It seems a simple thing, crossing a street. But my idea of how to get across a busy street in the U.S., whether on foot or in a vehicle, is significantly different from methods employed to cross streets in other places in the world. For example, take a look at this video showing a busy street in India:
As I traveled around the world I was intrigued by the various means employed to cross a street. On my very first morning in Saigon, Vietnam I spotted a bakery across the street from my hotel. I stood at the curb for 15 minutes, waiting for a break in the monstrous traffic but the vehicles just kept coming. Just as I was about to give up, a local man stepped off the curb, walked out into the midst of the traffic, and slowly crossed the street as the vehicles weaved and darted around him. Eventually, I got up the nerve to try it and stepped out into the stream of traffic. I looked straight ahead, fearful that if I looked at the traffic rushing toward me I’d lose my nerve and freeze n the middle of the street. The key was to keep moving ahead slowly and just let the drivers adjust their trajectory. After that first attempt it was a piece of cake, although it never ceased being a bit scary.
In Singapore, I waited for the green light, was careful not to litter, was never caught chewing gum (there is a Singaporean law against gum chewing), and God help you if you are jaywalking. Singapore is a fine country/city, and I mean that in both senses of the word: it’s a great place but fines are levied for absolutely everything.
Rather than crossing at the street level in Bangkok, Thailand, I took advantage of the miles of overhead walkways that parallel the Sky Train, rode the the subway, or hopped on one of the longtail boats that ply the rivers and canals.
In the downtown areas of the major cities of New Zealand a green light invites pedestrians to cross in all directions, including diagonally.
People outnumber vehicles on the streets in Arusha, Tanzania. As in many African countries, the roads are mostly dirt and have no street signs, so I crossed easily and safely but once I wandered away from the two main paved roads I was quickly lost.
To cross the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, I walked over the bridge that spans the Zambezi River, enjoying spectacular views of Victoria Falls. Signs here say only two cars are allowed on the bridge at any one time, so I was a bit unnerved when a full freight train lumbered onto the tracks running down the middle of the bridge, causing it to vibrate and sway in a most uncomfortable way.
I’ve crossed streets all over the world, sometimes on foot and sometimes in vehicles, but I must admit that India has the worst traffic I’ve ever seen. Even the most congested streets in America are tame by comparison. Although the above video initially seems chaotic, quantum physicists know that there is no such thing as chaos – even chaotic situations exhibit an underlying order. Quantum physics aside, my best advice when traveling in unfamiliar places is to watch the locals and do as they do, because they’ve definitely figured out the order of things.