Another great idea that got lost: Most pedestrians shouldn't be let out on the street

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The Independent Online
It's pretty simple, I would have thought. Move your right foot forward. Move your left foot forward. Repeat as necessary. But London is full of people who don't know how to walk. Take a trip to Oxford Street and see for yourself. It's like stock car racing without the cars.

People coming towards you will knock into you. People passing will leave you quaking in their slipstream - and then they'll cut across your path so you trip over. Every so often, someone will stop dead in front of you. Nasty hard-edged men will crash their nasty hard-edged briefcases into your knees. You'll be eased into the path of passing taxis. You'll be trampled. You'll be stampeded. You'll be lucky to survive.

Let's be charitable and say some of this is due to bad planning. London isn't a city designed for pedestrians. It's not designed at all. The traffic sits marinading in diesel fumes, while pedestrians slug it out on tiny ribbons of uneven pavement at either side.

Under ground, things are worse. Signs command you to keep right, when your every inclination as a Briton is to do the opposite.

Friction is inevitable at lunchtime as Londoners with precisely 59 minutes to get to the bank, the M&S food hall, the travel agents, the dry cleaners, the pub and back to the office find progress impeded by a coach party from Swindon, a group of Norwegian tourists in identical cagoules, a young woman so gripped by her new Jeffrey Archer that she has to read it as she walks, a youth eating a hamburger, fries and a Coke on the hoof , several dozen English language students handing out cards to potential English language students and a legion of lost souls who go out into the streets to smoke because they're not allowed to do it anywhere else.

This vigorous street life is why it takes a certain awareness of other people to be a good pedestrian in London. But you haven't got that awareness if your head is swivelling around staring at all the things you don't get back in Trondheim and you are struggling to support a rucksack the size of Malawi. You haven't got it if you're holding hands with the one you love and thinking beautiful thoughts. You haven't got it, if, like most of us, your mind and gaze are permanently stuck in the middle distance.

As London pedestrians, we are in an advanced state of alienation. Our feet are walking, but our thoughts are elsewhere: on what Dave said last night, on a missing file, on a lost opportunity, on the way to the pub, on a beach in the Algarve.

Anyone can be a pedestrian: you don't have to take a test. It would be nice, however, if people would try a bit harder. Nothing too complicated: just be aware of others. Anticipate.

People walking around are the lifeblood of a city; it's just a pity that in our case it's full of clots.

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