Nudging on Lyon Metro

Lyon’s underground platforms mark where the train doors will be. At peak times, this causes a problem.

Those waiting at the station will cluster around those markers and, when the train arrives, be in just the right place to block those wanting to get off the train. The train arrives. The doors open. Those inside are faced by a wall of people who knew exactly where to stand and wait. They have been waiting long enough to be a solid block a few people deep.

What follows is pushing, annoyance, and less than ideal.

To ease this problem TCL, the operators of the underground, have painted hints on the platform about where to stand and who has right of way. They help nudge passengers to do the right thing. They do not work consistently but they at least provide some guidance.

Stand to the side and priority to those getting off.
Stand to the side and priority to those getting off.

Swept Along by the Rhône

When we arrived, the gates of the park were closed. It happens from time to time. The wind is too strong or the park staff are delayed. At 6:30am it is better not to expect too much.

I watched a woman press the security intercom next to the gate. The buzzer rang followed by a series of tones but no answer. Not reassuring. The button had, until then, seemed like a good way to get attention in an emergency.

Megan caught up with me and we agreed to change our route. We like to know where each is running in case of problems. The river side run is not as attractive as the park but it is traffic free and not too far away.

I have something of an aversion to parts of the river side walk. It was there that I slipped and hit my head on the concrete. Those moments of blood streaming down my face and the subsequent hospital visit are memories I do not want to evoke.

Strip of pavement where I slipped.
Strip of pavement where I slipped.

Today it would another man’s turn to visit hospital.

The bridges act as markers along the route. Pass under a few bridges, turn around, and head back home. That was the plan.

The wind was strong and it blew bits into my face as I ran. The water was much higher than I had seen in my years in Lyon. Waves lapped over edge of the path. The normal metre drop from the bank to the water was gone. It has rained heavily for days now and it showed in the river’s volume and force.

Listening to music, sunglasses shielding my eyes, I ran along. Two stationary runners appeared in the distance talking to each other. As I passed they had that look of tourists wondering what to do and who to ask for directions. Just then they called out to me. Odd, runners rarely need directions.

She was a younger woman. He an older man. She spoke. A flurry of French that I understood in a vague manner. Understanding enough but taking a moment to register. “Dived?”, I countered to confirm my fears.

Her look as she noted my not being local was unfortunate. Another runner only a few paces behind joined our growing group. He was the stroke of luck she wanted; he had a phone.

For the next few minutes we found ourselves tracking a person who had fallen – or dived – into the turbulent thrashing river Rhône.

The emergency services were called, in France dial 18. The universal 112 works but 18 is better.

Staring out over the river looking for a person, we moved down following the flow. Every so often a dark shape would come in and out of view. A person? Difficult to be sure. Then the shape again. Certainly a person. An arm raised. A small figure being propelled at speed along towards the next big bridge.

Pont Passerelle du Collège, Lyon, France
Pont Passerelle du Collège, Lyon, France

They had entered the river dropping from Pont Passerelle du Collège. I hoped the next bridge might catch them. A thump certainly but a place to cling onto and hold firm while help arrived.

For after the bridge comes turbulence. Swirling, ebbing waters, choppy, white with foam. Metres of churned up water created by the bridge’s plinths.

The shape had vanished.

Flashing lights started appearing along the river bank.

An electric cleaning cart appeared beside us. The driver getting out, confirming this was the location, then driving on ahead. His tone suggesting he was aware of the situation.

We were helpless now. The emergency services were arriving further down the river. On both shores I could see flashing lights moving through the traffic and stopping at the edges of the next bridge.

We ran along. Looking all the time for the shape, for the person to reappear. Had they clung onto the bridge?

Passing the bridge, moored boats limited our view.

Then between two boats I saw him. A small helpless shape still being swept down the river. Arm seemingly raised. Seconds later a powerful boat crossed my view. The boat took a couple of attempts to grapple the soul and drag him to safety. The engine roared and the boat swept in a tight u-turn, repositioning itself for that second attempt.

I stayed by the river side wanting to see the event end. An ambulance stopped near me and as the boat approached, I could see a young man. Wrapped in foil. Alive, shaken, but sitting up in the boat. He was surrounded by emergency services and would soon be on his way to hospital.

There was nothing more to do. I had closure and I had stayed for that. The notion of leaving after the call was made had crossed my mind. What could I do? Had I left I would have wondered, always wondered, what had happened. So I stayed only until I knew the man was safe.

Tiny Spider

My reaction to spiders has changed since living in Australia. I am still uncomfortable when I first notice a spider but after a moment the rush of fear subsides. After Australian spiders, justifying a fear of spiders in France is impossible.

It is difficult to really fear insects in Europe once you have lived in Australia. That is not to be macho or suggest bravado. I can claim neither. Instead living in a country where a real fear of spiders is justified provides perspective on those times when the fear is utterly pointless.

I remember the first spider I saw crawling on the wall in my Sydney apartment. That moment of not being sure quite how nasty that tiny creature might be. Tracking the tiny black creature moving disturbingly quickly along the wall.

Since that first Australian spider I encountered all manner of nasty insects. They exist but despite the perception that Australia is full of lethal animals, you rarely come across them in your daily routine. Locals do however take more care than tourists and immigrants. This extra care can go unnoticed and that can lull you into a false sense of safety. That care is also not explicit but instead just a childhood habit instilled by parents and teachers over many years.

Australian kids are taught to never never prod and poke around under fallen branches and rocks. Adults are careful when gardening and working around the borders. Venturing into the bush requires good shoes and covered legs. Fridges are home to magnetic leaflets with silhouettes of spiders identifying those with nasty bites.

Explaining the joys of a childhood nature trail to an Australian results in tears of laughter and shock. You were encouraged to lift up rocks and seek out hidden creatures? Crazy.

With that comparison in mind, I took the chance to film a tiny spider in our bathroom. Harmless, beautiful, and now safely outside.

The Spikiest Tree – Gleditsia Caspica

There is a tree in parc de la tête d’or that is seriously spiky. The Gleditsia Caspica; a tree from the mountainous Caucasus region in Iran.

Without leaves the spikes are exposed and they look mean. In a month or two the leaves will return as summer approaches and the spikes will all but disappear from sight.

A spiky tree in Lyon's parc de la tête d'or
A spiky tree in Lyon’s parc de la tête d’or
Gleditsia caspica, also known as the Caspian locust
Gleditsia caspica, also known as the Caspian locust

Sudden Hailstorm

After a couple of days with brilliant blue sky, today has been overcast and wet. A hailstorm rolled in this afternoon.

I stood watching the hail falling for a few moments before realising I could probably create a short film from the event. I rushed to my camera, captured some footage, then rushed again for my microphone. Better sound makes all the difference.

The hailstorm was uneventful but it was fun filming and putting together this film. All done within an hour – including the YouTube administration.

Hailstone on the windowsill
Hailstone on the windowsill

Warmth Returning

The first flowers are appearing in the park. Winter is nearly behind us and warmth is returning to the days.

First flowers of 2015.
First flowers of 2015.
Winter colours.
Winter colours.
Leaves clinging on through winter.
Leaves clinging on through winter.

We walked in parc feyssine yesterday. Compared to the refined and cultivated feel of parc de la tête d’or, feyssine feels less managed. The two parks almost touch and both are well looked after, but they seem designed for different audiences.


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If you are visiting Lyon and have limited time, visit parc de la tête d’or.

If you live here and want to escape the city without travelling too far, visit parc feyssine. While you are in the area, you can walk across one of the new bridges.