Drivers are always complaining about the bad habits of other motorists in Hong Kong.
“Don’t they teach you how to use a f*****g roundabout at driving schools here?” and, “Use your c*****g indicators” are refrains I frequently hear in the passenger seat of foul-mouthed friends’ cars.
Something else I heard recently was: “Don’t they teach the Green Cross Code here?” That’s because many pedestrians also don’t seem to have much common sense when it comes to navigating roads.
The Green Cross Code teaches safety basics, such as looking left, right and left again before stepping out onto a road. It used to be broadcast on British television as a public service announcement. It was intended to save lives.
Take one recent example. I was on a minibus that was pulling into a busy terminus. Just as the driver turned, a young woman stepped out onto the road without looking to see whether anything was coming. She wasn’t even being distracted by a smartphone!
Just in the nick of time she saw the bus and stepped back. Her reaction was priceless – utter contempt directed at the minibus driver. If looks could kill, he would have been spit-roasted alive over a bed of hot embers at her birthday party.
I often see this kind of non-spatial awareness in my small New Territories village. Pedestrians – young and elderly – walk straight out onto the road without looking, as if they are entitled to do so, and motorists are expected to slow down or stop as they amble across. Note to pedestrians: it’s no longer the era of the sedan chair.
Even on the busiest streets of Hong Kong Island you’ll see this happening. And you have to be pretty dumb to get hit by the slowest-moving vehicles on the road. Yet, in a story published in the South China Morning Post earlier this year, Hong Kong Tramways said 19 people were injured stepping in front of trams last year.
It also needs to be pointed out that, just because you are using a pedestrian crossing, it isn’t be wise to saunter straight out into the road when a fast-travelling vehicle is a mere metre or so away.
Maybe we can leave national education off the curriculum until we have taught our children how to cross the road without risking their lives and causing drivers unnecessary trauma.