Obey the red and green men.

Don’t cross the road wherever you fancy, use the pedestrian crossing, pedestrian crossings in Poland are always such fun. There are two types of crossing, those controlled by lights and those not controlled by lights. Let’s consider the latter type first. As long as you are on the crossing you have right of way and traffic must stop, unless it doesn’t of course.

Standing at the kerb, remember, the traffic’s coming from your left initially, you judge your moment and show your intention to cross by stepping out into the road. Oh yes, your average motorist isn’t going to stop for you, you have to step into the road, on the pedestrian crossing of course, to show your intent to cross, then you have right of way. However, if you have multiple carriageways to cross then cars on those carriageways that you are not currently on will whizz in front of or behind you as the case may be. This can be particularly unnerving for your average Brit who is so accustomed to the polite and thoughtful motorists to be encountered in the UK.

Right, this is the fun bit, crossings controlled by lights; these have two sub-divisions, those where you press a button, vainly thinking that it will have any effect, and those tied into traffic lights at major intersections.

Press the button. A light (on the more benign crossings) asks you to wait, so you wait for the red man to transform into a green man. And you are still waiting, there are no cars in sight, the road is empty but the red man must be obeyed. Eventually the red man blinks out and the green man shines enticing you to cross the road, which you do, looking left and right as you go just to convince yourself that there really isn’t any traffic in sight. Initially this is fairly infuriating for a Brit, used as we are to just popping across the road at the drop of a hat, crossing or no crossing but in Poland they do things differently and this standing at the kerb waiting for the green man to bid you cross the road is quite normal and after a while becomes almost satisfying in a strange sort of way. It’s like saying, “Look, I’m not a tourist!”, but I am of course, ah, but “they” don’t know that.

And finally, crossings tied into traffic lights at major intersections. There are no buttons to press here, just stand and wait for the red man to turn green. The road has three lanes of traffic going one way, two tram lines and three lanes of traffic going the other way, and as this is a major intersection there is lots of traffic so you bet your boots you’re going to stand and wait for the green man. Inevitably there is a lull in the traffic and you see on the far side of the crossing an intrepid soul who has taken their life into their hands and in spite of the angry glow of the red man they are making their way across, obviously a tourist. The red man changes to green, you start to cross, giving the tourist coming the other way a withering glance as you pass. One lane, two lanes, three, lanes, the tramway, the red man. Bugger! You stand and wait thinking, “Look at me, I’m definitely not a tourist”

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