Drifting and striding, in Hollywood and elsewhere, with Geoff Nicholson - author of The Lost Art of Walking, and Walking in Ruins withcholson, author of Toff Nidrifting and stomping withcholson, author of The Lost Art of Walking, considers the narrower and wider shores of obsessive pedestrianism.
Showing posts with label walking signs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label walking signs. Show all posts

Monday, June 12, 2017


We Hollywood walker types are intrigued by street signs involving pedestrians, and I happened to be reading an article in the New York Times by Mokoto Rich about the “Daunting economic woes” of South Korea.  And one of the photographs illustrating the article showed university students in Seoul “where job prospects are a concern.”  This one

And I saw, rather small, in the picture there was a yellow triangular sign, too small to make out very clearly but it definitely showed a walking man and a car, and there was some kind of curvy symbol between them, apparently emerging from the car.  I thought it looked like the car was farting on the man – or I supposed, more realistically, showering him with exhaust fumes.  But I showed it to my companion and she reckoned it looked as though the car was shouting at him.

We were both wrong, as you see above: the “curvy symbol” indicated a collision between man and machine, and what we hadn’t noticed in the picture because it was too small, was that the pedestrian was staring at his cell phone.  The sign is simply telling pedestrians not to get so engrossed in their phones that they bump into cars.  A message we can all get behind surely.  Though of course, if you were totally engrossed in your phone you wouldn’t have seen the sign,even if it were on the ground, as below, but this is the paradox with which distracted pedestrians, and drivers, have to live.

Denounce me as a libertarian if you like, but it seems to me that people should take responsibility for their own lives, and if they’re really too stupid not to have worked out that walking while messing with a phone is dangerous, then I suspect no amount of signage is likely to help. 

The Koreans also have the sign above: I think the idea is that you place your feet on the footprints and stand there playing with your phone – much to the annoyance of passersby as they swarm around you, I assume.

And there is the one above that strikes me as vaguely insulting: two old geezers holding hands.  I imagine it’s supposed to be sweet but it strikes me as condescending (and ageist) because it’s not warning old people about cars, it’s warning car drivers about old people, with their walking sticks and their handbags, as though they’re too feeble to look out for themselves.  There are a great many old people to whom this does not apply.

Which brings me to the life and death of Seuk Doo Kim (above), a 78 year old hiker, of Korean origin, who planned to climb Mount Baldy 1000 times.  Now Mount Baldy has always struck me as sheer hell; a 10,000 foot peak in California’s San Gabriel Range, a punishing ascent to be sure, but whenever I’ve seen pictures it’s always looked overpopulated.  Still, to each his own.  And in fact he walked plenty of other places too.  

Seuk Doo Kim, known as Sam, didn’t make it to 1000 ascents.  He’d done about 800 when he fell to his death from a trail on the northwest side of the mountain.  By all accounts Sam was ‘irrepressible,” talking exuberantly to anybody he met, helping lost hikers, handing out food, posing for selfies.  The LA Times quoted him as saying, “My shortcut is the Holy Spirit.”  I don’t suppose the Koreans, or anybody else, have a sign for that.

Thursday, September 15, 2016


 If you’re like me (and I realize you may not be) then you’re probably finding it hard to get very worked up about this all-gender toilet business.

Lord knows a man, or woman, or anyone else, often feels an urgent need to use a toilet when out walking, and when the situation gets urgent enough I really don’t give a hoot what the sign on the door says. 

But there is some wry amusement to be had in watching graphic designers try come up with a symbol that successfully conveys the all-inclusivity of a toilet.

    You and I might think this is an occasion when language would be more useful than a symbol, that the word “toilet” on a door would be enough, but what do we know?

     And what about walkers?  My knowledge of international signs for walkers is patchy but most places I’ve been, pedestrianism is indicated by a distinctly male figure. 

Is this sexism and cisgenderism?  Yes, probably. And in Japan the male figure even has a hat:

Often, even when there are two people on a sign they’re both male:

Although just occasionally you see two children, one of whom appears to be female:

And I did manage to find this one of what appears to be a man and a woman, though that may be jumping to a hasty conclusion - gender identity isn't just about clothing choices:

 In any case, a sign featuring a solo female walker seems unknown anywhere I’ve ever been.  So I’ve had a trawl around the interwebs and found some interesting variations – all the below are taken from the Spiegel website.  Some are very basic; like this one from Guadaloupe:

Or this one from Mongolia:

This one from Majorca has a more detail, though they're still going with the hat:

And this one from Denmark apparently shows Hans Christian Andersen:

This is from Austria, two blokes and a bike:

But finally, (finally!) this one:

with a caption that reads “In the Benelux countries and Austria, pedestrians can find traffic lights that resemble real human forms more than anywhere else. These women are taking a stroll in the Netherlands...”  Yes, women.   

The Dutch – we always knew they were enlightened.