April Fool

Walk the Walk

Good stuff from Fumier on the vexed problem of the way people walk in Hong Kong. We all know that we have some of the crowded places on the planet in this city, and at times it seems like everyone else is conspiring to make life even more uncomfortable by getting in the way wherever you want to walk. My theory is that there are strong similarities with driving - we all know that it only takes one driver going slowly, hesitating too much, or going in the wrong lane to bring traffic to a halt. In some ways it is even worse with walking, because no-one needs to pass a test before walking through a busy shopping centre, and it is much easier (and less dangerous) to get distracted.

One of the keys to being a good driver is anticipation, both of what you need to do and what others are likely to do. Yet when we are walking it is much more difficult to anticipate what other people might do, because there are so many more alternatives. You can stop suddenly - to look in a shop window or to answer your mobile phone - turn either left or right, or speed up or slow down with no warning. There is also no concept of a slow lane or an overtaking lane, so you just have to take your chances. As Fumier says:

People walk around in Hong Kong as if they are walking through an empty field; as if they cannot see or conceive of those large moving objects we call other people, even when they are on a collision course. They will cut through corners, or walk out of a doorway, in a busy area without, it seems, even considering the possibility that there might be another person coming around the corner or along the space they are entering. Why also, when a Hong Kong pedestrian sees his or her target doorway, he makes a beeline for it regardless of anyone between him and it, when he cannot manage to walk in a straight line at any other time to save his life, will always baffle me.

If you drove like that you'd soon have a smashed-up car and probably end up in hospital. Perhaps that's one of the problems - so few people in Hong Kong do drive.

Large groups are a menace because they don't know where they are going and usually some of the people will be talking to each other rather than looking where they are going. People who talking on their mobile phones are unpredictable, apparently suffering from the same problem as President Gerald Ford (who was accused of being unable to walk and chew gum at the same time).

Fumier has one piece of good advice, which is that if you know where you are going and especially if you appear to be large, people will get out of your way. The other recommendation (which comes from my wife) is to to stop getting so worked up about all of this and just accept it as one of the minor frustrations of life in Hong Kong. Or always carry a large umbrella (or other pointed object)...


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"or other pointed object" a drill in a carrier bag!


Or drawing pins inside your jacket, pointing outwards.

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