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?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: FP&A Analyst -Home Entertainment

£250 - £300 per day: Sauce Recruitment: (Rolling) 3 month contractA global en...

Recruitment Genius: Sales and Account Manager - OTE £80,000+

£40000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Ashdown Group: Junior Web Developer - Kent - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Junior Web Developer - ne...

Recruitment Genius: Production Team Leader / Chargehand

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a Chargehand to join ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Amjad Bashir said Ukip had become a 'party of ruthless self-interest'  

Ukip on the ropes? Voters don’t think so

Stefano Hatfield
'One minute he cares desperately about his precious things, the next he can’t remember them'  

I repeat things over and over in the hope they’ll stay with him

Rebecca Armstrong
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project