I have to say one of the fun things about walking the streets in another country is seeing how different the street markings are. You think you are educated, that maybe as humans most things having to do with everyday life would be similar in another country, or at least you would just, well, magically have a clue. It would be natural to press a crosswalk button and the drivers would stop and well, natural progression right. No matter what country you are in, nothing is consistent with street markings. Even in states in the US, and many cities, everything is different. You would think that cities of the world would have conventions for city planning, that one oxymoron that all continents have in common, that they would figure out a system that the least amount of people got hit in a crosswalk over. Maybe that’s what it was in Glasgow.
On my first day in Glasgow I was hitting the streets. Several airports and flights made my motor go, I just needed to walk. So I did. I was lucky, most people were at work by 10 am and not too much traffic was out. Practicing the look right, not left first and right-hand drive awareness started right away. I came to my first crosswalk and started reading and observing. Hmmm, street markings are so different in the UK, and yeah, to be honest they make more sense than some of the American or Canadian ones. But hmmm, how did this crosswalk work? Press button, watch signal. Wow, it’s like an all stop before you walk signal. Okay, kinda cool, make everyone be aware that a human is about to cross. That signal is taking a long time. Drivers are sitting and glaring at me, but we all have red. Erm, what am I doing wrong? Oh, wait, no one in Glasgow obeys the rules with the traffic signals? Okay cross with green. Whew.
Next intersection was a crazy curvy thing that reminded me of some San Francisco streets I knew, only older and more fun. Okay, sit on bench nearby and watch people, see what’s going on. Yup, it’s like a herd of sheep or coos, watch 20 people cross in Glasgow and it’s all jumping the red-light walker gun. So, these people must drive, too, on occasion and think, well I would hate to be waiting at the light for pedestrians, or is it more a, “Who cares?”, mentality. The latter. So I started to join the groups, worked to the middle of them, figuring I wouldn’t be the only one hit, and survived. I mean I do hate sticking out like a tourist, but with my really curly, long reddish hair, I stick out regardless.
Why did I hesitate in the first place? Really, I feared getting some citation. The system to cross was so ordered and well thought out that I thought this must be a serious rule. Silly me, I was in Glasgow. Who follows rules there?
When you visit another country, have a sit down in a cafe and watch people. You should do this regardless, understand how people navigate their world there, don’t be the confused salmon going against the run. I know, you are an American, we do that. We feel I “Have to be me”. That’s great, but sometimes it’s better to go with the flow until you can have a chat in a cafe with a Glaswegian or other local. Yeah, ask,”So at traffic signals, no one obeys the rules?”.
If you are traveling to the UK, you should familiarize yourself with the street and traffic signs. It’s crazy enough adapting to right-hand drive, left-side of road thinking when you are from the Americas, but it will be better if you do. You may also decide to do a hire car situation and should know that the signs are oh-so-different and not to just bumble along. Once you get the hang of it, it can be kind of fun.
In Dublin, they really make you look right, even have it painted. Can you tell they get too many tourists? You should start practicing the look right in traffic the minute you get off the plane.
Watch others cross, see how they do it. Just don’t do deer in headlights halfway through. No one like that, and you will get glares and horns. Pick up small children, don’t teach them to walk a crosswalk while traffic is going on.
Thinking of driving in Ireland, check out the manual for road signs and markings before you hire a car.