Sunday, 9 May 2010

Ok, Go

Following on from my critique of social etiquette featured in Space Oddities, I turn my attention now to traffic lights, those neon harbingers of doom allowing us (we hope) to navigate our way safely across those stretches of tarmaced land usually operated by vehicles, which cyclists somehow think they have a right to use sometimes too. Roland Barthes would be proud of our collective ability to interpret the relationship between colour and meaning, although would probably head-desk himself if he saw how futile an attempt a minority make to control their ambulatory destinies.

Firstly, why do some people think pressing the button repeatedly will make the lights change any quicker? As more concentrating raging bullish types line up on either side, judging which path will best enable them to traverse in the most orderly fashion only to crash into each other like drunken dodgems when the beeps finally sound, there will always be one, either snorting with anger or muttering in timid confusion, poking away at the button thinking it is programmed to react to their fingerprint only. These are probably the same people who are banned from those nightclubs which use the same fingerprint scanning technology for excessive poking of a different nature.

Perhaps worse are those which don’t seem to have grasped how it works at all. You approach the crossing, and on seeing someone about to do so from the other side think “ah, they’ll get there first and do the pushing so my tired fingers escape such exercise”. But no, they continue jibbering away to their mate on the phone, a task which evident uses up all their capacities, standing there, looking up and down the street and wondering absentmindedly why the traffic isn’t slowing.

When I was a little ‘un I was convinced that a tiny man was installed somewhere in the traffic light stand. Nowadays, knowing better, I rebelliously begin to cross on amber, as the cars slow, much to the chagrin of mother’s opposite who are waiting for the ‘Little Green Man’ to escort their little darlings across the dangerous road. I’m no time-waster. Except when it comes to writing about traffic lights.

1 comment:

  1. UK councils should embrace technology, and help out impatient road users with built in status indicators for traffic lights (see

    Incidentally many pedestrian crossings on US grid systems feature placebo buttons. They do nothing to affect the carefully planned flow of traffic through cities, but that doesn't stop people tapping away on the button as if it will somehow make their tedious day go by quicker. So remember, no matter how upset you get with pedestrians in the UK, you can be thankful we're not all American.