It used to be easy walking through a crowd of people. People were aware of each other and would follow conventions such as keeping to the left, and not walking into each other.
All this has changed.
In order not be stampeded by the 21st Century pedestrian I want you to be aware of seven new species of pedestrians who need to be avoided. Many of these have arisen as a result of technological change. Watch out for this new breed of pedestrians as you next make your way through a crowd. Read this guide to the seven main groups of pedestrians encountered in urban areas.
Headphones. The personal music player has allowed people to listen to music on the go. Unfortutely, MP3 players and iPods don’t include instructions on safe and responsible ways to enjoy music. A few years ago a girl was killed when she walked in front of a tram. Her iPod must have been on maximum volume. Be aware of pedestrians with headphones – they may be looking in the forward direction but probably can’t see you.
Texting on the go. A more dangerous species of pedestrian is the person who frantically types on their phone while walking. These people have the special skill of being able to walk without looking where they are going, relying on some vague instinct of the road ahead. Approaching one of these creatures is a frightening experience – head down, walking briskly and heading your way.
Movies on the go. If the sight of a brisk walking texter isn’t scary enough, watch out for the pedestrian who is watching a movie on an iPhone. These people are easily identified wearing white headphones and staring continuously at the screen as they watch their favourite TV program, music video clip or maybe a feature film. Do these people spend the remainder of their evenings watching more television?
Wannabe Rockstars. Sunglasses are very useful accessories for protection against the stong Sydney sunlight in fine weather. But when I see pedestrians wearing dark sunglasses in undercover shopping centres, I have to wonder if they are someone famous or maybe suffering from a bad hangover.
Wrong side of the road pedestrian. In Australia we drive on the left hand side of the road. In the past, the convention for pedestrians is to walk on the left hand side of the footpath. Unfortunately this convention is ignored by an ever growing majority. When approaching one of these errant pedestrians, the natural tendency is to veer to the left. These enlightened pedestrians flow like water, following the path of least resistance, left or right.
Slow Walkers. It is easy to spot the pedestrian who is busy typing a text message or studying the small screen of their handheld device. As you catch up to these very slow pedestrians, wondering why they are so slow, it is usually because they are engrossed in composing a message or updating their Facebook status.
The Stop Anywhere Pedestrian. This breed of pedestrian is uncomfortable walking while texting and chooses to stop in his tracks to talk, text or read, oblivious to the crowds trying to get by.
There you have it. A quick survey of the modern pedestrian to help you travel safely in busy urban areas.