David Randall: New York, New York – one helluva slow-moving town

Four corners of the world

Share
Related Topics

New Yorkers have a reputation for busting about the place, barely tolerating anyone who gets in their way. Not for nothing is this the archetypal Manhattan gag – Tourist: "Excuse me, how do you get to Carnegie Hall?" New Yorker (without breaking step): "Practice, lady, practice." No nonsense, no niceties, no time – just rush, rush, rush.

It now gives me great pleasure to reveal that this picture of the pressured, high-speed metropolis may be mere myth. According to a study by New York's planning department, walkers there average a fraction under 3mph – considerably slower than the average adult pedestrian's pace of about 4.3mph.

This figure has surfaced in reports about ill-tempered confrontations between pedestrians in what New York media are calling "sidewalk rage", the latest in a long line of similarly identified modern behaviours such as "road rage", "air rage", "bike rage", "trolley rage", etc. These days, it seems, belligerence cannot simply be bad manners, but has to be granted the status of a quasi-condition, as if the cause were not a lack of self-control or consideration, but something external. It's also an attempt to make the trivial seem significant, an example of the dread influence of sociology whereby, in this case, a bit of commonplace argy-bargy is elevated into a social phenomenon.

The past had no need for similar categorisations, otherwise historians would be churning out books on such things as "sedan-chair rage", "cloister rage" and, from my parents' era, "antimacassar rage" – the annoyance caused by Brylcreemed men not using the things.

* An important part of the solution to African poverty is, you might think, building successful industries. Something, in fact, like Equatorial Guinea has done with oil, the extraction of which brings in $4bn a year to a country of just 650,000 people. These revenues are one reason why EG has, according to the CIA World Factbook, an average per capita income of US$37,900 (£23,315), almost identical to the level of wealth enjoyed by Belgians. Lucky old Equatorial Guineans, eh? Well, not quite. For such is the extent of corruption there that, while President Obiang is the eighth-richest leader in the world, all but a handful of the population are so poor that one in six children die before the age of five, and one in three people die before 40.

Mind, there are countries with worse records in child health. Angola has the world's worst infant mortality rate. And what else? A booming oil industry, producing more barrels than any other African country save Nigeria. These are things to remember the next time we hear from some corporate suit about how their investment is bringing wealth to some "poor" country.

* A sense of irony – or even of perspective – has never been a strong suit of the public relations industry. Even so, it was with some surprise that, as I pondered the present revolutionary spirit, fleeing presidents and potentates and their numbered bank accounts, what should drop into my inbox but a press release from VisitBritain. It announced its new drive to bring to the UK "High Net Worth individuals, wealthy people with more than $1m in disposable funds". If they are interested, our own Robert Fisk could provide the names of very wealthy men from north Africa and surrounding parts who may shortly need somewhere to go to at short notice.

* China's attitudes to freedom of information may still be what you could call a work in progress, but here is a small sign of change. A friend who runs a highly regarded training scheme in Britain told me that he had, on a recent course, the daughter of Beijing's chief censor. What was she training to be? A journalist.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£26000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is Europe's indust...

Recruitment Genius: Engineering Technician

£17020 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Aerospace company is looki...

Recruitment Genius: Company Bookkeeper

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Bookkeeper is required to joi...

Recruitment Genius: Site Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Due to growth this company is seeking two Site...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Theresa May  

The Government is about to encourage landlords to discriminate against anyone with a foreign name

Samir Jeraj
 

No more big characters or Tory clowns like Boris Johnson. London desperately needs a boring mayor

Rachel Holdsworth
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen