Alexey Kovalev, a moderate Russian liberal, writes:
“When I left [Russia], each time I crossed the road could have been my last. But now almost everybody makes way. So things are changing.”
You don’t often hear such positive sentiments from liberals, who tend to be negative and critical (which is not always a bad or wrong thing). But that is besides the point.
I think that in general having its drivers make way for pedestrians is a pretty good gauge of a country’s overall levels of civility and even social cohesion. Here is what I noticed:
(1) The Brits almost always make way; the Americans make way about 75% of the time; the Russians made way (last time I was there) about 10% of the time.
(2) That said, road civility was definitely on the decline in Britain when I was there, albeit from a very high base. Young people and immigrants just aren’t the same psychologically as older Brits. As for the US I have definitely noticed a majorly downhill trend even during the few years I’ve been here. It is good to hear from Kovalev that Russia is heading in the opposite direction, albeit from a very low base.
(3) Obviously, there are geographic factors too. People in America are definitely a lot more civil in small towns than in metropolises. I also suspect that Americans inland are somewhat more civil than on the coasts, although I haven’t really spent near enough time in the former to make any definitive judgments.