It’s my second day in Sweden, a relatively chilly morning, birds chirping, a calm breeze blowing across me, refreshing my tired soul from the 15 hour journey the previous day. I’m navigating myself to my new workplace, lost in the beauty of mother nature. And I realize that I am standing on the edge of the road and need to cross streets.
I was about to cross the road like I did last evening, directly jumping into traffic, walking quickly and moving my head left and right. Trying to appear confident and enact “Nej” to oncoming traffic while at the same time tip toeing as if I am trying to sneak into my bedroom after a party. But this time there were frequent vehicles and I stopped myself from crossing.
Just a few steps from me were these white alternate stripes on the road similar to what we have in India, the ‘Zebra crossing’. I prodded along and stood there looking around for a signal post that would turn the small man green so that I could cross, but couldn’t find one. The very next second I saw a car halting just before the white stripes and a beautiful young lady gestured to me, swaying her palm from left to right, as if to welcome me for a royal treat. Ah! I was flattered. I quickly crossed the street, thanking the lady through my body language.
Well, I felt like King Junaid, the first of his name, ruler of the seven kingdoms and protector of the realm (Sorry guys if you don’t watch Game Of Thrones). I also asked myself a question – Am I looking that handsome today? It’s the sort of feeling you want to start your day with but it was quickly brought down by
a similar incident after another 100 metres. This time a man, tough looking and with a big tattoo on his arms performed also let me cross the street. :P:P. Jaha! I gasped.
Surely guys, anyone would by now sense that this is a trend in Sweden. You can relate courtesy and politeness for such acts but this is the rule in Sweden. No matter if you are driving the largest of vehicles or the costliest and regardless of speed, when you come across a zebra crossing and a pedestrian is waiting to cross, you need to allow the person to cross the street.
I found it surprisingly amazing, the way I was treated as a pedestrian. You generally associate an inferior status and priority if you don’t have hands on a steering wheel while on the road. But in Sweden, you are first priority. Here pedestrians are empowered with the right to walk freely and enjoy the liberty of being treated with respect and importance.
This is a plan by the Swedish traffic regulators to minimize or eradicate road accidents in Sweden. The program is known as ‘Zero Vision’, meaning zero road accidents. And they have come a long way in
achieving their vision of minimum or no accidents in the last few years. Such rules and programs induce self-restraint, discipline, alertness and cognizance in the driver’s mind that they can expect a pedestrian anytime. This forces them to be more careful and respectful.
Well, enough said about the authorities or liberties of a pedestrian in Sweden. It is said that ‘with authority comes responsibility’. There are certain disciplinary measures, we as pedestrians should take while on the road.
Sweden is a left hand driving country. So to let someone overtake you, you need to be on the right side of the street, so that cyclists and people faster than you can move ahead. So, on a ‘Walkway’ or ‘Footpath’, always keep yourself on the right side unless you want to overtake someone (I was confused about this initially).
Who is a pedestrian?
- A pedestrian is a person who travels by foot.
- Regulations for pedestrians also apply to people who are
– on roller skis, skates or a kick-sledge
– pushing a bicycle, moped or motorbike
– pushing a pram or a wheelchair
– propelling or travelling in their own wheelchair.
Please consider some important pointers when you are on the road or street:
- Never walk on roads meant for vehicles. There is usually always a footpath for pedestrians.
- The white arrows that you see on roads are for vehicles. Do not use these for crossing on foot.
- While crossing major roads, there is a signal post on the edge of the street. On that post, at waist level you see a round button. Press that, you will hear slow ticks like a clock winding itself. That signals you to wait. Soon the slow ticks will unwind themselves into faster beats and the pedestrian signal will turn green. You can now cross the street without guilt or security concerns at your own pace.
- Always help older people in crossing the road.
- Do not cross the road without zebra crossing. These may cause accidents.
Let us help Sweden by following rules and regulations, and help it achieve Zero Vision. Hope that all countries implement such programs.
Written by Junaid Shaikh
IT consultant, Software Quality Assurance, Sportsman, Gadget enthusiast, Tropical fish lover, Traveller and Socializer. From Mumbai, India. In Sweden since 2015 I love this Scandinavian country, the people, the environment, the work culture , the lifestyle etc. When I came here almost all the things seemed a bit alien to me when compared to my home country and needed quick adaptation. I now feel, I have a bit to share through my learnings and experiences and found ‘Newbie Guide to Sweden’ to be a great platform to do that. I hope whatever little I can share will make it easier for Newbies to know a bit more and integrate better with this country. Tack!