COLUMN: May 26, 2016


THE couple walked towards me, glowing with youthful love and springtime, their hands clasped as if they feared that if one let go the other would disappear into the mists. It was beautiful, inspiring, life-affirming, and it made me think.

“Ah,” it made me think, “This pavement is definitely not wide enough for people to be holding hands.”

But it was clear that the couple did not have my grasp of the laws of physics, or perhaps their expression of their love was more important to them than any concern that I might be splattered across the front of the oncoming bus. “Live by the bus, die by the bus,” they probably thought.

Either way, they refused to let go of each other and walk in single file for even a moment. Similarly, I refused to die an ironic death. There was no way I was stepping into the road.

We continued to walk towards each other. Suddenly our shared predicament filtered through the love-addled brains of the couple and they veered to their left while still holding hands, changing their angle and giving me a gap of roughly three-quarters of my width.

I could work with that. I flung myself through some closing train doors a couple of weeks ago, like a sort of commuting Indiana Jones. And I did this without being cut in two at the waist. This would be easy in comparison.

Unfortunately I had already committed myself to veering to my right in order to avoid them, and so we were still on a collision course.

To prevent an unseemly accident I changed direction, heading to my left. Inevitably, the couple had realised that a collision was imminent, and had switched to their right. Once again the crash was on. It was going down and there was not a damned thing we could do about it.

I suppose, in retrospect, we could all have just stopped walking and worked out how we were going to pass each other without being injured in one way or another, but in the heat of the moment such clarity evaded all three of us.

Unless… If the couple would actually let go of each other for five seconds I could pass between them. I put my faith in human nature and headed straight for them.

They did not unclasp their hands in time. Essentially I walked myself into a very low punch. Not for the first time.

I apologised in a high-pitched tone and they expressed some regret for their actions, and afterwards I gave some thought as to how such an incident could be avoided in future.

And I have decided that we need to have actual laws of the pavement, just as we have laws of the road.

I am not saying that we necessarily have to have traffic signals on the pavement, but it would not distress me unduly.

That said, I definitely see a case for brake lights on the sort of person who stops abruptly in front of me outside shops, causing scenes of impromptu intimacy best left to clubs in Ayia Napa and age-restricted websites.

Similarly, indicator lights for people who step out of shops and into swift-moving pedestrian traffic without checking if anybody is walking past would also be of some use.

Pavements themselves could be split down the middle to prevent collisions. Particularly wide pavements could become dual carriageways, with “dawdle lanes” on the outside, and “perfectly normal lanes” on the inside for people like me, who believe walking to be a method of getting from one place to another rather than a leisure activity.

But all of this would cost money, for white paint, for a start, and especially if pedestrian traffic laws are to be enforced. Which they should be.

So I suggest that, until my Glorious Pedestrian Revolution comes to pass, we make a decision right now.

And that is this. When there is a pending collision between people, whether on the pavement or in a corridor, without exception we veer to the left. If we make that the absolute rule we will never have to think about it.

Only by taking this sort of firm action can we ensure that the sole reason in future for me to be punched below the belt is that I deserve it.

One thought on “COLUMN: May 26, 2016

  1. Yes, but what if I’m rapidly approaching someone who hasn’t read the Gary Bainbridge column, pretty slim chance I know, but dare I risk a pass at speed not knowing if I’m going to be involved in a messy entanglement?

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