Monday, January 23, 2006

A game of birdbrain

I’ve written before about the perils that await those who dare to cross the A40 by Barons Court Station. There seems to be a new game of “Chicken”, in which the winner is the person who can delay the longest in reaching safety in the face of the traffic. Let me elaborate.

People wishing to cross either wait for the traffic lights to change or they look for a break in the oncoming traffic and then walk across to the central reservation before trying their luck with the other side. There are lights and reservations on either side of the junction. On the Hammersmith College side the numbers of pedestrians are greater than on the side that I use, and the reservation is a dogleg shape, making it hard for people to move quickly through it. So when there are twenty people crossing at the same time they tend to straggle back a bit.  The traffic moves fast on this section of road. Cars, seeing an empty road ahead and the green lights, may be moving at 70mph. Motorbikes are faster. These vehicles can appear virtually out of nowhere and with their eyes fixed on the traffic lights, the drivers are not too conscious of the pedestrians spilling into the road.

The trouble is that the pedestrians do not always seem that conscious of the dangers either. They seem to think that if they are queuing to get off the road and into the reservation that they are somehow safe. Several times in recent days I have heard the blare of horns as vehicles have sped up to and through the scattering crowds. It is only a matter of time before someone skids on a wet road and loses control.

What really worries me is that the tail-enders seem unperturbed. As soon as people begin to cross, even though the pedestrian traffic light shows red, everyone moves in unison. Those at the back of the queue drift over the road, eyes ahead rather than looking to the right at the road. If a car appears they may look up or they may ever so casually quicken their pace but on no account must they show any sense of haste or unease.

Chicken is not really the right word. Sheep might be a better description. Except that sheep are very good at avoiding danger and know when to run. Birdbrain possibly?

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