Driving on the left

Listening en inglés. In the past most of the world drove on the left. Why?

Listening en inglés / Escuchar inglés

Sometimes my students ask me, why in Britain do we drive on the left, when the rest of Europe drives on the right? I didn’t know, so one day I decided to find out what the reasons could be.

Well, it is true that most countries today drive on the right. But this wasn’t always the case. In fact, in the past, driving, riding or walking was normally on the left. This can be traced back to ancient Greece, Egypt and the Roman Empire. The Romans, built a lot of roads spanning Europe and evidence suggests it was common for them to ride on the left hand side of the road.

Indeed, in Europe the left rule was so common that, in 1300, Pope Boniface VIII decreed that all pilgrims going to Rome should walk or ride on the left. This then became normal all across most of the Western World until the late 18th century.

But riding on the left wasn’t just confined to Europe, other parts of the world also seem to have practised it. In the 18th century, Carl Peter Thunberg, a Swedish botanist, wrote that “left-side travel was observed by all travellers on Japanese highways.”

However, Engelbert Kaempfer, a German naturalist, who stayed in Japan from 1690 to 1692 wrote "according to the Japanese custom, people who travel to the capital have to keep to the left while people who travel from the capital have to keep to the right."

In China the first record of traffic rules are in the “The Book of Rites” from 1100 B.C. It says that “The right side of the road is for men, the left side for women and the center for carriages.” Later it became left hand side but changed in 1946.

Colonization by European countries in the 19th century took the left hand drive rule to many parts of Asia and Africa.

But why on the left in the first place? Because walking or riding on the left is more natural. Why? Because most people are right-handed and historians believe that riding on a horse on the left is better because if you met someone on the way, you could pull out your weapon and fight with your right hand or offer your right hand in greeting.

find out - averiguar

traced back > trace back - rastrear el origen

spanning (verbo: to span) - extenderse

pilgrims - peregrinos

B.C. (before christ) - antes de cristo

carriages - carruajes

right-handed - diestro

on the way - en el camino

pull out  - sacar

greeting (verbo: to greet) = saludar

Curso ingles online. Listening en ingles.

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