June 11, 2007

British spatial incapacity I've now been at Cardiff for a week. The weather has been lovely (I don't know why people say it always rains here; in fact, nearly always when I'm in the UK it is clear and sunny). My hosts are smart, kind, and engaging. One's wife, an artist, Ute, generously spent her Saturday showing me around the coast, some lovely hiking trails, quite remarkable large hills scattered with sheep, as well her art and the school where she teaches (founded, or taken from the monks by, Henry VII; I was impressed). Nonetheless, I am starting to get cranky. I am particularly cranky, actually, irrationally incensed, by the total and complete inability of the British to navigate social space. When I complained to a political theorist about it last night (one who is from Sussex but lived the last 18 odd years in LA), she said, something to the effect of 'quite right; the British think an intersection is something to stand in the middle of.' More specifically, there is a marvelous trail (actually walkway) alongside a river that goes through Cardiff. It starts in Bute Park, near Cardiff Castle. Yesterday, walkers, runners, and cyclists were enjoying the sunny day. The walkers and cyclists were often comprised of families with small children. The walk/trail is rather narrow. So, having all three groups successfully share the space is rather challenging under the best of circumstances. Yet, the British make it infinitely more difficult by refusing to adopt even the most sensible of...
British confusion: pedestrians, sidewalks, and 'a jumble mess' I am not alone in lamenting the challenges facing pedestrians in Great Britain. Phil Gyford has a post about this very issue. The comments indicate as well the general inability of the British properly to navigate social space (one associates it with the decline of the British Empire). Here are a couple of examples: Having been in the UK - though not as extensively as someone who might, you know, live there - I can't be certain if the same holds true but in reverse. All I remember of my last few trips to London was that there were a metric buttload of pedestrians, and that looking at them move around for a sufficiently long period of time yielded no pattern, only a jumble mess of walking (“sufficiently long” in this case is like, 45 seconds). --Gilbert Many North American cities have large areas of parkland with trails running through them. These trails are used by some people to get exercise at lunchtime or to commute to and from work, using rollerblades, bikes and if you are far enough north, cross country skiing. The peaceful coexistence, of joggers, walkers, cyclists and rollerbladers encourages the observence of convention with regard to walking on one side. Watch people in Londons Hyde park, one of the few parks where cycling is encouraged in London, and you will see there is less convention. --Richard Having just got back from Croatia where they drive on the right, I became conscious that people did walk of...

Jodi Dean

Jodi Dean is a political theorist.

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