First of all, I have admission to make: before last week I'd never been to Spain. Then the opportunity arose to make a quick dash across the border, and at first I thought I ought to set the Guggenheim at Bilbao as my destination. But then that would mean I was only really visiting a building, not visiting Spain. So instead I set off across the mountains for a destination that I thought might give me more insight into the heart and soul of Spain: the city of Pamplona.
Now don't worry, this blog isn't about to turn into a running commentary on my holiday jaunts. I just happened to be there, and I saw something that interested me, and thus I thought it might interest you. I'd not really prepared myself, because Pamplona was a snap decision and I'd therefore not done any prior research on the city. But sitting somewhere in the back half of my brain cells (what little of them are left) were the novels of Ernest Hemingway and tales of the madness of the bull run. So my expectation was that I was about to visit a city which is on speaking terms with the notion of danger. What I hadn't expected was to come away having seen something which is so blindingly simple, but which is devised to make the city safer.
So let me explain: in Pamplona (or at least in the centre of the city), the pedestrian crossings are controlled by lights - as they must now surely be in every other city in the world. But Pamplona's also have a count-down clock, like this:
So you can immediately see that you have just six seconds to wait until the light goes green. It's such a brilliantly simple idea, but it removes the urge (which is surely inbuilt in all of us) to take a risk and cross against a red light if you can't see any traffic approaching. And when the light goes green, the clock then tells you exactly how much time you have to get across safely, like this:
So I knew I was in no danger when I took this snap as I was halfway across the road.
Brilliant, eh? And believe me, it works - very effectively. You ought to campaign to have them installed in your home town or city. It surely wouldn't cost that much, would it?