All things environmental

Musings about the environment and all it touches, from education to city planning

Premier runs red light, and other car troubles…

with one comment


Back from holidays…sigh.  And since my employer has seen fit to move my program from Richmond to Langley, and I live in Vancouver, no more Skytrain or bike-to-work for me – I’m stuck driving over the Port Mann bridge.  Re-sigh.

Don’t get me wrong: I think the new bridge is a marvel of engineering.  But, precisely because I think as an engineer, I despise car commuting as wasteful, inefficient and illogical: an unproductive use of time and resources, a worrisome source of pollution, a blemish on human ingenuity.  But there are, yet, other reasons I hate car commuting.

Take a look at the dude in the HOV lane next to me, for instance.  Sleek black Mercedes coupe, sleek sun shades, white open neck shirt and black suit.  I notice all that because he’s stuck besides me, going no faster: ahead of him, in the HOV lane, is a car going no faster than the speed limit (the nerve of some drivers!).  And another thing: he’s by himself, alone in his car, in the HOV lane.  

Here’s the puzzle: why does the single act of driving cause people to behave like complete sociopaths, exhibit the most shameless disregard for laws without even a hint of remorse, whether it is abusing the HOV lane, cruising through red lights, or chucking off litter and cigarettes?  Even our premier, the ultimate lawmaker, drove through a red light with giggling abandon.  Some have turned felony into a fine art, for instance using the HOV lane just long enough to avoid the single driver fee but not enough to get caught at the other end.

This is my main beef with driving: by providing that bubble with its illusion of safety, it turns otherwise decent folks into selfish, arrogant scofflaws.  Sure, there is a mystique around motorized rebels, carefully nurtured by movies and games from Easy Rider to Grand Theft Auto.  That’s fine for entertainment.  But when it comes to real life, it is generating a destructive, selfish behaviour that is anti-social, anti-community, and erosive of democracy.

George Monbiot, the British essayist, said it best:

When you drive, society becomes an obstacle.  Pedestrians, bicycles, traffic calming, speed limits, the law: all become a nuisance to be wished away.  The more you drive, the more bloody-minded and individualistic you become.  The car is slowly turning us, like the Americans and the Australians, into a nation that recognizes only the freedom to act, and not the freedom from the consequences of other people’s actions.

Sigh.  Stuck in a jam again.  For the very same amount – my bridge crossing fee, plus my contribution as a taxpayer – I could have been riding a light rail system to Langley.  I’d be reading a book or preparing a report or daydreaming.  Whatever, that’s water under the bridge.  But please, please, let’s not repeat this mistake, building a bridge at the expense of transit.  Let’s not, for instance, put all our resources into a new bridge to replace the Massey Tunnel, as advocated by our red-light running Premier.  Let’s move on to this century, please.  And avoid turning into sociopaths.

And you idiot in the car ahead of me, learn to drive or I’ll rear-end you so fast you’ll never know what happened!  Er, oops, sorry.  Nobody heard that, right? 


Written by enviropaul

May 12, 2013 at 3:02 pm

One Response

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  1. Just try and avoid voting for the Fiberals again! 😀


    May 12, 2013 at 7:39 pm

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