No respect at pedestrian crossings

Dear Editor,

At different times during any day, and in many places, I observe a tableau unfold in slow motion.  It tells so much about this society: belief, trust, confidence, and courtesy.  It tells about the lack of these essentials, and how far this society has to go to get back to the basics.

The tableau revolves around mute unmoving pedestrian crossings, and the simple expedient of those on foot navigating passage.  Observe members of the public as they ready to venture in what used to be a safe harbour, a protected and protecting zone.  They are hesitant, even fearful; they are uncertain and untrusting.  Will they stop?  Should that fateful chance be taken with the first step?  It surely does not appear so, given the furious rates of speed, and given that there are no indications of cautionary preparatory deceleration from the rough riders of the Guyanese roads.

In what passes for now usual circumstances, the discretion of waiting is better than any experiment with valour: one tentative foot, could mean one brave soul less; or at least one not in the same piece going forward.  Why test fate?  Why throw caution before onrushing ignorance immersed in palpable aggression?  This is the daily predicament of the Guyanese foot brigade.  On a lucky day, the torpedoes might go around citizens; on a different day, it might be all over them.  No one wants to find out which day it is for them by being on the wrong side of such meetings.  So they stay and wait.

Drivers for their part are pleased with themselves: they have come out ahead (yet again and almost every time) in the cat-and-mouse process involving the use and misuse of pedestrian crossings.  After all, there is no slowing speed bump, no limiting physical barrier.  Who in their right minds gives any due regard to painted white lines?  Or signs on the side of the road?  Or cautions indicating school crossings?  Who?  And who when they drive pistons of energy and accelerating momentum?

It is why those with children in tow, the elderly, and those relying on canes wait.  Another day is the reward and continuity promised; it is the continuity of an unbroken body.  The civility, restraint, discipline, and respect for rules or people are all just not present in those at the controls of hurtling machines; anti-lock brakes technology brings no comfort.  At some observed speeds and separating distances, they are virtually non-functional, if not non-existent.  It could be minibuses, taxis, government vehicles, or private operators.  The exceptions in any category are rare.

Through these daily ordeals, there is neither belief nor confidence that fellow users of the road are preparing to stop, or that they will actually come to a stop.  This is one of the perils of the people; it can be nerve-wracking and palpitating; but at least there is no physical scarring.  This is part of the wear and tear on the flatlands of Guyana; wear is alright; tear is a different story that usually makes for gruesome headlines.

In fairness and the interest of balance, it must be said, from the perspective of drivers, that pedestrians are not shrinking violets either.  Many can be seen walking nonchalantly on parts of busy streets and roadways in varying degrees of recklessness and indifference.  Thus, the lack of courtesy, regard, and appreciation for danger is now felt by those on wheels.  All in all, there is scant adherence to any rules of the road.

It has been my experience and it is my belief that the same lack of trust, lack of confidence, and lack of basic courtesies infest every elevation in this land.  It starts on the road and is exhibited everywhere else.  It could be, too, that it is the other way around.

Yours faithfully,

GHK Lall

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