So, on Friday afternoon, having completed a couple of business meetings in the Cape Town central business district, I was driving east on the N2 (one of the major, 6-lane highways (3-outgoing / 3-incoming) in South Africa). Most weekdays, in order not to be caught in end-of-workday, nightmarish traffic jams, one must depart the city by 3pm in the afternoon at the latest. Since this was a Friday, I arranged my meetings to be able to leave by 2pm and figured I’d be OK.
Less than five minutes after getting on the N2, traffic ground to a standstill. I was heading to Somerset West. In the best of times when there is very light traffic, this is a 50-60 minute drive. If this continued, I was thinking that I might have time for a glass of wine before going to bed; forget dinner! All I could think was that there must have been some horrific traffic accident up ahead. About 30 minutes and 2 kilometers later I saw the problem.
In the middle of the N2, surrounded by three police vehicles and six or so officers and blocking two of the three lanes of traffic, lay an obviously, very dead individual. The giveaway was the fact that the very still body had been entirely covered with a blanket. No doubt it was a “hit-and-run”. I began to think about it; not so much about the tragedy which of course it was! But, rather, the fact that it doesn’t happen more often.
Don’t know how many of you may have observed a pedestrian in Africa walking (or ambling) in city environments; if you have, you’ll appreciate this: Wherever a pedestrian is walking, he or she has the right of way; traffic be damned! The drivers are expected to yield. And, these pedestrians have real “attitudes” about it. Best not to say anything in such situations. They get cross very easily and may just stop ambling altogether—blocking your ability to move. Traffic lights are meaningless to them; crosswalks are mere “suggestions”!
Some obviously think this even applies to crossing major highways where traffic is traveling at speeds of 100 kilometers/hour+! At least when trying to cross such major thoroughfares most don’t amble, but at least break into a jog. And, most wait until they can (or are pretty certain they can) make it to the other side in one piece and in one go.
That said, I have seen some do it one lane at a time! Yes, that’s right; they find a break in the first lane of traffic and make it to the white dividing line between the first and second lanes where they stand (with cars, trucks, buses, etc whizzing by them on both sides and at breakneck speeds. There, on that, what, maybe 5 centimeter wide stripe they stand and wait for a break in the second lane to cross, at which time they repeat the process for lane three. And, if successful, they make it to the middle of the highway. Then, of course, they have to repeat the process for the next three lanes!
You just have to wonder what they can possibly be thinking. But, then again, maybe that’s the problem!