This column has previously discussed the culture clash when it comes to dealing with local pedestrian behavior. Especially after the last vacation, stopping in a variety of destinations from Guangzhou to New York City to Barcelona, getting readjusted to the local scene and watching how pedestrians operate is even more foreign than before.
Was away for about a month and a half and at no time was there people choosing to stroll down the middle of the road, rampant jaywalking (while it does happen elsewhere, it is not so commonplace), or people who seem completely unaware the road is for cars and are shocked when meeting one while crossing the street.
The way many individuals either unexpectedly run across the street or slowly drag themselves across without one glance at oncoming traffic, especially at night, when roads are not very well-lit and many drivers have excessively dark tints, it is almost expected that something tragic will occur. It is the behavior of pedestrians, and their refusal to utilize common sense and cooperate with traffic, that when news breaks about a pedestrian fatality, it is not always the driver’s fault. Many times, when seeing a headline, the pedestrian who was “declared dead on arrival” is not really the primary concern; moreover, it is a question if the operator of the vehicle is being maligned because of the recklessness of a careless individual.
If one is driving down the road at a steady speed and somebody, preoccupied with something on their phone or just refusing to use the basics of looking left and right before crossing the street, depending on the proximity of the person, it is difficult to stop immediately. If impact is made, the public immediately scrutinizes the driver for “not being careful” or “not keeping their eyes on the road.”
What about the pedestrian? During any drive down a major road in the city, there are always pedestrians walking into traffic looking down at their mobile device, engaged in conversation with friends, or eyeing their destination and ignoring cars and trucks coming from all sides. If there is anything the drivers can gain from the horrific traffic that strangles the city every day, it is the inability for anybody to drive at a faster speed, allowing drivers to come to a complete stop when these random jaywalkers decide it is their time to test their fate.
The city government implemented a jaywalking ordinance that was enforced for about a week – enough to send out photographers and press releases to share with the public. Looking at the situation today, it is very apparent the publicity stunt was useless and jaywalking is still running rampant, even in the face of traffic enforcers – in particular, the one who stands underneath the pedestrian walkway in front of Robinsons Place Bacolod. That walkway was built for pedestrians to safely cross Lacson Street, today, it is used more like an awning to provide shade for pedestrians who wander into traffic and the enforcer on duty, standing in the shade of the walkway, whistles but, when nobody responds, simply carries on with his day.
Which part of the “training” did he learn that strategy from?
A 2013 article on the web publication Quartz looked at how the Chinese government is cracking down on jaywalking. The article noted, at the time, 2,000 had been apprehended in Shenzhen and another 8,000 in Zhejiang. The writer, Lily Kuo, cited analysts who believe the predisposition to jaywalk is more cultural than a matter of logistics.
“Chinese state media have attributed jaywalking to a national short-sightedness or lack of principles,” she wrote. “Others say it reflects the population’s disregard for rule of law.”
Both are relevant to local culture.
Taking a look at national political culture, there are no principles or values when it comes to being an elected official. With individuals switching parties and changing allies with every election cycle, the idea of principles and political values is nonexistent within the borders of this country. That fluidity carries out in other parts of the culture.
Some would say a primary principle of parenthood is protecting their offspring, yet, many times, parents are walking with their child in the street or walking into oncoming traffic with their child – given how often it is witnessed, it almost makes one think parents could not care less about their child’s welfare, given their willingness to risk them being struck by a motor vehicle.
There is also a disregard for laws because the public is well-aware laws in the country are never enforced. Sure, there are press releases discussing people being arrested or fined for violating some new ordinance, but after a period of time, it becomes obvious those reports were merely done for publicity.
Once the photographers are done taking photos of police officers “in action” and the media office is not sending out reports for publishing, the law goes back into its dormancy – only to be resurrected during election time as an “accomplishment.”
Kuo’s report goes on to discuss infrastructure, noting traffic lights in Germany run for a maximum of 60 seconds, while, in China, some lights go for 90 seconds – some traffic lights in Bacolod City even exceed that. As a result, she surmised, “Even when they get a walk signal, there’s no telling when cars will actually allow pedestrians to cross the road.”
Are there issues with the way traffic is managed in the city, unequivocally – an innumerable amount. However, that does not absolve pedestrians from fault if they thoughtlessly wander into traffic and are struck by a car./WDJ