Saturday, April 2, 2016


"STOP" what do you mean I have to stop?
Back home in Halifax, crosswalks are always a big news item. There is usually some report of someone getting hit in a crosswalk, and demands for better enforcement and stronger laws governing crosswalks.

I have a suggestion. Come spend some time in Italy and learn how to cross the street using crosswalks. We have been here for two weeks now and although I am constantly amazed at how aggressive the drivers are, I have yet to see an accident . I think the land of Ferrari, Maserati, Lancia, Alfa and Lamborghini not only produces fast cars it also gets in the blood of its drivers. I sat out if front of the apartment complex enjoying a lemon sherbet the other night and watched a guy navigate his beautiful Honda Super Sport 400 (A nice old classic Honda for those not motorcycle people) through the busy single lane street. He whipped around pedestrians, bicycles and cars with ease, never taking his feet off the pegs. Texting while driving is common, but it is done on streets where pedestrians need to pull themselves into the walls to avoid finding how much it takes to fold those side mirrors in. Sidewalks, crosswalks, not likely!
Why can't I park here?

Now major streets when you get out of the old inner city do have sidewalks and crosswalks. Really big intersections even have "walk/don’t walk" signs. However the warning signs only apply when there is heavy traffic. If there is a break in traffic pedestrians just cross regardless of the light. Most crosswalks are just your standard zebra striped lane across the road. They take a particular skill to actually get across the street.

Do not even think about standing politely on the sidewalk and look like you want to cross the street – the drivers do not even see you, or if they do they seem to actually accelerate just in case you might be thinking of crossing. You have to step into the street and stare the drivers down. Then they will stop. However if one car stops, the ones following immediately pull out to pass them, so this stare them down and make them stop has to be repeated for each lane to be crossed. And don’t expect them to wait until you are actually across; no, they calculate to inches, your progress, the width of the car and then accelerate around you in case someone else might try to cross the street. 

Excuse me I need this piece of road !
Now the interesting thing is that I have yet to see an accident. I am constantly amazed that the bicycles, cars, scooters and even delivery trucks careening through the crowds do not hit anyone, but they always seem to make it without incident. The cars do seem to be missing a lot of side mirrors and there are a lot of scratches and dents in cars, but when it seems inevitable that someone would get hit, everything works. I think the secret is that the cars do watch out for things, and the pedestrians realize that drivers are crazy and treat them as such. People do not walk blindly into a crosswalk expecting the cars to stop, they make the drivers stop, and forcibly assert their right to cross the street. The drivers know they have to let pedestrians cross at crosswalks, would rather not have to let them, but watch and allow them to cross when they are forced to. Back home I have seen drivers blindly drive through a crosswalk without ever noticing people wanting to cross, but here, when you aggressively show your intention to cross, the cars do stop and let me across. The drivers may be crazy, but I have learned to respect their actual skill. I think you have to be a good driver if you are going to navigate the streets of Italy.

No comments:

Post a Comment