Thursday, December 29, 2005

Which side is Singapore on?

Having survived the Christmas shopping crowds once again, I was struck by the sheer amount of work it takes to walk in Singapore. The problem is that there does not seem to be a shared agreement about which side of the street to walk on, and so one is constantly forced to dodge and weave.

The situation is exacerbated by the government, which periodically puts out public education campaigns with catchy slogans like "Stand left, walk right" for the use of escalators. Trouble is, one can never predict whether the up escalator is going to be on the right or the left, and people generally do the opposite of government campaigns out of sheer bloody mindedness. (or more likely because they just don't care about impeding others...)

The roads are layed out following the British system of right-hand drive, which means cars use the left hand side. One could make a case that people should also walk on the left, which would be fine, as long as everybody agreed. Except they don't. The result is that crowds of people just wander towards each other, and the largest mass wins.

The best way to get a feeling for just how random trying to navigate sidewalks can be is to have a look at this webcam. The view is of an underground link between a subway station and a major shopping mall called Wisma Atria.

As I write this, the mall management have attempted to improve traffic flow by putting barriers down the middle of the passageway to separate incoming from outgoing traffic. In true Singapore fashion, people are randomly walking down both sides.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

From IZ Reloaded:

If you find that walking in Singapore takes a lot of energy especially with the huge crowds in Orchard Road lately, then you are not alone. Whanafi dislikes the messy human traffic and asks this question, "Which side is Singapore on?"....