OK, I’m used to the fact now that most people in London don’t know how to use a zebra crossing, but PCSOs? I’m not talking about drivers here for once. Most drivers who abuse the zebras know – deep down in their stunted little hearts – that pedestrians have right of way on the zebra crossing, they just choose to ignore that fact because that way they don’t have to stop or even slow down. It’s only when I or people like me come along with our stroppy little ways, stepping boldly out in front of them with every indication that we haven’t seen them and will be denting their bumper some time soon if they don’t stop, that they come to a reluctant halt. And half the time, crossing along in my wake will be the small crowd of hapless pavementflowers who had been cowering on the edge of the road waiting for a gap in the traffic, possibly for some weeks.
But those, I thought, were probably tourists, who weren’t to be expected to know the exact rules for bullying drivers to a halt with a confident (but carefully judged) stride out into the road, the sort of stride that says I am related to not one but two lawyers and will not hesitate to sue. So I was a little startled this morning as I headed down for my run to find hovering nervously at the edge of the crossing a couple of PCSOs, in full uniform, waiting in vain for the traffic to stop for them. One car whizzed by while I was crossing the other half of the road and the one behind it was all set to follow, if the squeal of its brakes was anything to go by, had I not stepped out and asserted my right of way in front of it.
WTF? Surely, if anyone, these guys know the law? I’ve not got a beef with PCSOs in general – sure we want bobbies on the beat but more to the point we want bobbies out solving actual crimes. I don’t want to wake up and find my house has been burgled and nobody can arrest the wrongdoers because the real police are all busy walking up and down the South Bank with a measured tread, reassuring tourists and visibly deterring crime for the few hundred yards they can be seen in any direction. But I would have thought at some time during their however-many-weeks-it-is training the PCSOs would have been given a brief introduction into the traffic laws. Or maybe (having cleared up all the easy wi-fi bandwith thefts and with no other more pressing matters to attend to, for after all, nobody’s been shot in the borough for ooh, weeks, now) they were conducting a zebra crossing violator sting operation. In which case, I wish they’d caught the guy who didn’t just not stop but accelerated towards me on the crossing yesterday. In a Lambeth council van, too. I’m pretty sure I didn’t pay my council taxes for that.