22.02.2005 16:56 - Where\'s the Green Cross Code Man when you need him?
In England, people cross the road if the light is green, or if the light is red and there\'s nothing coming.
In Dublin, people just cross the road. It doesn\'t matter what the light says, or if the thing squeaks at you or not, if everyone else is crossing the road, you cross the road and the traffic has to wait.
In Germany, people just don\'t cross the road if the light is red.
They just DON\'T.
Couple this with the fact that German crossings seem to be set to change at literally three times the length of time of a UK crossing. This time seems to have been set to the exact length of time it takes for an Englishman to get pissed off.
Over Germany, you can find examples of completely deserted towns, empty of traffic, where you\'ll find someone standing at a crossing, waiting for the light to turn green. Once you have seen this, you will understand why Lenin once said \"There\'ll never be a revolution in Germany unless they have a book of rules on how to do it.\"
What is even more unbelievable is that if you start crossing when the lights are red EVEN THOUGH there\'s nothing coming, you will get amazed looks, shouts of disapproval, and in the case of one work colleague, you can be fined by the Polizei and get points on your driving licence. It also seems that my Anglo-Saxon impatience has rubbed off on the other half, who also (after spending two years in Dublin, I might add) has started crossing the road despite red lights.
Last week, I and my Anglo-Saxon impatience dared to cross a zebra crossing when there was nothing coming. At the opposite side, an old woman reacted in horror. \"Young Man!\" she screamed, \"Are you mad? Go back! You could be killed!\". (Obviously she screamed it in German, I\'m translating it for you here.) I was rather bemused by this, and looked round, just in case there was something I\'d missed - After five years here, I still occasionally forget that, in the immortal words of Michael Caine, \"In this country, they drive on the wrong side of the road\", and look left instead of right. Anyway, there was nothing coming. At all. I did consider doing a brief dance in the middle of the crossing, but I thought, why bother? The Old Dear was clearly terrified enough at this display of anarchy. Doubtless she\'s already written to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. \"Dear Editor, When I was a girl, Falling standards, foreigners in our streets, Hippies, anarchists, youth of today, blah blah blah dark days of the war, etc, Mr. Adenauer said...etc etc...\"
However, what is even more confusing is that the green light for you to cross isn\'t automatically followed by the traffic getting a red light and having to wait for you. In Germany, the traffic is obliged to allow people to cross the road when the crossing light is green, irrespective of the fact that the traffic also has a green light. This can be somewhat shocking for the average UK driver. It also doesn\'t work, as I once witnessed : A young woman crossing the road (legally, I might add) was hit by a driver. Both had green lights, but he was in the wrong, as he should have seen her and given way.
It doesn\'t help, in the busy metropolis that is Cologne, that there are bike lanes, and the cyclists seem to think that traffic lights do not apply to them, and happily zoom their way across busy intersections against the flow of traffic. It constantly amazes me how many people here seem to think that the laws of momentum can be superseded in favour of local traffic laws. Personally, I think that 1 tonne travelling at 60km/h is an argument that not even the best lawyer in the world can argue a way out of. But then I cross the road when there\'s a red light. Bloody foreigner.