As a very small child I learned road safety from a squirrel. Pre- green cross code man (though firmly GXC) I guess I was at the apex of Tufty’s pre-eminence as the icon of overtly precautionary pedestrian behaviour. Certainly his message stuck with me. To this day, I can’t comfortably use a pedestrian crossing on the wonk, because in one “circle all the naughty things these anthropomorphic creatures are doing” picture, one of Tufty’s friends (probably that numbskull Willie Weasel) was walking OUTSIDE OF THE METAL STUDS.
I’m pretty sure that I’ve never come close to being run over on a road and it’s entirely down to Tufty. (There was a moment on my 20th birthday when I think my brother may have hauled me off the A512 from near a bus, but in fairness Tufty didn’t really cover safety after pub golf night so I wasn’t technically letting him down).
My job involves talking to grown-ups about safety in a very serious way and I’ve used The Tufty Club probably weekly for 25 years as a jumping off point for discussions about all sorts of properly sobering risks in hundreds of settings. It’s always split a room (not just by age, but also by where you grew up (and just possibly by class, but I’m not sure)) and it has a lovely way of making a connection (turns out it really was a Club, after all).
I was very briefly curious about acquiring the brand for commercial purposes but it turns out that RoSPA still owns (and very occasionally uses) it. You can find out more about Tufty here https://www.rospa.com/about/history/tufty/
It seems daft now, but as we work on more and more sophisticated approaches to safety behaviour change, I keep coming back to the power of that squirrel.
Anyway, I was standing at a pedestrian crossing by the Mexican restaurant in Loughborough last week. You’ll know it if you’re from here, but probably won’t if you’re not. It’s a very narrow road. It’s infrequently used but it’s alongside the main road. It used to be one way (inbound) but since last year it now has two-way traffic. As a result of being the poor relation in a crossroads, you can sit at a red light for about three minutes before it’s your turn. It’s fairly safe to cross as a pedestrian, despite what the red man says. But Tufty would surely point out that, were the lights to change, the traffic waiting patiently to pull out would be upon you very very quickly indeed. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to stop and dance whilst you’re walking to work. I was listening to “kiss on your list” by Hall and Oates, so you’ll understand.
There’s a guy in a Transit van who has been waiting to pull out of the junction for almost the full three minutes that I’ve been waiting to cross. The sequence is going to let him go first. We’ve exchanged a morning nod. I’m giving him my “I know. It’s so annoying” smile. He’s giving me his “seriously? You couldn’t get across this junction without the lights” look.
The lights change. He starts to move.
I look across the junction and an elderly woman on a mobility scooter arrives at the junction and JUST KEEPS GOING. JESUS! SHE’S GOING TO…
The guy in the Transit slams on the brakes.
He goes from 4 to 0mph in the blink of an eye.
The old woman carries on, oblivious.
Transit Man looks up to see that his light is now red. Another three minutes of waiting. He flashes me a look of deep and exasperated fury.
“Well, she’s not in the Tufty club” I say, offering my deepest sympathy.
“The f**k you say?!?!”
The green man says go. I go. Swiftly.
I may have mis-read our brief relationship, but I’ll mark Transit Man as “probably not a member”.
So long, Tufty. 1953-2017.