Backing up to youth

I’ve never really understood why at stoplights the flashing hand on the walk sign goes longer than the yellow light. You would think that since people on foot go about 1/10 the speed of cars and therefore need less time to slow down and stop it would be the other way around. Maybe the traffic engineers are simply reflecting the stages along life’s way: you know, first you crawl, then you walk, then you drive. At every stage you gain speed and at every stage time seems to go by more quickly. I suppose relativistic speed would be like the minds of old people driving: outside everything is flying around at high speeds, but inside the gears are moving by rope and pulley. Maybe this correspondence explains a strange phenomenon in China: a popular form of exercise seems to be walking backwards, but only among women over 40. Since this also happens to be the group that is most sensitive about age on the face of the earth, I figure maybe it’s like when people put their cars in reverse to roll back the odometer.

2 Responses to “Backing up to youth”

  1. shonk Says:

    The flashing hand is really more of an aid to not getting caught in the middle of the intersection, not to giving you enough time to slow down.

  2. Curt Says:

    Well, I have a feeling that both the flashing hand and yellow lights are programmed to last about as long as it would take for car or person to cross the intersection, not how long it takes for either one of them to stop. But in my opinion they should last as long as it takes for someone to make a decision about whether to stop or go and act on it without any sudden, jerky, dangerous movements, and based on that reasoning the length of these intermediate signals is a little weird. Since the time it takes for a person to do this walking is virtually nil at the speed they’re moving, I don’t really see the point of the flashing hand (they should just have a timer counting down the seconds until the cross-traffic light changes, which some places have), whereas the yellows should be probably longer than the four seconds or whatever which seems to be pretty standard.

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