You are sitting in your car in a line at a signal – the signal is at red – you wait. Further down the street you see green lights turning red, and red lights turning green. This journey is going to take longer than you thought. This line will be caught up at the next signal, and the next, and the one after that. And you are tenth in that line.
This is quite normal, of course. We all take it for granted that we will have to wait until it is our turn to go. But if this happened whilst we were on foot, we would find it intolerable.
Suppose at every door we had to go through on our way from our office to the cafeteria, we were met by queues of people pushing and shoving to go the same way as us. We would probably start by bringing sandwiches to avoid the queue to get a meal – or to go anywhere at all.
If all our journeys on foot were as crowded as the roads are congested, we would think twice before venturing out anywhere, it seems to me.
Then why do we persist in driving through jam after jam to get something we might just as easily do without? My answer is that we just accept it. That is the way the world is. We can’t change it, we just have to deal with it, and that is exactly right – we do.
But in ‘dealing with it’, do we not just hype ourselves up so that we become more and more impatient? Do we not send our blood pressure and our stress levels soaring every day of our lives whenever we get into our vehicles?
The other thing we do when we drive, apart from imperiling our health, is to endanger the environment – the ‘sick man’ all around us – in the air we breathe, and the noise we have to put up with – never mind the cost of burning so much carbon producing fuel.
We need to limit our journeys to those that are vital – share cars to and from work – walk more.
If we walk more, we soon find out that, unlike the junctions on our roads, those in our path as we walk are nothing like as busy. On the contrary, people invariably hold doors ajar for us to pass through. When does the equivalent take place on our roads? Hardly ever.
Hurtling along faster than we should in the metal cases we call cars, we are insulated from anything like meaningful contact with our fellow human beings. Road rage is endemic. We get on each others’ nerves. We shout through toughened windscreens. We mouth threats at other road users. Would we do any of that if we were walking? Certainly not.
The motor car is responsible for more deaths than any wars, and it is also responsible, in part, for the social disintegration of society. We are atomized – separated – adrift from each other – set apart, and set against each other in ways that we could never be whilst walking.
The congestion on our roads is ten times, a hundred times worse than the crowding in our busiest malls and walkways.