From where I sit, here in Bella Roma, we are undecidedly into an unprecedented phase of global warming, but, I’m not complaining. It hasn’t rained in months. Each day, you wake up to another beautiful blue sky. It’s simply gorgeous. But, I remember a few year’s back, when the mercury hit well over 100 degrees for weeks. That was the infamous summer when the French declared that 8000 people had perished prematurely due to the heat. And where, we all believed the figure to be much higher here in Italy, but nobody ever coughed up the statistic.
It was that summer, though, where an innocuous law was passed, that came in like an Arctic Breeze.
It was the law, in an attempt to protect much, if not all, of its citizenry, which dictated that cars would have to stop when pedestrians entered the crosswalk. And, as a dog-walker, well, you can imagine my elation. Visions of Swiss villages danced in my head. New worlds, new civilizations – a chance to go where no man had gone before. And, I tested it out to the max. In Milan, where pretty much drivers regard anything in motion (including other cars and even large long metal trams) as something not unsimilar to ducks in a shooting gallery, well, I would step off the curb, and cars would come screeching to a halt.
It was wonderful. Sublime. The power back to the people. After all, who came first, man or machine?
It was also far too good to be true. Like a mirage in the desert, before even the heat lifted, and as you focused your eyes, drivers realized that no one was really looking (except those lame two-legged pedestrians). And, with no cops to enforce it, well, it wasn’t long before Filipinos pushing wheelchairs, and mammas with strollers, were back at it – playing a life & death version of dodge’em cars.
Here in Rome, it’s gotten to the point where cars, in order to make their illegal left turns, actually take to driving DOWN the white lines as if they, too, were pedestrians; shaking their fists all the while at any of us who deign to challenge the maneuver. I’ve pulled my little dog out of harm’s way on countless occasions; only to look up to find insults being hurled at me from the front window.
I find it slightly amusing, and actually quite intelligent, that the crosswalk signals flash green for ‘go’, but, almost a split-second later, start flashing yellow. Basically, they’re the Italian version of the Brits' charming 'Look Left' painted on every curbside. Except here, we're being warned: cross at your own risk.
Today they repainted the crosswalks. That’s after conducting a study that found that drivers didn’t respect the crosswalks because basically, they couldn’t actually see them.
But on my busy corner, where, the newly installed cameras must have shown the atrocities being committed at every single light change, well, they determined it was better to just ‘not go there’ and repainted the crosswalk simply black.