Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Pedestrians and Drivers - near the beginning

I came across this comment on the tensions between drivers and pedestrians in a Ralph Connor novel from 1928, Treading the Winepress [Perhaps I'll do another post on Connor himself as I've been writing about him lately and many are unlikely to recall one of Canada's most famous writers - and geniunely so - who is now forgotten].

Here is Connor as narrator on drivers and pedestrians:

'There is a natural antipathy between the motorist and the pedestrian. The antagonism is rooted in the whole social system of our day. To the pedestrian, the motorist is a plutocrat and parasite, a burden upon the toiling masses, and a menace to their very existence, more especially when they walk abroad to take the air. To the motorist, the pedestrian is a mere trap and snare, and, as well, a cumberer of the king's highway; a thing to be removed. Hence, the shrill honk of the motor horn, a signal which the unwary pedestrian must heed with the utmost despatch and without parley, fills him with impotent wrath. It is vain to argue with a motor car hurtling through space, and it is infinitely better to be alive, wrong, than dead, right.' (p. 21)

I love the way this captures so much of road culture before cars were commonplace and entirely accepted. There is still a sense here of motorcars as luxury goods, of oddities of the rich and pushy. It is almost, now, as if he is speaking of bicyclists and pedestrians on walking trails - the shared space, having to move away for the silly cyclists who come hurtling down the pathway, ringing their bells and daring those in their way not to get out of it.

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