Thursday, 22 October 2009

The Abbey Road Zebra-Crossing Experience and its Impact on Traffic Flow in North-West London

Why Did the Tourist Cross The Road?

By Adam Green

When John, Paul, George and Ringo had themselves photographed traversing the zebra crossing outside Abbey Road Studios, little did they know the decades of idiocy they were unleashing. Now when hoards of tourists visit Abbey Road, and after defacing its outer walls writing ‘give peace a chance’ in the otherwise war-torn surroundings of St John’s Wood, they dutifully shuffle along that hallowed tarmac to imitate the album cover (normally committing the image to photograph lest the winds of time fade their memory).
Walking by the studios last week I stopped to note just how many people pursued this supposedly humorous jest. One teenager, who judging by his shorts must have been French, crossed and re-crossed the road 11 times while his grinning chum took photos, often from the middle of the road. The teenager being photographed (let us call him Jean-Pierre) was clearly peeved because cars kept driving into view and intruding the shot. You couldn’t blame the drivers if they did a lot worse, since at one point, when a car had stopped for Jean-Pierre, he waved it on while his friend changed the roll of film. I pointed out to Jean-Pierre that this was an illegal over-exertion of civilian power, according to British law at least, since only police, army, fireman and traffic wardens are allowed to disturb the flow of traffic in non-emergency situations (fact).
The number of times people crossed the road for reasons other than to get to the other side averaged 4, and it wasn’t only French teenagers. Families, bands, couples and grandparents of all nationalities got in one the action. One mid-thirties executive type didn’t even have the act photographed. He just crossed the road, cars obediently halting each time, just for the experience - during which he stared down at the black and white lines intently, spiritually, as if waiting for something to happen. He left looking rather disappointed, since our ancestors worked pretty hard to ensure that roads don’t throw up too many surprises.
Suggested measures? We could try inserting a randomly detonating explosive device on the crossing to dissuade pedestrians pushing their luck, though there will of course be loss of innocent civilians. A more benign solution might be to paint over the ruddy thing, since there is another one a hundred metres away. Yet the only long-term solution would be at the political level, with more stringent restrictions on what kinds of people are allowed to travel to the area. I don’t propose anything too drastic, but a blanket ban on Europeans and Americans would be a good start.