human behavior

iPic: Sydney by the Rules

One of the first things that struck me about Sydney when I arrived from New York was how clean and orderly this city seemed. Where’s the trash? New York is actually pretty clean these days, but Sydney had an almost futuristic tidiness about it. And that tidiness extended to public behavior.

In walking through the shopping district at Chatswood or through the Central Business District, I was struck by the good behavior of pedestrians and drivers alike. A honking horn in Sydney is as rare as a “Hallelujah!” in a white church.

And everyone waits for the green light to cross the street.

Look closely, and you can see the little green pedestrian symbol indicating to law-abiding Sydneysiders that they’re permitted to cross the street.

This ain’t New York.

In New York, you walk when you want. To hell with the pedestrian light. You walk where you want. The middle of a block will do just as well as a cross walk. You don’t wait for the traffic to stop: you stop traffic. And don’t think that pedestrians rule the road. Drivers will retaliate, speed up, honk and try to muscle their way through your impertinence.

Try any of these things in Sydney, and pedestrians will look at you with disdain. Sure, there are some pedestrians with a New York spirit. I’m one of them. But my spirit is being slowly crushed under the weight of collective disapprobation. In their glares and silence, I can feel their indictment of my pedestrian crimes.

These days when I think about crossing the street, I give it a second thought. I’m not really in a hurry, I say to myself. Perhaps I can wait twenty seconds like the rest before crossing, I think. The cross walk is only 7 meters down the road. That’s not so far to travel, I conclude.

So yesterday I followed the rules. It felt nice. I walked through the city free of guilt and without fear of being flattened on the road between two cross walks. And I made it to my ferry home in perfect time.

There’s something pleasing about Sydney’s order. Walking in New York is a contact sport. It’s a struggle. In Sydney, it’s like synchronized skating. Not so bruising.

Not so lonely.

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One Response

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  1. Bridge Dog said, on April 15, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    I love that blog! Way to go keeping up with the Joneses! Lol. It’s good to know ur walking at a more human speed!

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