There are pedestrian crossings all over the place in São Paulo, but in all their various formats, the car remains king. Even when the crossing has traffic lights and a little green man sign to show that you are allowed the cross, there will often be a car or bus on the crossing making it difficult to get to the other side.
Until recently everyone just accepted this as the normal way things are. Then the State changed the rules and introduced penalties for:
- Motorists who park on or block crossings with their vehicle when in traffic.
- Motorists who don’t give priority to pedestrians at a crossing – basically you have to let people cross, they have the priority over cars now!
But the rules changed only recently so they are mostly ignored. Of course the most dangerous crossings are the ‘zebra’ ones where there are no lights, just black and white lines painted in the road. It annoys me when I go to one of these crossings and stand there watching car after car zoom past me ignoring the fact that I am supposed to have priority over them.
Recently a taxi nearly hit me when I stepped into a crossing expecting him to stop. The driver swore at me and fortunately I was carrying a large open carton of fresh mixed fruit juice. I chucked it at him and though I failed to get it through his window, it went all over the side of his car. He drove off.
And yesterday as I waited to cross, a pedestrian next to me was annoyed that the cars were not stopping, so he chucked a plastic bottle full of mineral water at a big SUV that was sailing past us. The car stopped and the driver didn’t know what to do – probably fearing some violent attack. He drove off.
I’m not advocating that pedestrians should be going armed, ready to launch juice at cars who don’t stop, but the frustration is getting unbearable. Who is actually getting fined for ignoring the rules because I’ve not heard about a single case yet – though I have heard about fatalities at pedestrian crossings, because people are now expecting the cars to stop.
Pedestrians are going to start taking the law into their own hands if motorists continue to ignore the new rules.