Halifax, Nova Scotia. Light snow is falling, temperatures are crisp.
No, this is not the intro to a romance novel. But it is an intro to a piece of true Canadiana.
Standing on the curb of a major avenue, looking both directions, waiting for a gap in the traffic so I can cross the street. The cars can’t drive by me fast enough; people really follow the speed limits here. Sure, Halifax is a slow-moving city but c’mon, NOBODY follows the letter of the law when it comes to speed anywhere in the World.
But a funny thing happened. A police cruiser (yes, there is a police force in small-town Canada) driving towards me, suddenly stops next to me. For no reason, the officer just stops. Car is at a stand still. Bizarre considering there’s no stop sign and we’re not at an intersection. He’s got the right of way. But he’s stopped. Have I done something wrong? Does he want to talk to me? Am I breaking the law by standing there? Is that considered loitering in these parts?
To my surprise, the cop waves for me to cross in front of the car. Excuse me?! He stopped to help me cross. As I give him a thank you wave, I can’t help but think that this is entrapment. Is he waving me to cross knowing that he could book me for jaywalking?
Nope! In fact, if you can believe it, this is all part of being a pedestrian in Halifax! Cars often stop dead in their tracks as soon as they see someone who wants to cross the street. No matter what the circumstances, drivers will almost always stop driving to give the pedestrian the right of way. In other words, you don’t have to cross at a light or a cross-walk. You’re a pedestrian? You’re the boss!
Incredible considering that in some parts of the World, drivers completely disregard pedestrians, often using them as objects for target practice. Much to my complete amazement and disbelief, it’s quite the opposite in Halifax.
In fact, drivers I spoke to on a recent trip actually told me that they feel guilty if they don’t let pedestrians cross the street. Some even consider it rude to make them wait on the curb! In fact, pedestrian-Kings have taken over the streets so much that they have actually shown their dissatisfaction with drivers who don’t stop for them! Amazing. I felt like I was in a bizarro-world, Seinfeld-style. Planet: Pedestrian paradise.
Being one of the oldest cities in North America, Halifax is full of history and has played a major role in several significant events including the Napoleonic Wars, American Revolution and of course the shaping and re-shaping of Canada. If you’re into that stuff, check out the Parks Canada site. It’s got plenty of information about the National Historic sites around the city.
I didn’t spend too much time in Halifax and as a result, took only a few pics. They illustrate my take on this quaint, polite part of Canada; arguably one of the most apologetic, empathetic, easy-going and historically significant cities in the country. What I really should have done was take a picture of the cop who let me cross…but he wasn’t that patient.