According to the English dictionary a pedestrian is a person travelling on foot, in other words a walker, a person who uses his/ her own feet as a mode of transportation. On the other hand, the same dictionary gives another definition for the term pedestrian: something undistinguished, ordinary, for instance when one uses the word in such phrases like pedestrian prose (in a way similar to cupboard literature). Each time I read these last words I can’t help but wonder what a stir they would generate among those who consider themselves pedigreed pedestrians (like myself, for instance). The explanation is always at hand: ‘undistinguished’ because ‘countless’ one may say; or ‘ordinary’ because there are so many that it would take too long to set an on going standard. As such, it is always a question of idleness. How many pedestrians are there? There are countless pedestrians, with countless faces and ordinary shoes. Consequently, when one says ‘pedestrian’ you imagine a sort of breed that is different from the rest of the world just because we use the term ‘pedestrian’ as a differentiating mark. You can say ‘dog’ to all the dogs in the world, on a daily basis, but sometimes you’ll have to specify what kind of dog (in the case of paranoid, self-obsessed dog owners). A person is included in a wider category while a pedestrian is automatically set in a category which is much more narrow than the former. Drivers are again a different species (nervous, angry people who are always late and have a lot of things on their mind). They usually use the non-pedestrian side of the city. I must admit that sometimes there is a sort of war between these two species. You know perfectly that in order to get on the other side of the road you need to use something which is called panda/ zebra/ pedestrian crossing. This is the zone in which a pedestrian is allowed to trespass the driver’s land and reach other promising landscapes. If the panda/ zebra crossing is institutionalised then a pedestrian is considered lucky because higher governmental bodies have made a peace treaty which allows the pedestrians to cross without being taken responsible for the drivers’ wasted time. However, institutionalised pandas are not always at hand and thus the pedestrian is forced to lurch and wait for the appropriate moment. If the moment is badly chosen, then the drivers usually howl making a powerful noise which signifies ‘wasted time on you’. There is also space for revenge: the ‘pedestrians only’ zone. Every driver who trespasses this zone can be easily frowned upon. This is a sort of pedestrian heaven with lots of space and no drivers to look out for. Pigeons can also be found in such places along with the signs which advise not to feed the pigeons. Cities without pigeons are morbidly obese.
Pedestrians are always more numerous than drivers because they tend to occupy less space. The package of metal which is attached to the driver’s body is sometimes oversized according to the social status of the owner. However, does that not mean that bus drivers are necessarily rich just because they drive huge cars, on the contrary. Out of all this, the conclusion is clear: drivers will always be outnumbered by pedestrians. As such, all cities are based on this breed of walkers which constitutes the energy basis. When pedestrians are nowhere to be seen a city is lost just like a body without red cells, without a heart to pump. Pedestrians carry the significance of a city.
Cities are themselves fantastic creatures. A hypnotic city has always been an important personage of my scenarios. A city like a maze, out of which you cannot escape because it has an inescapable beauty. A city is full of urban lust, it is an accumulation of sounds, smells. A collage of blurry images. No focal points, only the spicy smell of the city like a prostitute behind closed doors and heavily perfumed red rooms. An attractive city is a city you like to check out but not live in. The sole sensation given by the thought of having to experience it every single day is simply fatiguing. An attractive city is a pay-per-view show aired only once. It is effervescent, it shows its glitter only on a short period of time. A city which has become ‘home’ is no longer a city. At home you are no longer the pedestrian capable of alienation but you are rather the pedestrian incapable of alienation. A painful condition in which a city fades by becoming a womb. A majestic city gives the weird sensation that there are no people behind closed windows, that there are no souls behind closed doors. Only pedestrians swarming like bees, filling its streets.
Inside the pedestrian breed a further distinction can be made between trained and untrained pedestrians. Anyways, what makes a good pedestrian?
The Idiot’s Guide to Good Pedestrianism
First rule: Good, comfortable shoes, namely not new. A good pedestrian knows that new shoes are always uncomfortable. A pair of good snickers is a very good choice.
Second rule: A handy bag. A good pedestrian knows that bulging pockets just aren’t fashionable.
Third rule: A good digital camera, namely not cell phones with cameras. Cell phones with cameras are good only when you want to take a picture of your sleeping-snooring roommate. A pedestrian camera is a real camera because a good pedestrian knows that the sidewalk is always full of adventures and beauty. A pedestrian based culture is always visual.
Fourth rule: A map or a sidekick with a map. The location of the streets is always an important aspect of a city.
Fifth rule: A notebook and a pencil. A good pedestrian knows that important things must be taken down on the spot. Some may think that a good memory is enough but it is also known that written things have the capacity to maintain a sort of specificity which is grasped in the moment of writing. Things that catch our eye may seem different when preceded by a sum of impressions.
Sixth rule: Disposable clothes. The weather may change in the meantime: too hot or even too cold. A good pedestrian is always prepared for that.
Seventh rule: A calm spirit. A pedestrian based city needs a good pair of eyes in order to unleash its beauty. Without that a city is almost purposeless.
Eighth rule: Noble intentions. A good pedestrian knows to appreciate the mighty trash can. A trained pedestrian knows how to assess in a positive way the dirty steps of a famous building. Things are not made to last.
Ninth rule: Patience is a virtue. Buses and institutionalised panda crossings urge pedestrians to extreme patience. A good pedestrian is always patient because he knows that things do not depend entirely on him.
Tenth rule: A good friend, preferably of the same-sex. Conflicting interests do not make a good pedestrian trip.
The Mighty Rule: Pedestrians should never be green with envy on those keep-your-eyes-on-the-road drivers. Cities are made for pedestrians and not for drivers. Drivers have highways surrounded by corn fields.
Long live the pedestrian!