.

If ever I am about to step onto the road and have any confusion about where the traffic actually is rather than where I think it is I stop and take another look - it has saved me more than once.

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Andrew Webber is a writer, living in Abu Dhabi with his wife, two cats and two dogs.

His first book "Erasure" was published in June 2012 and was followed in 2013 by the Prequel to Erasure, "Broken".

In 2016 Erasure was a prize winner in the Montegrappa Writing Prize - part of the Emirates Airlines Festival of Literature.

For more information click the "Erasure" book cover on the left side of this site, or simply go to www.athwebber.com

Thanks for visiting.