Perspectives on Poland: The Overconfident Pedestrian

I’ve never thought of myself as an overconfident pedestrian. If anything, living in Poland has turned me into a starkly petrified pedestrian, but according to a new road safety campaign, it turns out I’m as naïve as a boy scout at a cross-dressing convention. The campaign, which consists of a series of gritty 30-second slots on television and cinema screens, has driven my already elevated road paranoia to unprecedented heights. As far as I can make out, the message to pedestrians is that going anywhere near a moving car is pretty much certain death; and that it will mostly be your fault.

Deputy Infrastructure Minister Radosław Stepień has been reported as hoping that the campaign will stop pedestrians placing “absolute trust in drivers”. I don’t know exactly what “deputy infrastructure” is or how vital a role it plays in the life of the nation, but I’m hoping Mr. Stepień has a firmer grasp of his day job than he does of the situation on Poland’s roads. Any sane person who’s had more than five minutes’ experience of crossing roads in Poland places about as much trust in Polish drivers as a bucket of plankton does in a blue whale. Most of them seem convinced that using a brake pedal is immeasurably more hazardous and time consuming than multiple manslaughter.

My favourite of these mini horror movies is the one about the pedestrian crossing. As in all of them, a ghostly ex-pedestrian tries vainly to warn some poor sap that assuming drivers have an aversion to human viscera on their windscreens is a foolish premise. Mr. Sap conscientiously waits for the traffic to stop and sensibly sets off onto the pedestrian crossing. Halfway over, he is tossed 20 metres into the air by a driver so dense that the sight of a pedestrian crossing with a car stopped in front of it completely fails to ring any alarm bells. If I hadn’t seen the very same situation for myself, I would refuse to believe people that stupid are capable of breathing, let alone operating machinery. Then I saw it twice more on the news.

What leaves me slack-jawed with astonished incomprehension is that the campaign is aimed at pedestrians and not at drivers. Surely, in any sane universe, the ghost should be in the car talking to the moron who thinks those black and white lines on the road are there for decoration. The message to me, the pedestrian, is that drivers will kill me, even, or perhaps especially, if I’m sensibly and legally crossing the road on a pedestrian crossing. In other words: if there’s anything you want on the other side of any road from where you are right now, just forget about it, or buy a car and drive there.

Jamie Stokes also writes for Polandian.

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