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16 June 2014 / leggypeggy

The art of crossing the road

Crossing the road

Venturing in to the zebra crossing

Poor John and I really appreciate everyone’s good wishes for our safe travels.

I suspect you all worry that we’ll be robbed at gunpoint, taken hostage in some remote location, tossed into prison on some trumped-up charge, or mistaken for terrorists or criminals, as I was when I crossed in to Turkmenistan in 2011.

Your concerns are misdirected. In all seriousness, the most likely disaster waiting-to-happen starts with our attempt to cross the road.

Oh sure, all these countries have zebra crossings—those white stripes painted on the road to indicate is where you should cross. But in this part of the world, a zebra crossing is really a rough indication of where you could take your life in your hands should there be a slight pause in traffic.

Every now and then motorist surprise us. Yesterday as we hovered at kerbside in Bukhara, one of Uzbekistan’s top tourist destinations, a car actually stopped at the zebra crossing. Shamed by this act of selflessness, fellow motorists across three lanes of traffic actually stopped at the crossing, allowing us to briskly walk across the road, rather than duck and weave through the maze of vehicles.

Zebra crossing in Iran

Halfway there, with a motorbike joining the crossing

But generally we wait for a gap in the flow of traffic. Then we proceed slowly with a hand extended towards oncoming vehicles. We figure that motorists don’t really want to hit us, but they don’t want to stop either. We try to make it easy for them to see our intentions, so they can slow down a bit and swerve around us.

So hone your skills on assessing speed and distance, and learn to proceed slowly with your eyes locked on the traffic.

And if all else fails, you can do what we had to do once in Indonesia—hire a rickshaw to take us across an eight-lane road.

P.S. By the way, the crossing shown in these photos (in Iran) was NOT done against a red light. The green pedestrian light was on for all three pics.

Zebra crossing

A green light for pedestrians means nothing

20 Comments

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  1. Derrick / Jun 16 2014 5:18 pm

    And there was me thinking these zebra crossings was to make it easier for drivers to hit you, they could ONLY hit you on the crossing and anything on there was fair game 🙂

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    • leggypeggy / Jun 16 2014 6:01 pm

      Oh cripes, I bet you’re right. Silly me! It’s like target practice.

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      • Derrick / Jun 16 2014 8:38 pm

        They put these lines on the road to make things easier to hit you, it saves having cars chasing pedestrians on other parts of the road, yup you have just become a moving target 🙂

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      • leggypeggy / Jun 16 2014 8:44 pm

        This changes my whole outlook on zebra crossings.

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    • janandrussroundoz / Jun 16 2014 6:03 pm

      I reckon it’s like cold water-you’ve just got to jump straight in! Once you get the hang of it, it’s a breeze. It’s all in the eye contact and not hesitating. It scares the riders/drivers if you hesitate, then everyone is in trouble.

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      • leggypeggy / Jun 16 2014 6:05 pm

        Yep, a steady pace and a dagger-like stare sure help.

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  2. suchled / Jun 16 2014 7:26 pm

    bit like Ballarat. No worries!

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  3. Adina / Jun 16 2014 9:38 pm

    In Iran is where I learned that to cross the street you have to look left-front-back-up and down to make it across safe :)))

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    • leggypeggy / Jun 16 2014 11:58 pm

      Yes, Adina, you need a head that swivels in all directions to cross the street in Iran.

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  4. artandkitchen / Jun 17 2014 4:32 pm

    Every Country has different rules! In Switzerland cars has to stop when somebody is standing at the zebra crossing even if there is no traffic and enough gaps to cross the road without stopping the cars.
    Usually if we in other Countries don’t feel safe we follow other pedestrians.

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    • leggypeggy / Jun 18 2014 4:45 pm

      Many countries have rules that no one follows. Almost everywhere, I’m reluctant to step into traffic without waiting for cars to stop.

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  5. gallivance.net / Jun 18 2014 9:41 pm

    Great post Peggy – and a dilemma for so many of us. When we lived in Sudan it was particularly confusing. The roads had originally been set up by the British with driving on the left, but at some point things had changed and they decided to drive on the right … until they got to roundabouts where it was a total free-for-all. You totally took your life in your hands anywhere near there. 🙂 ~Terri

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    • leggypeggy / Jun 23 2014 12:03 am

      Oh wow, Terri, I hadn’t realised that The Sudan swapped sides of the road. Burma did the same, and it made for a traffic nightmare. All these roads built for right-hand drive, and then to switch to the other side. So dangerous.

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  6. Sy S. / Jun 20 2014 10:14 am

    Mucho years ago (1955) my grandmother (I guess around 70+, wow my age now) went to a big department store for a sale/bargain… and saved money from the original price. However, she got a “Jay Walking” ticket (I guess around $15 US Dollars) which negated the bargain… trying to cross the street when there was a green light for cars to move forward. This law is still on the books, but rarely does a police officer give tickets for this… and there are many “Jay Walkers” in New York City.

    Aside- LeggyPeggy should tell the story of her crossing the street in Hanoi, Vietnam ?…. scary!

    Sy S.

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    • leggypeggy / Jun 22 2014 11:43 pm

      Oh Sy, your comment made me laugh out loud. Your poor gran getting a jaywalking ticket. She must have been furious. As for my harrowing experience in Hanoi—here’s a link.

      Like

  7. vagabondurges / Jun 21 2014 10:41 am

    I got so used to the “Everyone go at once, don’t make any sudden moves, and maybe no one will get killed” approach that I kept messing up traffic when I came back to the US. I normally start walking straight towards the back of the next car in order to pass right behind it, but here that car kept stopping for me, then I’d feel guilty for slowing people down. “Darn polite First-Worlders! Just ignore my safety and keep driving!”

    Yeah, travel changes you.

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    • leggypeggy / Jun 22 2014 11:34 pm

      Oh yeah, travel does change you. I’m not too bad about crossing the road legally, but I still carry toilet paper in my pocket! 🙂

      Like

  8. bmpermie / Feb 23 2015 3:26 pm

    I am the family joke at home as to what a whimp I am crossing roads so I agree travelling in China, Iran and Georgia the main danger was crossing the road. I would wait for a group of locals, plant myself in the middle and hope for the best.
    I got pulled back from starting to cross by a much more elderly woman in Isfahan.

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    • leggypeggy / Feb 23 2015 7:49 pm

      I’m not a complete wimp when it comes to crossing roads, but I’m darned careful. Especially because the pedestrian crossings are a suggestion only.

      Like

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