Keep left: plan to direct Adelaide pedestrians to stay in their lane sparks unexpected culture war

All Anne Moran wants is a civilised city where people politely stick to the left on the footpath.

© Provided by The Guardian Photograph: Morgan Sette/AAP

The Adelaide councillor is tired of cyclists, scooters, smartphone zombies and meanderers ricocheting off each other, creating mayhem on the (ahem) thriving streets of her city.

So she put a motion to the Adelaide city council, calling for signs to nudge the unruly populace back to where they belong. To “help direct pedestrian movement”.

Occasionally mixing would be required when queues, outdoor dining and bus stops disrupted the orderly flow, she allowed, and of course searing heat and pouring rain would see people squidge together in the search for shelter.

Little did Moran know the next frontier of the culture wars was about to erupt on the wide, leafy, perfectly planned streets of this metropolis (population approx. 22,000) which takes in the central part of the South Australian capital.

It’s a “woke” plan, they told her. It’s “cancel culture”. I will walk wherever I like, people said.

In a state known for its food, wine, posh accents, ageing population and unemployment issues, opinions were divided.

Related: Robotic dog employed to roam Adelaide streets in search of damaged power lines

On the local ABC station people talked fondly of the days when a strict, painted line divided left firmly from right. One man harked back to the days when gentlemen bodily inserted themselves between their ladies and the filthy detritus and danger of the streets. “In my day,” people cried, “there were rules!”

“What about in supermarkets?” one caller wanted to know.

“Are we going to punish people?” asked the man from the pedestrian council. “Non-enforcement of the law will encourage its disobedience!”

People say Adelaide wasn’t always so anarchic. Perhaps recent events have disrupted the locals’ orientation, leaving them directionally challenged. It’s not that long ago that the state’s main expressway only went one way – causing confusion when it was eventually duplicated.

© Photograph: Morgan Sette/AAP Adelaide councillor Anne Moran’s push for signs to ‘help redirect pedestrian movement’ has divided a city.

A disproportionate number of drivers are found trying to drive up the O-Bahn busway, following buses that turn left only to magically levitate on special tracks. (The magic doesn’t work for cars).

A government election promise had to be ditched a couple of years ago when it proved impossible to allow trams to turn right.

But Moran isn’t giving up. She’ll go back to council with more details on the problem spots in the hopes of surmounting the fierce backlash and restoring law and order to the streets.

“I was just asking for a few stencils on the footpath,” she says.

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