It was a beautiful day in Wellington on Friday, so I took a stroll along the waterfront at lunchtime. As I was returning to town I noticed something interesting between Cable St and Jervois Qy…
I doubt the goat track is much shorter than the paved alternative, yet there must be some perceived directness about it for a good number of people. Perhaps it was first formed by those running to catch a green pedestrian light, like the guys in the first shot. Whatever the case the path now seems to have a life of its own. Enough pedestrians have taken the dirt route just to get to the waiting point that the entire area next to it has been completely stripped of grass.
Indeed, I must admit I found the dirt path choice quite compelling even though I wasn’t in a rush and could see the other pedestrian light was already orange. It was probably the social proof of the well-worn track (“others seem to think it would be quicker, so it probably is”) along with the direct line-of-site to the other crossing that provided the appeal. And the fact that the path was already bare meant there would be no guilt in walking on the grass.
What’s bizzare is that we’ll choose that route even though it doesn’t really save us any material time. In fact, even if it did save time, in most cases it would mean we just get to a waiting point quicker!
This ‘gravitational pull’ of shortcuts is frequently exploited. Just look at the ads for 30-day weight-loss programs and get-rich quick schemes. Even when there is little for us to gain we’ll take the short route so as to not miss out on just the potential for a mental, physical, or financial bargain. It is unfortunate that the designers of this particular pedestrian crossing didn’t take it into account. It might have made for a little less mud in winter.
Still, it gave me something to write about!
Here’s the area in Google Street View if you want to talk a stroll around it yourself…
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