Split Second Zebra 

Split Second Zebra

Cycling home today on one of my more frequented routes, I spotted something curious. Along one small patch of tar had been painted a white lane dividing line and a zebra crossing, complete with the “Pedestrian Crossing” signs with the hunchbacked stick figures posted on each side. Never mind the potholes which are rapidly degenerating into Category 10 potstrips in Harare’s rainy season. Never mind the increasingly non-functioning traffic lights. Never mind the open pipes which gush water onto the roads even when it hasn’t been raining. No, the city had chosen to spend its negligible funds replanting dented, second-hand pedestrian crossing signs on a heavily trafficked road on which cars travel in excess of 80kph. This despite the fact that Harare drivers show flagrant disregard for pedestrian crossings at the best of times. And there are no shops, schools, hospitals, or other readily discernable reason for there to be such a crossing at this particular place on the road.

However, the new crossing does happen to be near the Police Golf Club. And a stone’s throw from the mayor’s mansion—currently inhabited by Harare’s non-elected illegal commissioner.

Seeing this new zebra crossing reminded me of a traffic accident I’d had some years back. Generally, I cycle everywhere. If I don’t cycle, I use ET’s—Emergency Taxis, the main form of public transport in which 16 passengers are crammed by hustling hwindis into mini-vans whose roadworthiness is questionable at best. However, for a short term, I was the proud driver of Stevie, a VW Beetle older than myself.

One rainy morning I went to take Stevie out of her shared garage, and found my fellow garage occupant wanting to sweep out the place. So I helped him, and chatted with him a bit. But I didn’t linger longer as the organisation I was then working for had a newsletter deadline I had to meet that day.

Driving down Tongogara Ave, I was myself about to go through one of those pedestrian crossings when I saw a woman and two children start to dash across the road. I braked too swiftly out of deference for them, and as punishment for my sins was rear-ended by a middle aged man talking on his cell phone in his new model SUV. On the rain-slicked pavement his brakes didn’t have a chance. Stevie [engine at the rear] was finished. The SUV [bull bar across the front grill] was barely dented. I spent the next two hours dealing with the traffic police, filing the report, and getting the Beetle towed to a garage. It would be six months before all the parts were imported and Stevie was back on the road. Later that day, I found out that the head of the my organisation had decided the previous day to cancel the newsletter, but had waited to inform me.

The entire incident made me think of that German film Run, Lola, Run. The split second difference in timing that can result in a fatal shoot out at the convenience store being averted. Or not. What if I’d known the newsletter had been cancelled and hadn’t been in such a rush? A few minutes later, I would not have been hit. What if my neighbour had not chosen that morning to sweep out the garage? A few minutes earlier, I wouldn’t have been hit.

But I was hit. And I’m back on my bike. Wondering just how many cars will ever bother to stop at this new poorly located pedestrian crossing.

Return to Main Page


Comment when you say it like that it makes a lot of sense

Wed Apr 5, 2006 2:18 pm MST by bob stevens

Comment when you say it like that it makes a lot of sense

Wed Apr 5, 2006 1:53 pm MST by bob stevens

Comment I know I'm off topic but today is the best day as she has said

Mon Apr 3, 2006 3:44 pm MST by tim smith

Add Comment

Search This Site

Syndicate this blog site

Powered by BlogEasy

Free Blog Hosting