Walking etiquette

I hope my kids don’t feel offended when I point out good etiquette to them. I think they probably know it all by now, but sometimes I’ll point it out just to remind them, and sometimes I’ll point it out/affirm their actions a little louder than usual so that others in the vicinity can get the hint — for instance on the escalators at stations: “That’s it boys, stand on the left.”

Narrow footpath, and truck with amusing number plate

Little Lonsdale Street has busy but narrow footpaths. Something I’ve noticed is that some people haven’t figured out that when walking with someone else, it’s rude to take up the whole footpath when you encounter a person coming the other way.

Generally when faced with this, I’ll just stop dead on the left hand side of the path, rather than acquiesce and step aside onto the road. (Well why should I?) They usually take a hint then and grudgingly fall into single file.

(Not as bad: walking slowly 2+ abreast, filling up a footpath, oblivious of others in a hurry trying to overtake you. Still inconsiderate though.)

The health check

Apparently there have been some alarming results from the workplace health checks underway at the moment.

Victorian workers have been given a scare by a State Government-run health program which has found a high percentage don’t exercise enough with a number of people asked to see a doctor within 24 hours.

We’ve had ours on Friday (everybody opted-in, I think), and we seem to be a pretty healthy workplace.

At least, nobody’s been carted off in an ambulance.

My own results were all okay, with one exception.

Some of the points are self-assessment; others like cholesterol were checked by the nurse on the spot. I’ve summarised the take-home brochure, and my results below.

Diet

2 serves of fruit and 5 serves of vegetables (per day) should be your target

I’m on 3 serves of fruit, and 2 of vegetables, so need to increase my vegetable intake. It was noted that a variety is good. I probably eat more spinach leaves than most, as I know the kids will chow them down.

In all honesty, I’m not sure how achievable 5 serves of vegies per day is for me, but I can try.

Drinking

I barely drink (perhaps a one standard drink per month if I’m lucky), and the nurse decided this was closer to no alcohol of the three options on the questionnaire.

I’ve never drunk a lot; it’s reduced even more since the cluster headaches arrived on the scene, as alcohol can help induce them (though just at the moment they’re not around).

Phsyical activity

Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most, preferably all days

I might not play sport, but I do a fair bit of walking. It’s generally three 30 minute walks a week with the kids, and one or two 60+ minute walks with Marita and her dog on the weekends. Add to that the shorter walks to/from the train each weekday (12 minutes x 2 x 5, though no doubt that doesn’t have the same benefits of the longer walks), that’s 270-330 minutes of walking per week, or at least 38 minutes a day.

So I think that’s fine.

Smoking

There is no safe level of smoking

No problemo. Never smoked, sure as hell not about to start.

Body shape

Normal — Men: 94 cm or less. Women: 80 cm or less

I’m 86 cm, have been since I was a skinny yoof. Do have a little bit of a pot belly, but nothing major.

Blood pressure

Normal — Less than 120/80

The brochure explains that the first value is systolic — the pressure in the arteries as your heart squeezes blood out during each beat. The other is diastolic — the pressure as your heart relaxes before the next beat.

Mine’s a little high: 113/83. On this basis there’s a recommendation to review it when I next see my doctor, but the nurse emphasised that there’s no real problem.

This seems higher than usual for me. Normally when I give blood it’s lower — it was 117/76 the last time I noted it in my blog. In fact this time round the nurse thought it might be unusual and did an average out of four readings.

Cholesterol

Normal — Total cholesterol 5.5 or less, HDL cholesterol 1.0 or more

Mine is 4.8 total, and 1.8 HDL, so that’s good.

Diabetes risk

Diabetes risk score — low risk: 5 or less. Medium risk 6-14. High risk 15 or more
Random blood glucose levels — normal: less than 6.5. High 6.5 or more

My diabetes risk score is 2 points for my age, 3 points for my sex (that would be male), and 3 points because someone in my family has it — my Dad has type 2. So 8 points makes me a medium risk for diabetes, and worth reviewing with my doctor at some stage.

My blood glucose level was 5.4, in the normal range.

Overall then

I’ll enquire about blood pressure and diabetes risk, the former isn’t a big problem at present, and the latter I can’t really do much about other than keep up the exercise and improve the diet.

I suppose there’s no big surprises for me in all this, but in terms of preventative health measures, I can see how this kind of far-reaching basic health check might help others to think about their lifestyle choices and modify them if possible.

And of course it’s only a fairly superficial check. I’ve still got headaches, Bowen Belly (much less so recently) and other minor ailments which hit me from time to time.

Anybody else do the check? Any surprises?

Everybody scramble!

Oxford Circus in London has just opened its new scramble crossing. The Brits seem suitably amazed by the whole concept.

[Mayor of London, Boris] Johnson said the crossing, controlled by traffic lights, was “a triumph for British engineering, Japanese innovation and good old fashioned common sense”.

BBC News Online

While it beats me how they spent 5 million pounds on it, perhaps it’s time Melbourne looked at putting in more of these. As I noted in June, at present we’ve only got one, Elizabeth Street and Flinders Street.

