Bright Stove

Reflecting information risk journey

Keep left, walk right

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I have been jogging outdoor whenever I’m in Singapore due mainly to the warmer weather and cleaner environment there. During my jogs, I have observed the drainage covers that are lined up along the pavement of various walkways or footpaths just next to the roads. Most cemented walkways have the drainage cover placed on one side of the walkway. So if you are walking or jogging from one direction, the drainage covers would occupy the left-hand side of the pavement, leaving a slightly less than one foot width of cleared path on the right. With that, you would tend to walk or jog on the right-hand side of the path to avoid stepping on the drainage covers in case the covers are not properly secured and you could get your leg trapped or drop into the drain below accidentally. If you are walking or jogging from the opposite direction on that same walkway, however, you would see the drainage covers now occupying the right-hand side, which leave the left-hand side cleared. In this case, you would tend to walk on the left-hand side of the walkway. This is actually a more natural side for folks in Singapore (and perhaps in the Commonwealth countries as well) given that the road system here is to keep left by default and therefore people tends to walk on the left-hand side of the road. In the former case, as a result of the placement of drainage covers you are unconsciously influenced by design to walk on the right side of the walkway, which is actually quite awkward since we are “trained” to walk on the left-hand side by default. When there are pedestrian on both sides of the walkway, people tends to try to stick on their side of the walkway, and avoid shifting to step on the drainage covers area. When they do that, you get a feeling that they are giving way to you. The same feeling when you do the same for others. Such is how design decisions made on everyday things around us that could influence our behavioral responses, whether you feel it or not.

I also noticed that some walkways have the drainage covers that are as wide as the walkway itself. In those cases, pedestrians are kind-of forced to step on every cover as they walk or jog forward, inevidentally required to take a risk every few steps forward. I wonder whether the public work authority realizes such an implication of their design decision and the ultimate responsibility they have in the maintenance of so many drainage covers across the country. Newer walkways, nevertheless, seems to have this taken into considerations and their drainage covers are placed at the center of the pathways, leaving the two edges cleared creating two small walkways for the pedestrians on both directions. The total width of the walkways however remains narrower than the width of the drainage cover itself. So it seems that the design is to cater for the workers to get in and out of the drain underneath the walkway through any of the openings rather than the pedestrians walking on top along the walkway.

Coincidentally, I picked up a new book entitled “The Shallows: What the Internet is doing to our Brains“, a few days ago. The book stresses the idea that “the medium is the message”, that technology frequently has a more influencing role than the contents that it carry. More often than not, our habits and behaviors are influenced by the design of our environment, and the technology that we use.

Written by mengchow

April 6, 2011 at 10:27 pm

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