Flights of Faith

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Thinking Pedestrian

Foreigners usually develop signature acts after staying in an area for awhile. Some behavior that is unique to you that wasn’t before. While I haven’t discovered all of these actions, one has been quite startling.

Breaking traffic laws. I regularly jaywalk and walk without the green stamp of approval. It’s not that I’m super busy. I just don’t like following a computerized being when I can see the road clearly for myself, often openly waiting for people to defy the traffic light with their steps and common sense.

Now, I can understand Jerusalemites’ concerns. This is a city, despite the stereotype, where you’re more likely to die from a traffic accident than a terrorist attack. But this isn’t just some run of the mill, crunch the numbers, tourist friendly statistic (though, it operates that way too.) The ministry of transportation has said that the tremendous number of traffic accidents makes them an embarrassment to the world.

I believe it’s a mix of fear and respect for order that keeps Jerusalemites waiting for something to tell them to act when they can already see the situation for themselves.

But when someone takes that first step into revolution braving the potential crash, people follow. It happens all the time when I’m out on the streets. I walk up to a huddled crowd, make my way to the front, observe the current situation, and walk when it’s safe. After I hit the third white line on the crosswalk, both groups cautiously step onto the street. Exchanging places, the sides usually have completed their journey before the little green man says go.

Of course, I don’t think my flashy kicks or cool persona pressured them to walk with me (although it’s a possibility). The crosswalk phenomenon is a classic sociology study that finds when one braves the danger of acting (and thinking) differently, others follow similarly despite the risks not decreasing for the first few followers. Ultimately though, the movement creates its own street with walkers able to stand up to the more powerful cars with little risk.

So, will you walk with me?


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