From the Archives: December 29th, 1873
The plight of Dublin’s pedestrians in the winter dark
The traffic of foot-passengers [pedestrians] and vehicles in some of the streets of this city is scarcely less considerable for some hours after night-fall than in the busiest portion of the day-time. Every country train disgorges a large contingent of travellers to join the street-throng either on foot or in conveyances of one kind or another.
At the different hours of closing of the various workshops and houses of business, crowds of artizans and shopmen augment the movement; and later on a torrent of carriages, cabs, and pedestrians is loosed from the doors of theatres and other places of amusement. The crossings, of which Dublin has the unenviable privilege of possessing some of the most bewildering and dangerous with which we are acquainted, become at these junctures extremely perilous to the wayfarer, more especially if he is infirm or unwary. Our worthy drivers, not distinguished even in early morning for their love of caution, have not been improved in that respect by the frequency with which they have thought it necessary to satisfy their thirst during the course of the day, and feel rather inclined to be freaky. That under these circumstances accidents are not more numerous than they are must be ascribed to the pedestrian nimbleness to which the long practice of avoiding danger has habituated Dubliners.
Those who have not acquired the faculty of dodging under a horse’s head, or backing with the requisite rapidity, must hug the kerbstone until their ears inform them that there is no prancing charioteer in the vicinity close enough to intercept a rush across the road-way. Often have we thus seen paterfamilias with his helpmate and little ones . . . peering apprehensively into the void before him, ere he ventures forth into the unknown. If he is to wait at a busy crossing until his sense of hearing tells him that no vehicle is near, he must wait till the small-hours; so when there is a pause . . . he steps briskly on, perhaps to be startled by seeing a cab or an “outside” loom suddenly on his vision out of the obscurity, a couple of feet from the charge he is convoying.
Apparently there is no means of having the regulation put in force which provides that drivers are to wait at crossings for the convenience of foot-passengers. The law being a dead letter, the next best thing to do is to furnish foot-passengers with some means of judging when it is convenient for drivers to allow them to pass. For this purpose we would strongly recommend that every driver be obliged to provide his vehicle with two lamps, one on each side . . . This means of preventing accidents has long been employed all over the Continent with the best results. In many places owners of vehicles are obliged, as an additional precaution, to attach bells . . . Warning of approach may be given by two senses at once.
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