Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Are We Being Lied To?

Apparently - according to this BBC story - a good number of buttons on pedestrian crossings do nothing, as crossings are often automated, at least part of the time. This isn't simply in response to traffic. Some stops in North London are timed to avoid Jews having to operate them on the Sabbath!

The article focuses on whether we're being lied to when buttons don't actually do anything. I'm not sure I've ever been clearly told, by someone in charge of them, that the buttons do something; the authorities need only give the instruction 'press the button and wait for the green man' which is reasonable advice, even if the button may do nothing in some cases.

I found the brief comments on jaywalking more interesting, given that I've recently been thinking about paternalism and cases like Mill's bridge-crosser. Martin Low, transport commissioner for Westminster City Council, apparently thinks that we should allow individuals to judge for themselves whether it's safe to cross.


  1. Anonymous2:49 pm

    Glad to know others found that piece interesting. If people are allowed to make the choice for themselves whether or not it is safe to cross, do cars. While I want to say no, the driver is putting others lives at risk not just there own, there are countries that let cars cross red lights if no one is crossing.

  2. Anonymous9:29 am

    Jaywalking - my concern is that the jaywalker is not just putting their own safety at risk, but imposing the risk of accidentally causing death or injury on motorists. I think it is reasonable to think of 'causing serious harm to others' as a form of harm in itself (for conscientious persons at least). Similar arguments might be made for seatbelts etc.

    Not that I am a big fan of his, but Zizeck has compared certain features of contemporary democracies with fake elevator buttons that only seem to have an effect on the speed at which the doors close, but give a sense of being in control and having influence on one's situation...

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