Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Green Man Means Go!

September 9th, 2010 · 6 Comments

Of all people in our Humanities Program, I may have had the most difficulty with adapting to the rules of the road in England. Now whether or not this is because I come from a small town in New Hampshire, I seem to be making a habit of nearly getting into a car accident almost daily. Despite the possibility that I could just be oblivious or thoughtless when crossing the street, I would rather not focus on that contentious topic. Instead I will take the time to compare the driving methods I have experienced in the U.S., specifically in New Hampshire, to London, England.

New Hampshire strictly follows the written law of stopping for all pedestrians in crosswalks. If caught breaking this law, the driver will receive a hefty fine. In regards to customary rules of the road though, to a large extent pedestrians and cyclists rule the road in New Hampshire. Even when pedestrians jaywalk and stroll across the street blissfully unaware of any possible danger, vehicles will stop (at least try to, let’s say). Additionally, in my small hometown of Hanover there is little road rage toward pedestrians and cyclists.

In regards to London though, the driving rules differ entirely. Of course it was a challenge adapting to looking left instead of right when crossing the road, but that was only an initial problem. Over these past two weeks, I have witnessed several drivers ignore red lights and many do not use their turn signals. This is not to say that there is a complete disregard for the written law though. It just seems that English people emphasize the observance of unwritten and widely accepted road rules instead. One significant principle is that it is the motorists and not the pedestrians who manage the traffic. Unless permitted to walk in the zebra crossing (crosswalk), people must remain on the sidewalk. I have learned that vehicles will maintain their speed if you try to bravely venture out into the road without heeding the walk signal. Furthermore, motorcyclists will rev their engines as soon as the traffic light turns green, ignoring the pedestrians attempting to cross the street at the last minute.

All in all, when in doubt—and when in London—follow this rule: “green man means go, red man means no.” The “green man” and “red man” of course refer to the walk signals for street crossing.

Walk Signal in England

In response to this blog, I would like to hear other people’s experiences with interacting with drivers in London, as well as their understanding of road rules at home in the United States.

Tags: 2010 Mary