Thu 12 Jun 2008 70 °F
In Istanbul, as in most cities, a pedestrian learns to never assume the next dance of a car: whether it will screech to a halt or stumble forward across a busy road, whether its driver will turn at the next boulevard or instead suddenly reverse into a newly open parking space, whether a jutting mirror or bumper will contact your knee. That the cars will stay on the road is the most common reality, but even that may not be the immediate future.
And the pedestrians most certainly do not stay on the sidewalk. If the object is to reach the next block, then the path is any route that will reach, regardless of law or obstacle. The sidewalk seems to exist only as a front stoop to the shops that line it. A cafe table, two friends talking, a step up to a shop, or an outright and dangerous hole — all are simply observed by the pedestrian, and avoided by walking into the street.
The only truth that holds is that no driver really wants to hit a pedestrian, and no pedestrian really wants to be run over. Observation, intuition, and action win out over regulations, ethics, and aesthetics. Confidence, on both sides, wins the game. The worst thing you can do as a pedestrian is move suddenly out of fear.
The rules are simple: assume nothing, don’t panic, and don’t be stupid.
[dateline Istanbul, Turkey]