You can tell a lot about a city by the way it treats its pedestrians

Sound Off: Mark O’Connell on life as a Dublin pedestrian

Mark O’Connell: ‘If Ulysses were set in 2018, somewhere between 150 and 200 pages would just be the two main guys standing around at pedestrian crossings waiting for the green man to make an appearance’

Mark O’Connell: ‘If Ulysses were set in 2018, somewhere between 150 and 200 pages would just be the two main guys standing around at pedestrian crossings waiting for the green man to make an appearance’

 

You can tell a lot about a city by the way it treats its pedestrians. Dublin seems at best indifferent to its ambulatory underclass, at worst actively hostile. If Ulysses were set in 2018, somewhere between 150 and 200 pages would just be the two main guys standing around at pedestrian crossings waiting for the green man to make an appearance, grumbling about the ineluctable modality of the traffic. Getting to my local Centra or ATM, for instance, involves crossing a fairly busy street, and my back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest I spend roughly the equivalent of six working weeks per year waiting to cross it.

The lag time between pressing the button that signals your intention to walk across the street and actually getting to do so is fantastically, mind-bogglingly expansive. I sometimes wonder whether it would be worth my while incorporating some kind of meditative practice into the waiting time.

Green man

But here’s the thing: it’s an unwise pedestrian who takes his eyes off the ball at a Dublin crossing, because no sooner does the green man show up than you’re getting hustled out of the way by his officious amber colleague and your chance to cross has dwindled to naught. I am a relatively sprightly man in his 30s – I have no idea how old people, or people with mobility difficulties, manage to negotiate this pedestrian dystopia.

And this isn’t just a quirk of my local pedestrian crossing. It’s a widespread phenomenon anywhere outside of the city centre – where, by the way, crossings are often so crowded that you’re in danger of being forced into the street. Someone should inform the powers that be, whoever they are, about these things other cities have called zebra crossings. But then again, giving pedestrians right of way might encourage exactly the kind of antisocial non-car-based activity they seem intent on wiping out.

Mark O'Connell has been shortlisted for the 2018 Wellcome Book Prize for his book To Be a Machine

Do you have something you’d like to Sound Off about? Email 300 words to magazine@irishtimes.com with Sound Off in the subject line

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.