Want to Kill Yourself? Be a Pedestrian in Rome

When I was in Dublin, Ireland I had the most difficult street-crossing as a pedestrian of my life. It was a massive six way intersection, one of which led into the Microsoft campus. Cars streamed in all directions and there were few islands to stand on while making the crossing. I spent about 5 full minutes studying the situation (think of George in the Seinfeld “Frogger” episode). Then had about three false starts, where I started to cross but then deemed it too dangerous. When I finally crossed safely 10 minutes later, I knew I had made history.

That Dublin incident still reigns, but in Ireland it was an anomaly. Here in Rome, being a pedestrian on any street is dangerous. Hey — I may be spoiled, since in Switzerland any car that seems even the faint outlines of a pedestrian must stop. There are big fines for any car that does not yield to the pedestrian at every single street. Nonetheless, what goes on in Rome is totally absurd. You can be halfway through the crosswalk and cars will still whiz by. The circular intersections don’t help.

It took one full day in Rome observing the locals to figure out how to cross a street safely. What works for me is to use a lot of hand gestures. It also helps if you’ve just eaten pasta — the energy boost is key. Seriously…hand gestures do seem to work. Try to attract the attention of the driver. Be assertive. Step onto the street. Try to time the lights.

The odds are stacked against you. You only have to be wrong once. Godspeed.

3 comments on “Want to Kill Yourself? Be a Pedestrian in Rome
  • Want to be killed by a car? Go to Italy. Want to be killed by a bike, motorbike, tricycle, put-put, or fellow pedestrian by means of stampede? Go to China.

    Hope you are doing well, Ben. Sounds like a blast.

  • Frankly I don’t know if Rome or Madris is the worst… in Europe. But that’s only warm-up training, wait till you get to Bangkok, Taipei..etc. You’ll wonder how anyone can survive the scooters:-)

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