I’m sitting patiently with my signal light on, waiting for the long stream of cars in my rear view mirror to drift by before I inch out into the road. Although these cars are only going about 20 km/hour due to the stop light a half a block away, not one stops to let me in. After fifteen years in British Columbia, I’m used to this. Drivers in this part of the world generally don’t pause to let you in; being a couple car lengths ahead of the game is more important.
Unless, of course, they want your parking spot.
Pedestrian’s face a similar fate crossing our roads; on busier thoroughfares they age gracefully while waiting for motorists to acknowledge them. We live a short walk from my children’s school, but lying in between our house and the school is a crosswalk on a fairly busy road. I have no faith that Vancouver drivers will stop for my half-pints, despite the fact it is a school zone. I prefer to accompany them across the road myself.
It is not like this in all parts of the world. I know this because growing up in the Maritimes, if a pedestrian so much as pauses to consider crossing the street, traffic halts in both directions. It’s true, this happens regularly back east: drivers actually stop for pedestrians. I have been forced to cross many a-road simply out of guilt, perhaps having paused at an intersection dreamily assembling a torrid plot for my next novel. I return from my trance and cars are waiting expectantly, smiling, bidding me to change direction. So I cross, wanting to appease them for accommodating me. I have always aimed to please.
I’d like to compare driver’s handbooks from my former province and my current one, because drivers have drastically different driving manners. Letting people into traffic streams isn’t in either handbook, but it’s just a polite thing to do. When I learned to drive, stopping at crosswalks was certainly in the book, and you would have lost marks on your driver’s test had you breezed by a pedestrian at one of these clearly delineated places. In Vancouver crosswalk lines might as well be targets, they scream “speed up so that the pedestrian can’t cross the road!” If I have risked my limbs to cross in front of an approaching car, I am barely a step past the car in the crosswalk before they blast by me.
As much as I love Vancouver I miss those Maritime drivers, who give you a smile and a wave when they stop to let you in. Like any good suburban North American, I spend a fair amount of time in my car, and think the western world could be a kinder and gentler one if people would act that way when they’re driving. Never even mind road rage.