Thursday, March 16, 2006

Walking the Streets

Outside of the Makati central business district, sidewalks in Manila where they exist are very much dual purpose. Pedestrian traffic, more often than not, takes to the actual road way to get round the vehicles parked across the sidewalk or by pass goods on display and the street vendors.

On the side streets sidewalks are non existent and pedestrians and vehicles are mixed in together. The numerous speed humps fortunately keep vehicular traffic speeds only marginally above walking speed. Quite often these streets are impassable to vehicles when residents decide to set up a marquee for a celebration that is too large for the house.

Motorists must also navigate the numerous games of basketball where the street is the court of the back board set up on its side or the portable skateboarder’s pipe and its attendant riders. Pedestrians tend to walk down the centre of these streets, leisurely moving to one side to let the vehicles pass.

On the main drags where sidewalks are provided, they are about a meter in width and often obstructed by telegraph poles or the specials on display by the stores they pass. When a building is set back from the road and the pavement widens. this space is quickly devoured by parked cars or street vendors or both. Pedestrians have little option than to walk on the road way.

When the time comes to do the chicken thing, you can walk up to a controlled intersection, which may be a lot further than you think or wait for a break in the traffic and cross where you are. On one way streets this is a relatively simple procedure, wait for the lull and move off quickly. If a vehicle looks like it’s bearing down on you too quickly an outstretched arm with the hand raised vertically in the direction of the approaching threat to body and limb along with eye contact with the driver should slow them down until you're out of the way.

The crossing of dual carriageways is a little trickier. The childhood mantra of look to the left, look to the right, look to the left again and cross when clear is of little use. This crossing is best down in stages. When a break in the traffic on your side of the road comes along, use it to cross to the middle of the road then repeat the procedure for the traffic in the other direction to complete your crossing. With multi lane roads you may have to do it a lane at a time, it is doable but not for the faint-hearted and remember to look at the drivers of the oncoming traffic.

When you come to the major multi lane through ways, discretion is the better part of valour. In the majority of cases the only place you can cross is at the controlled intersections or at the pedestrian over passes. Although you may well find yourself walking on the road as the sidewalks are clogged with vendors, store displays parked vehicles and other obstructions.

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