Saturday, 6 June 2009

The rules of the pavement

When I first learnt to ride a bike I spent one afternoon a week on my local firestation forecourt learning how to put on my helmet, steer my bike round traffic cones and apply the brakes in a timely and controlled fashion in order that I not hurtle over the handlebars and splat onto the tarmac. These merry afternoons spent with other mini-cyclists qualified me for my cycling proficiency certificate; I was officially competant to handle my two-wheeled vehicle in public. Here in London I feel we need an equivalent - for responsible pavement usage. The overstuffed pavements of London must rank in my top hates about the city, and have done since before I lived here.

Londoners as a breed seem incapable of walking along a roadside without causing violent harm to their fellow pedestrians. What is more, they achieve this without batting an eyelid at the carnage around them. No screaming in agony as they stamp on your feet, no death-stare of annoyance as they plough into your path, no retaliatory elbow in the ribs causes any apology, remorse or even acknowledgement that they are being less than considerate in their pavemental conduct. (For pavements, also read platforms. Nowhere are Londoners less considerate of another's space than a tube platform, as the mania to cram into a rush hour Tube train consumes them. And nowhere is this selfish hogging of concrete more dangerous.)

Ah, the beauty of an empty platform
The commuting Londoner is a single-minded being. They have a single thought process focussed on getting from A to B. Sure, the odd diversion for coffee (to focus them further), may occur but the drive to reach a destination is not diverted by traffic (human or vehicular), street-vendors, or those day-glo yellow people who hand out the London Lite. The desire to reach work/home/Topshop on Oxford Street surpasses even the human instinct for self-preservation.

Now, there are two options for any pedestrian wishing to make their own trek through these ghastly pavement assailants. You can either give up and relinquish yourself to their stabbing umbrellas and fearsome feet, or you can fight back and arm yourself against their onslaught, with more than arnica for bruises and plasters for KGB-style umbrella-spike wounds in the back of the ankle, or you can enter the fray prepared.
First you need to attire yourself properly - there is a wardrobe for successful pavement pounding. Girls, if you struggle to walk in heels for heavens sake wear flats and put them in your handbag. Nothing says "Don't take me seriously as a fellow pavement user" like a wobbling totter down the road; you are begging people to cut you up, or walk slowly in front of you - you do not look in control. (Those who are able to wear heels in public without looking like one of those wooden toys you press at the bottom and the creature on top collapses, definitely invest in metal rather than rubber tips - they wear down on the harsh concrete far slower and enhance your stride with a scarier clatter!) So sensible footwear to outrun everyone else. No loose or flappy clothing, and arms by your side. Trailing cardigans which flap behind you or long trailing skirts will also only slow you down. May I also recommend a sizeable hangbag? (Ok menfolk, if you don't fancy that how about a briefcase?) Slung over a shoulder not only can you use it to barge people out of the way if needed, a nice big handbag makes you look larger, thus people giver you a wider berth. Personally if I can't use it as airplane carry-on luggage I deem a handbag too small. This is a weapon people, you need it to pack a punch.

Make sure you keep all extraneous items (newspapers, books, iPods, shoes which look divine but are useless for walking anywhere further than the fax machine, lunch, shopping bags) inside the bag - another reason it needs to be so huge. Have nothing which you can drop, get tangled with anyone else or which will slow you down. An iPod can be a help, in a throw-on-some-pounding-beats-to-speed-you-up way, or a hinderance, in a I'll-just-flick-through-my-music-and-choose-what-to-listen-to-whilst-standing-stock-still-in-the-middle-of-a-thoroughfare kind of way. Exercise your own judgement on that one. Just, I beg of you, wherever your pavement leads you, focus on the job in hand and become a paragon of pavement etiquette. Someone out there will thank you for it.

1 comment:

  1. I just carry my water bottle 1.5L and hold it out under my arm with the cap facing forward. They look and they don't walk into me! (usually - and if they do they have that little surprise and a buffer there, I'm never touched!

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