The most important advice a Bedrock resident can give a foreign guest who wants to roam the streets is about taking precautions while out on the streets. Expect the unexpected – a car backing up into the crosswalk, or speeding down the sidewalk to get around traffic, or just blowing a pesky stoplight. Even downtown, a car may shoot out from a drive between two buildings and not bother to stop when crossing over the sidewalk.
Most residents of Bedrock have a healthy common sense gene. Non-motorists here usually have a keen feel for the dangers posed by their motorist kin. Pedestrians are sensible and rightly very cautious anywhere adjacent to a road – even while on the sidewalks. This means looking both ways three times before crossing a street, even on a green light. Also using the underground passages when available, or at least take a little more time and walk up to a stoplight where there are “zebra” crossing stripes.
However, some residents seem to have a defect in the common sense gene. Drunks have an excuse, but what about those who walk along or across poorly lit roads late at night dressed in dark clothes from head to toe? Or how about the three girls on horseback late at night in the right lane on the freeway bridge not far from our home? Or the bicyclist, I kid you not, who was in the right hand lane of the Third Ring road (a ten lane freeway) near the Kutuzovsky off ramp, hand-signaling a lane change to the far left, high-speed lane? Finally, what about the legless man wheeling his chair up the bridge in the right hand lane on the Third Ring just past the Rusakovskaya off ramp?
During 2005, a year when I spent a fair amount of time on the roads, I counted seven bodies, most of them former pedestrians. In Moscow, bodies aren’t covered; they lay along the road where they fell, even after the police arrive, waiting silently for the meat wagon. You can tell they are dead and not wounded because no one is paying much attention to them. Also, the other parties are usually distracted since dead (former) pedestrians make poor witnesses and are unable to bargain. So the surviving driver is left to work out with the police officer the means through which the pedestrian is to be found at fault.
I wrote the above section of this article last night. Tonight, after I returned from a short four hour, 75 km round trip to our dacha to deliver Fred Jr. to his babushka (grandma) for the week, I heard the familiar tire screech out our back window. This is something we experience many times each day, anticipating the sound of metal on metal, but this time it ended with a klump, and then a few weak cries. I rushed to the window. Three people were emerging from a black car (of course). In front lay the Pedestrian, still, and in white. The driver, dressed in white pants and black t-shirt, and his two buddies were on the phone, but at least they stuck around. For a few minutes I thought they would bolt. After about five minutes bystanders started to come around and about fifteen minutes later the first ambulance arrived, followed by three others.
From our third story window you could tell where she (he) was hit, because the shoes still lay in the road, about 20 meters behind the car and 25 meters from the Pedestrian. You probably know this – when a person is hit by a car, the shoes stay in place marking the point of impact. From the window it was clear that the Pedestrian did not bother to cross at the zebra marks and stoplight, which were about five meters from the shoes, but cut straight across towards the bus stop on the other side of the road, so in this case the Pedestrian will probably get the blame. On the other hand, the Pedestrian appears to have been thrown about 20 meters, on a street that should have a speed limit of about 60 km per hour (35 mph).
The traffic police arrived in a Lada after about 20 minutes. The second ambulance took away the patient – at least the Pedestrian is still alive, otherwise the ambulance would leave empty. About 15 minutes later a silver Mercedes, it looked like a 500 and with a sunroof shows up and parks on the sidewalk. A policeman crosses the street and shakes hand with the passenger emerging from the Merc. White-pants, black t-shirt joins them. A few minutes later a DPC (traffic police) van shows up, which appears to be an investigation crew. Measurements are taken, including the shoes – no modern contraptions like digital cameras for these folks!
The subject car is disabled and the windshield broken out, so white-pants, black t-shirt and his buddies push the car off the road. A green plastic bag lies in the road from our neighborhood grocery– a policeman kicks it into the gutter. The DPC van leaves and so does white-pants, black t-shirt with his two buddies who are leaving the car for the night. The police Lada leaves, followed finally by the silver Merc. The shoes are still in the road. I think I will check on them in the morning.