Just back to the frozen tundra from a visit to the city for a couple of weeks’ worth of badly needed urban adrenalin and Cultcha.
While I was there, a new traffic law appears to have taken effect, one that lowered the maximum speed limit on city streets for motor vehicles to 25 mph, down from what I think previously was whatever you wanted it to be.
The city government had gotten the word out weeks before through the media and larger than life electronic traffic signs parked on street corners and overhead on highways.
Thus, I have to assume that just about every driver was made well aware. But there were only a couple of remaining problems with the newly enacted law: one, nobody seemed to be obeying it; two, there were absolutely no signs of enforcement. Side streets, main thoroughfares, it didn’t matter: speed still ruled the road.
I had driven into town, found a good parking spot and left my car there for the duration of my visit. This meant I walked a lot, and crossed a lot of streets. So I got a pretty good view from a pedestrian’s point of view as to how effective the law has been in slowing down vehicular traffic, something the authorities have hoped will sharply reduce the number of pedestrian fatalities.
It was not encouraging. Cars, trucks and taxis regularly zoomed along at 40, 50 mph, rushing to beat that changing traffic light, make that quick street corner turn, or just because that’s the way they have always driven. I stopped counting violations early on, and remembered what I’d always done: make eye contact with the driver of any car on a potential collision course with my body. I did get to make eye contact and give the middle finger to a couple of trucks, and more than a couple of cars and taxis, who considered they had the right of way in any pedestrian crossing.
And, where exactly was the enforcement of the law? Despite the continued speeding all around, I came across not even one instance of a vehicle pulled over by the cops, for any reason, despite the nearly ubiquitous presence of patrol cars. Maybe the cops were too busy looking at the screens on their smartphones.
Ok, so the new street order was exactly like the old one, and it was pedestrian beware–don’t ever assume that that car or truck is going to either slow down or stop because you have the right of way, the light, whatever.
Yet I had managed to avoid a vehicular smack-down, or so I thought. Then it happened. I was crossing the street, in the crosswalk, with the light; got momentarily distracted as I turned my head in the opposite direction to admire the very pretty young Asian woman going the other way; felt the bump and heard the curse (in Chinese). I had just been hit by a guy on a bicycle blowing through a red light! He had somehow manage to stop a nano-second soon enough to merely graze my left leg, and I had been walking slowly enough to avoid a nasty head-on crash (thank you unknown Asian lady).
It was a hit-and-run for the bicyclist, and he was down the block before I checked my leg. No damage. But it left me wondering why the new speed limit isn’t also for bikes. Or would that not matter…