Crossing The Street in UB Should not be an Adventure Sport

By Elizabeth Bryning

When I moved to UB I knew I was in for some excitement, but I didn’t know that I would soon embark on a new adventure sport: street crossing.
Let me make something clear. I don’t like adventure sports. I don’t want to dangle from a bridge by an ankle, I refuse to intentionally swim with predatory animals and I don’t want to throw myself out of an airplane. Actually, I have participated in the last “sport”. As a foolish youth I allowed a friend to convince me that jumping out of a plane would be fun. I stood at the doorway of the plane looking down at the tiny dots that were trees and I knew it was a terrible idea. Why would anyone jump out of a perfectly good airplane? I only went through with it because it was a tandem jump, which meant I was attached to a skydiving instructor who pried my fingers off the door frame and pushed me out of the plane with his body. I screamed, with my eyes squeezed shut, for the entire freefall and only relaxed when the parachute opened and we floated gently down to the earth, the beautiful, solid earth. This experience convinced me that adventure sports should not be forced on people. If others want to risk their lives – be my guest. Not me.
Alas, in UB, this street crossing adventure sport is forced on us.
Here in UB most drivers don’t seem to know the road rules, so the pedestrians, in our efforts to survive a street-crossing experience, have to disobey all the rules we learned as children about how to cross a road safely. We run, we turn around half-way across the road and run back the way we came, we jump over obstacles (including fellow pedestrians who have been mowed down by the crowd), we skate across the ice on the roads in winter, and sometimes we cross when the pedestrian light is red – because it can occasionally be safer than crossing when the light is green.
Why does it have to be this way? It’s really not fun for anyone, and terrifying for most people, especially the elderly. In my first winter here, I was waiting beside the road, watching for an opening in the endless flow of traffic, stretching my leg muscles in preparation for my 50 metre sprint, when I felt a small hand curl around my arm. I looked down and found a tiny old woman, dressed in a beautiful blue deel, looking around in terror. We crossed the road together at a speedy pace, sliding over the ice, dodging the buses, swerving around the SUVs. We made it safely across the road and, smiling in relief, nodded to each other and went our separate ways. But I never stopped worrying about that old lady … what if there was nobody to help her at the next crossing?
There are a few basic road rules and some etiquette the drivers in this city need to learn:
1. Pedestrians have a right to cross the road. Yes, we too have a right to get to where we are going.
2. When the light is red, it means stop. I know it’s a difficult concept to grasp, but please try.
3. When you’re turning right at a corner, the pedestrian who is crossing that road you’re turning into has right of way when the pedestrian light is green. Yes! Someone on foot has right of way. Again, I understand that this must be hard to grasp.
4. Those stripes across the road, known in some English-speaking countries as “zebra crossings” – because of the stripes (geddit), are places for pedestrians to cross the road. Cars have to stop at these crossings when people are waiting to cross the road. Yes, I know there’s no red light here to guide you. That’s what the stripes are for. Yes, difficult concept again. Please try to keep up.
5. If a car stops in front of you to let a pedestrian cross the road, don’t honk your horn and yell abuse. It really doesn’t help. What is the car in front of you supposed to do? Mow down the pedestrian so that you can get to your destination a few seconds faster?
6. Pedestrians are soft and squishy, unlike your rock-hard vehicles. It will not end well if your car collides with a pedestrian. And your car will get all bloody. So slow the hell down and look out for people trying to cross the road.
I know that these are all very difficult things to understand. It might help if more people actually sat an exam for their driver’s licences, instead of just buying one. Just a suggestion.
It’s astounding that even those people who, one assumes, must have a legitimate driver’s licence for their job don’t seem to know the rules. The driver of a car marked with the logo of a certain international development organization with its headquarters in New York almost squashed me the other day, and he had the nerve to look offended when I glared at him in disgust! He should really know better. Or perhaps this organization doesn’t check the driver’s licences of its drivers before hiring them?
If anyone wants to get out of their car and join this adventure sport, please feel free to join the “fun”. But be warned, it really is hazardous to your health. Oh, and if you’re not using your car, please lend it to me, I want out of this sport.

Short URL: http://ubpost.mongolnews.mn/?p=1966

Posted by on Nov 23 2012. Filed under Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

3 Comments for “Crossing The Street in UB Should not be an Adventure Sport”

  1. Basically, you want people to obey the rules that you “think” they should obey and you’re quite churlish, condescending and rude when they don’t. You write like a mother scolding her 2 year old.

    If the police of Mongolian –a sovereign nation (geddit?)– thought these rules were important they’d enforce them. The country, the city and the people don’t belong to you.

  2. I was hit the other day outside the state dept store. On the crosswalk. the driver actually got out afterward and chased me!..for what?..leaving a mark on his car?
    The cops are idiots and couldnt care less..I want to get a gun and shoot these a-holes. someone has to start standing up for our rights. why dont western countries (and embassies here) insist on law and order as a pre-requisite for aid programes?.Mongols are such cowards!

  3. Nicely articulated. But only one side of the story. Traffic Rules (or “suggestions” in UB’s context) are equally applied to jaywalkers as well. There are numerous times I have to dodge these bodies in places/at times they are not supposed to be in… walking literally as if in a public park. Not just that, while being pedestrian myself, waiting on red-lights; seeing other pedestrians (mostly locals) continue crossing on red light, disrupting a traffic (not to mention putting their limbs at risk) is just a blatant disregard to public rules.

    Anyways, both drivers and pedestrians MUST have a mutual respect to traffic RULES (not suggestions) and each other, or no one is getting anywhere, except towards more chaos. And most importantly, why no one in transport ministry has yet thought of traffic cameras? Install traffic cameras, impose hefty fines, and you will soon see the change happening. That’s what is needed at this point- a massive kick on the backside of traffic-rules-offenders!

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