Traffic and Society: Can We Create a Smooth Commute?

Updated on August 20, 2017
Kyle McIntyre profile image

Kyle is a man who often drives his car. Those drives have been known to occur in significantly heavy amounts of traffic.

Off-ramp to the richest square mile in Africa.
Off-ramp to the richest square mile in Africa. | Source

August 10th 2017, 16:00, Johannesburg, South Africa. I was driving home from Rosebank to Glen Austin. A journey of roughly 25km. 90% of which, is covered by highway. The transition from light to heavy traffic had definitely begun. When I can, I try avoid high concentrations of traffic, opting rather to leave before they start or wait till after they’ve dissipated entirely. Sometimes you simply don’t have a choice though. And on a few occasions in my life I’ve experienced a quite remarkable and wonderful type of the stuff.

I can only attribute these strange traffic occurrences to days when there is just the right balance of people still on holiday and those getting back to work. Or a random event that somehow levels out the amount of cars on the roads. Or maybe it’s the cosmos and its mysterious ways. Anyway, in this special type of traffic, during a time that would usually be filled with stops, starts, flared tempers, rash turns and hooters everywhere, you find yourself, instead, effortlessly gliding from the place you left to the place you’re heading to as if an amazing someone gave you a push and momentum took care of the rest. On these extremely rare days, once you get on the highway, it’s like what I can only imagine a society of driverless cars must feel like. You ease effortlessly onto the onramp and for the entire highway drive encounter no need to alter your speed from 65kmph. No hard braking, no sudden acceleration. Just smooth. So incredibly and pleasantly smooth. I have been privileged enough to have experienced such a marvellous vehicular phenomenon more than once in my time on the roads.

The 10th of August 2017, however, was not one of those days. There was flow, until the car in front of me had to brake suddenly because the car in front of them had to brake suddenly because the car in front… you get the idea. Then I would sit for an indeterminate amount of time. Until suddenly the car in front shot off, desperate to mimic the impressive acceleration of their car in front, who themselves were desperate to mimic the acceleration of the car in front of… again, I’m sure you get the picture. So why am I describing the extraordinarily entertaining events of traffic congestion to you? It was also on that day, at about 16:23 in the afternoon, that something occurred to me. That something, was Tom Cruise.

More specifically it was Tom Cruise in one of his Mission Impossible movies. Which one, I’m not too sure. In the scene I thought of he is dutifully keeping his secret agent identity safe by masquerading as a traffic analyst in front of a group of doting women. There he mentions how fascinating traffic is; how you can track a traffic event’s effects at different points throughout the stream of vehicles it occurred in. For whatever reason I had thought relatively often about that rather pointless scene and what he says in it. I don’t really know why that is. Usually it popped into my thoughts as nothing more than an interesting idea; these traceable ripple-like events in traffic. Only this time, I was in traffic. Then it occurred to me – What if I could do that? What if I could manipulate, in whatever small measure it may be, the circumstances surrounding my little bubble of traffic? So I tried.

In search of that elusive smooth commute I thought that if I really concentrated on keeping a comfortable distance between me and the car in front, I would always, bar an accident somewhere along the line, be able to avoid hard braking and sudden acceleration. It also occurred to me, because of Mr Cruise, that my driving in this way would create a smoother commute for the other drivers in my lane. Now, I can’t say for sure, but I swear I could see and feel it working right in front of me. It most certainly made my drive a better one. And over and above my direct experience it also just seemed to make sense.

The idea that mobile objects travelling constantly within close distances of one another would feel the effects of each individual’s intentions at different measures depending on their proximity to the original event seemed absolutely plausible and in accordance with the physical universe I know. To think about it more simply, it’s like when two people hold a hose pipe, each at different points, and the one shakes the pipe up and down so that the other cannot help but be shaken too, whether they like it or not.

South Africa, and most definitely Johannesburg, has a bad reputation for angry and aggressive drivers. It was driving home that day, on the 10th of August 2017 at about 16:28, that I began to explore the correlation between the country we were and the traffic we produced. As a country we, like our driving, have developed a reputation for being angry, violent and with a propensity for producing significant amounts of assholery. The more I started to think about it the more the reflection seemed so tragically clear. If anyone wanted to see what kind of a country we were, all they had to do was sit where I was; in traffic. The display was right there in front of me; directly under the new bridge just past the Grayston off-ramp; people slamming on breaks only because the red lights on the car in front of them told them to do so.

You can see it in our parliament. You can see it in the way that so many of us interact with each other. You can recognise it in yourself more often than you’d probably like to admit. You can see it in our traffic. Some kilometres into my new quest for considerate driving the comparison between negotiating traffic and doing the same in society continued. It made sense, both experientially and rationally, that if I drove with more consideration I would improve not only my commute, but others’ around me too. And if they drove with more consideration they would do the same, with me feeling the benefit. However, the unavoidable question was just around the next bend – Why don’t we?

Why aren’t people more charitable? Why don’t more people help more people help more people help more… ? Why do so many people drive like absolute reprobates? The easiest answer is that not doing these things is much easier than doing them. So, I reflected on my driving. Was it harder driving like this? Having to constantly check my distances, having to be mindful of a more tender endeavour to brake, having to overcome my urge to flip off that troglodyte who cut in front of me? Of course it was. Would it have been easier to focus solely on the brake lights on the car in front of me and only react when they prompted me to do so, and to flip that guy off? Yes. But whoever said the best things in life weren’t worth working for?

I looked around and I saw society right there; through sheets of steel and glass. People limiting their existences to the strangling constraints of the sole faculty of reacting. What if they didn’t? What if everyone did more than just react, or, to begin with, tried simply to delay that reaction? What if we all said, “I know the brake lights on the car in front of me are going to shine at some point. How’s about I give myself more time to decide what to do about it when they do.” Imagine that drive. Smooth. Steady. Pleasant. Is it harder? Of course. Funny thing about hard tasks though; they become easier the more you do them.

© 2017 Kyle McIntyre

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, axleaddict.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://axleaddict.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)