A ze­bra-cross­ing mus­ing

Around 1.25mn peo­ple die every year on the world’s roads. Ac­cord­ing to UN, speed is the cause of about one-third of all fa­tal road traf­fic crashes in high-in­come coun­tries, and al­most half in low- and mid­dle-in­come coun­tries in the world.

Business Bhutan - - Opinion - Sonam Dema

When I first vis­ited Europe a few years back, my first im­pres­sion of Europe was that most peo­ple (old and young) cy­cled and walked a lot. Per­haps, be­cause they have the safest road, neat bi­cy­cle lane and spa­cious walk­ing lane. What is more, no mat­ter how fast a car moves, when it nears a ze­bra-cross­ing, it slows down (as if in a trance or un­der some spell) and the pedes­tri­ans walk to the other side, al­most bliss­fully. On the con­trary, in Bhutan we need traf­fic police to en­sure ve­hi­cles slow down near a ze­bra-cross­ing and let the pedes­tri­ans cross by. It is al­most baf­fling why we Bhutanese seem al­ways in an eter­nal hurry on the road. A lit­tle pause in a car move­ment-- rest of the cars be­hind start to honk, ag­i­tat­edly. Un­less you are go­ing to save the world by reach­ing your des­ti­na­tion few min­utes early, there is no point in risk­ing your life and oth­ers by over-speed­ing on the road. Any­way (on nor­mal days) most of us are rush­ing home only to sit back and watch TV. Ze­bra-cross­ing is fairly a new phe­nom­e­non to our traf­fics. As a pedes­trian, I ap­pre­ci­ate the time and the hard work the au­thor­i­ties have in­vested in aware­ness cam­paigns. Today we have about 70 ze­bra-crossings on the roads within Thim­phu city, and as­sign­ing cops at each ze­bra-cross­ing is such a hard slog. I hope this doesn’t have to go on for­ever. One Satur­day evening as I went for a leisure walk, I stopped near a ze­bra-cross­ing to let a lone scooter pass by. The man on the scooter stopped too. I ges­tured him to go. But he in­sisted (with a smile) I cross the road first. The road was empty any­way. So, I took my own sweet time to reach the other side. He seemed equally re­laxed and pleased. How­ever, not every cross­ing is this sweet and po­lite. A friend told me that re­cently a speed­ing car al­most hit her while she was still walk­ing on the ze­bra-cross­ing. Once I saw three dogs cross the road to­gether via a ze­bra-cross­ing in the town, and a group of tourists looked amused, adding to our hap­pi­ness in­dex for the out­siders. Yet (the irony) most of our homies still need to be trained. If animals fol­low the rules, I am very op­ti­mistic (some­day) we will too.

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