I can think of a few other spots that could benefit, including Spencer Street at Collins and at Bourke, Swanston and Latrobe, and maybe even Swanston and Flinders.

Curiously, when I lived there in 2003-2005, the corner of Murrumbeena Road and Neerim Road in Murrumbeena would occasionally kick into a phase which halted all traffic and allowed pedestrians to cross both N-S and E-W. From memory it was related to the nearby railway crossing. I haven’t been back there recently to look.

Walkability (again)

In some cities, they argue about whether or not streets should have footpaths. Thankfully not so much here.

Of course, for people to walk, they need somewhere to walk to.

An article in the local paper a few weeks ago highlighted the low Walkscores for some suburbs against others: Heatherton was the lowest in the area with a score of just 14.

Nearby Dingley (37 out of 100), Oakleigh South (38), Clarinda (34) and Clayton South (37) don’t fare much better.

Ormond, McKinnon, Bentleigh, Cheltenham, Highett and Moorabbin all scored between 71 and 80 – classifying them as “very walkable”.

Walkable Bentleigh

It’s no coincidence that the most walkable suburbs are all those on the railway lines. They were all first developed at a time before most people had cars, which meant transport had to be provided, and shopping centres grew up around them and have (well, mostly) remained vibrant places providing the kinds of services that Walkscore evaluates.

Malcolms Real Estate CEO Frank Hellier said a position within strolling distance of shops and services could add as much as 10 per cent to the price of a house.

Interestingly Walkscore is quoting a study which says that “one point of Walk Score is worth as much as $3,000 (US) depending on the metro area”.

I think that when you throw in access to high quality public transport (by which I mean trams or trains), which is probably present in most walkable suburbs anyway (at least in Melbourne), there’s definitely a premium, and I suspect it’s a lot more than 10 per cent. I know I was willing to pay dearly for it.

As they say: Location, location, location.

My rights as a pedestrian

When I’m out walking, I actively (but not foolishly, I hope) defend my rights as a pedestrian. If I have an opportunity to walk safely and legally before a car goes, I will take it.

The main rules are not difficult to comprehend, but some motorists just don’t seem to understand them.

[Page references are those in the Vicroads PDF summary of the road rules.]

Red means stop. It doesn’t mean drivers can zoom through at the last minute. Given that Yellow actually means “stop if it is safe to do so” [p27], there’s no reason why drivers should still be travelling through the intersection after I’ve got a (conflicting) green man. Not that there’s much I can do about this but glare.

Drivers are meant to stop behind the stop line, not halfway across it blocking the pedestrian crossing. If blocked by the cars ahead, that’s the driver’s fault for not looking ahead to make sure it was clear. [p27]

The zebra crossing means vehicles have to give way for me to cross. If a motorist was driving so fast they had to brake sharply, that’s their fault [p58]. (I view extended periods of delays to motorists at busy zebra crossings, such as in Flinders Lane, with some glee. If they were stupid enough to bring their car into the middle of a big busy city, they’re going to face some delays in their quest to get to the next red light.)

Flinders Lane pedestrian crossing

Flagged Children’s Crossings are more strict. Vehicles have to stop if someone is waiting to cross, and not drive through until the last person is completely off the crossing. [p57] (I also recommend not trying to run down crossing supervisors at lighted intersections, such as some right-turners at McKinnon and Jasper Roads seem to do.)

Vehicles are not allowed to park on a footpath.[p78] Foot. Path. It’s really not that hard.

If a driver is turning across my path, they have to give way to me [p29] — unless it’s a roundabout.

Many motorists, myself included, give way when coming out of side-streets to crossing pedestrians. Strictly speaking vehicles don’t have to do this, but personally I consider it polite.
(Update: Commenter Andrew notes elsewhere the rules say: “At Stop or Give Way signs [...] you must not only give way to vehicles, but also to any pedestrians at or near the sign [...]”. [p31] However it appears that this specifically applies at locations not at intersections. I’m not clear on why you’d have such a sign that’s not at an intersection.)

If a vehicle is going into or coming out of a driveway or carpark or whatever, they have to give way to me. [p60]

Drivers have to stop for tram passengers unless there’s a safety zone/platform stop. [p60] The tram is a big thing on wheels that’s 3-5 times as big as a car; there’s no excuse for not seeing it.

I don’t have to cross at the lights if they’re more than 20 metres away (but I’ll certainly do so if it’s safer to do so).

The above rules are, I think, pretty logical.

But there are some others I learnt about while reading up on it, which I suspect not so many people are aware of.

  • Motorists have to give way to peds when turning in a slip lane (including separated from the other lanes by just a painted island) [p30]
  • Motorists have to give way to all peds (and everyone else for that matter) when making a U-turn [p31]
  • Giving way to peds when turning includes instances such as turning into a main road that the pedestrian is crossing. [figure 24, p35]

Footnote: Why have VicRoads published the road rules in a PDF that doesn’t allow you to copy text out of it?