Walk, Don't Walk

Walk, Don’t Walk

We are back in Northern Uganda after our brief trip the UK. What have we missed and what, second time around, stands out as noticeably different?

In a forty eight hour period we (well, Mary, see below) drove from Kent to Heathrow and then Kampala up to Gulu. Are there for example, cultural inferences to draw  from Ugandan rather than British road use?

Gulu: the Kampala and Acholi Roads Roundabout

Gulu: the Kampala and Acholi Roads Roundabout

In the UK you look hard before you pull out onto the carriageway (as the man who tried unsuccessfully to teach me to drive put it) whether you are in an armoured 4 x 4 as seemed increasingly the case or, far less likely, on foot. Here in Gulu, on your ancient sit up and beg bicycle, 100cc motorcycle or on foot swathed in babies you do not look.

Bicyclist at the Roundabout

Bicyclist at the Roundabout

Why not? Because it is the job of other road users to warn you that they are there, generally by hitting the horn. It is not task of the puller-out to look for or avoid the pulled-out-upon, the responsibility is theirs not yours; a reversal of my usual expectations. From this observation can one draw deep inferences about social cohesion, collective responsibility and the mutual self-support evident in non-western societies?

Entrance to the Bus Park, Gulu

Entrance to the Bus Park, Gulu

No. This form of behaviour is as lethal as you might imagine and makes travel a slow and slightly alarming business. Like a lot of Ugandan activity, pulling straight out onto the street seems designed to make contact (quite firmly in some cases) with other people. I suppose you could say that enjoying the company of strangers is certainly different to the West, but I’m not sure that completely disregarding your own safety quite covers that. Nonetheless it is good to be back.

Downtown Gulu, the Kampala and Acholi Roads Roundabout 2

Downtown Gulu, the Kampala and Acholi Roads Roundabout 2

Advertisements