Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Walking Downtown

I live within reasonable walking distance of my workplace. It takes me about 15 minutes to get to work in the morning, the same to get home.

This means that for roughly thirty minutes a day, five days a week, I am entrusting my life to Vancouver drivers.

Now, everyone in every city says that they have the worst drivers ever. I'm not saying that. What I am saying, however, is that Vancouver drivers are inconsiderate, oblivious, and just plain dangerous creatures that should not, under any circumstances, be responsible for 3000 pounds of metal moving at 50 kilometers per hour on wet streets.

I'm a considerate pedestrian. When I'm trying to get past a car that's stopped in my path, I walk behind the car instead of in front of it. I don't cross the street unless the sign shows a little a little walking man image. I look both ways. In spite of these precautions, I regularly find myself rubbing elbows with Death and telling him to push back my appointment to another time.

The light is red. I'm walking out into the intersection. You don't even make an attempt to slow or stop your BMW, and I have to jump back or be killed.

I'm in the middle of the street. You're turning left and clearly do not see me. I have to jump out of your path or be killed. And then, only when I have averted disaster without your assistance, then you slam on the brakes, give me an emabarassed glance and shrug your shoulders. "Oops! Almost drove over you in my SUV! Sorry! Ha ha ha!" Right! Oh, you're embarassed! Imagine how embarassed I would be if I was splashed across your windshield?

But the madness doesn't stop there, oh no. I live in a city where a yellow light doesn't mean 'slow down', it means 'drive as fast as you can to get through it, then get another 4 or 5 through after it turns red'! I live in a city where making a right hand turn on a red light means checking for traffic on your left, but never, under any circumstance, for any reason, checking for pedestrians on your right. And why not? Because that's where I am. And every day drivers are making me feel like my need to cross the street is a major obstacle in their attempt to attain their destiny.

But I can't win. Even my attempts to be considerate to the wheel-spinning sociopaths navigating Vancouver's absurd downtown infrastructure put me at risk.

A car is trying to turn left onto a one way street. I walk behind the car. This is an act of self-preservation more than anything. As I get behind the car, the reverse lights come on and the car backs up (to pose less of an obstacle to cars who have the right of way, I presume). Again, my acrobatic skills (which are nil) are my only hope for survival. The bruised knee and the limp all the way home speak for themselves.

Once, several years ago, in another city, I watched out the window of my workplace as a woman got into her car, popped it into reverse and floored it. She hit a girl who was about to enter the store and tossed her like a ragdoll a good 15 feet. The driver was apologetic and humiliated. None of my brushes with death have included an apology.

I'm gambling with my life on these streets.

What a great world this would be if I was the only one on it.

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