Going with the flow
26 Oct 2009
He is the most ignored man youÕll ever meet. But two teams in Glasgow and Edinburgh decided to find out what would happen if you paid attention to The Red Man.Inspired by the Glasgow experience four architects from Smith Scott Mullan decided to try an identical experiment in Edinburgh as Rachel Simmonds recalls:
ÒSplit into two pairs, we planned a two mile route from our studio in Leith Walk ending in the west end at the bottom of Lothian Road. This passed through parts of Queen Street, Frederick Street, Princes Street, George Street and Charlotte Square.
ÒWith no idea of the times achieved in Glasgow we set out on our quest. The only constraints on our road hungry jaywalkers was not to vault over any tram barriers or scale the tempting Heras fences that currently line the good streets of Edinburgh.
ÒAt 5pm we were off and pretty much in unison until the first junction approached at which point our jaywalkers veered across Leith Walk and the race was on. Held back at most sets of lights the good citizens soon lost sight of their daredevil colleagues and they were last in view at the top of the walk taunting traffic with their wily moves.
ÒUndeterred by this the good citizens kept a steady pace and gained ground in the Queen Street section where many junctions are closed to traffic during the tram works. Unfortunately the crossing sequences were not in their favour and out of the 22 sets of traffic lights passed only two were at the green man as they approached. Further frustration was caused by many of the junctions being clear of traffic, but they stoically kept to the plan and resisted the temptation to cross. This led to many a strange look from the other pedestrians Ð all of whom appeared to be hardy jaywalkers. Still there was a sense of smugness as we tutted the unknown tourist who almost ended his visit to Edinburgh under a taxi.
ÒFinally after 48 minutes and 34 seconds the good citizens arrived at the final destination Ð only to find the jaywalkers had made it there in 38 minutes and 1 second and were halfway through their first pint in a nearby pub.
ÒSo our final times werenÕt up to the commonwealth standards of our Glasgow rivals but it just goes to show what weÕd always suspected Ð getting across Edinburgh during the festival is a nightmare.Ó
Team Smith Scott Mullan were
Good Citizens Ð Rachel Simmonds and Graham Acheson. Jaywalkers Ð Sylvia Horsburgh and John Lancaster
Seeing red is an increasingly common predicament for the 21st century commuter. But what is the impact of traffic lights on the humble pedestrian?
In truth itÕs a tough question as most simply ignore them in favour of jaywalking, so Prospect had an idea. How much would it actually add to journey times if you unquestioningly acquiesce to that luminous authority, the little red man?
To find out, two intrepid pavement pounders challenged each other to a race from Glasgow Cross to Charing Cross via High Street, Ingram Street, Queen Street, St Vincent Street and North Street, an obstacle course amounting to eighteen sets of lights.
On your marks, get set, GO! Our jaywalker got off to a great start at Glasgow Cross, where the complex junction seems to forget about the humble pedestrian altogether. While Mr Good Citizen succumbed to the red interjection of our first signal Ð causing an obstruction to other pedestrians who simply swarmed over him Ð Jaywalker disappeared into the distance.
He crossed at angles, when the urge took him, weaving in and out of traffic and taking real pleasure in subverting any routes which had been designated by road planners and their pedestrian barriers
Things began to look up for the signal troubled citizen on Ingram Street however with a succession of signal free junctions. Up St Vincent Street the two racers went Ð and although for a fleeting moment there was a sense that the Good Citizen might prove that crime really does not pay as far as jaywalking is concerned there was no way he could catch up with jaywalker Ð who arrived at the Mitchell Library (a distance of two miles) after 27min 20secs. Mr Good Citizen got there around 11 minutes later Ð 38min 11sec.
Okay, not a scientific trial. But it does make one wonder how practical the green man really is; particularly for the poor sods who depend on it Ð the elderly, the young and mothers with push chairs.
Read next: Pedestrian barrier
Read previous: Rediscovering the real Dundee
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