Being a commuter, I am used to being in busy crowds with many pedestrians travelling in different directions at varying speeds and spatial awareness levels.
We all travel at different speeds, and can travel in different directions quite well without affecting other people around us if we operate with a basic level of care and courtesy. Too many people are of the view of ‘I am the only one that matters’ when they are travelling, and this is happening more and more so on the roads as well as walking on pavements through pedestrianised areas. The selfishness that is on display is cropping up far more often nowadays and is definitely on the increase.
How busy are you really?
My main gripe, of which I have many, when walking through a busy train station during rush hour periods are people who are just not aware of anyone else around them, or the consideration of whether their actions are impacting other people. In a morning rush hour, there are often commuters walking along with a coffee (or other hot beverages too no doubt!), carrying a big handbag or backpack, trying to have a conversation on a phone and generally being ‘very busy’. Many of these manage to do this perfectly fine without any impact on others, they are aware of the space they need to get through the crowds, and how wide they and their belongings take. They are thoughtful and considerate and don’t feel the urgency to barge their way through the oncoming people. That’s great, and quite a simple task for most thoughtful people to achieve. Well done to all of you for operating like a normal human being!
Unfortunately, this is increasingly becoming less prevalent in places I go to. I am sure I am not the only common denominator in these circumstances. The amount of times this occurs is increasing where a shoulder, elbow, bag, coffee, leg or whatever clash into me by someone not looking where they are going. I often stop where I am when I see an ICZ or ‘incoming commuter zombie’ and they rarely notice there is a collision coming up and then I have to take evasive action. These ICZs have no consideration for anything else that is going on in the world around them, and their vacant stare or incapacitation due to their phone call or handbag carrying or latte carrying has taken over their sense of surroundings. I wonder how many of these would walk into bollards, brick walls, or parked cars due to their lack of visual awareness.
A term for pedestrians on smartphones has a name now too – ‘smombies’! A ‘smombie’ or ‘smartphone zombie’ is a pedestrian who walks slowly and without attention to their surroundings because they are focussed on their smartphone. Starting at the ultra-urgent matter at hand, rather than looking at where they are going, or what danger they could be walking into, such as another smombie or an ICZ. The number of people now who feel the need to be staring at their little screen as they walk along oblivious to what is happening around them is a little worrying to say the least.
I’m a big fan of my smartphone, and of the internet in general, but I seldom feel the need to be staring at it instead of reviewing the risks around me as I travel around. My usage is generally when I am static and not making movements. What is so important that means it can’t wait a few moments longer? If it is urgent, you could quite easily step to the side and process your text message, tweet or email there. Or is it you’ve the combination of having to be somewhere really urgent too as well as the need to type something urgently too? Wow, that really is being busy! Or bad planning maybe? Multi-tasking is one thing, but concentrating on one task at a time is often better than half concentrating on two things.
Times have changed
These ICZs and smombies are a scourge on commuting and don’t make for an easy commute for others. I’m all for getting things done, I’m all for communication, but I’m also very much in favour of trying where possible to be thoughtful and considerate to other people around, and to seek the common decency not to impede other people as they try and get to work. The days of commuting before smartphones and mobiles must have been a world away from the experience of commuting nowadays.
Progress is progress, unless of course it is also regress too.