Friday, September 14, 2007

Choice Quote on Driving

"I believe that while there are many reasons for the growth of individualism in the UK, the extreme libertarianism now beginning to take hold here begins on the road. 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 recognises only the freedom to act, and not the freedom from the consequences of other people's actions. We drive on the left in Britain, but we are being driven to the right."

-- George Monbiot, "They call themselves libertarians; I think they're antisocial bastards," The Guardian, Tuesday December 20, 2005

Also, my own experience at intersections in China (a response to a discussion on the "shared space" traffic concept):

I currently live in Chengdu (pop. somewhere around 10 million) and have visited many of the nation's other large cities. For whatever reason (my conjecture is the relatively recent introduction of the automobile to the masses), traffic lights here are regularly ignored by rivers, pedestrians, and bikers. At intersections, whichever group is the greatest in number seems to just go; and it is a nice contrast to crossing the street in my former haunts of Los Angeles, where was often the lone pedestrian against a street full of cars, to feel that those great hordes of us on foot/bike are taking (back) the streets from automobiles. On the flip side, we can never assume we have the right of way; that right is almost always taken by drivers. Of course all this is changing, with increasing numbers of cars on the street every day, and more and more uniformed traffic guards at all four corners of major intersections, armed with whistles (though not much else), waving at bikers and pedestrians to stay behind the lines when their light is red. This, too, seems to be a re-engineering of social mentality to conform to cars: Those of us on foot/bike need to yield to car drivers for our own safety while they are generally free to do as they please, including driving down bike lines that are separated from the normal driving lanes by cement barriers.

And lastly, a quote oft-attributed to Margaret Thatcher, though that's disputed by at least one source:

“A man who, beyond the age of 26, finds himself on a bus can count himself a failure.”

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