Thursday, June 16, 2005

Traffic

This is one of the biggest issues that has made life much easier here than it was in Chicago. Let me start by some comparisons. I have experienced a few different types of traffic in my life.

First is the fairly civil type of driving. Drivers let you merge when you put on your signal. When two lanes merge, it's one lane after the other. Drivers don't honk unless it's truly warrented. Drivers don't block intersections. I think you get the idea. For the most part, this is the type of driving that I remember when I was a kid and when I first started driving. Also, in general, it is the type of driving I have encountered here. Of course there are exceptions, there's always someone out there trying to sneak ahead and when traffic is bad the stress pushes people to do stupid things. But in general that is the state of it here. Somebody let me know if my recollection of driving in the 70's and 80's is correct. This subject also goes back to that 70's feel I have noticed here and mentioned a few months back.

The second type of driving is dog eat dog. I have experienced this in my limited driving experiences in Paris and New York. It is partly a game of chicken and partly whoever is farther forward has priority. The Avenue de Paris which leaves Versailles is six lanes wide with only one yellow line down the center. Everyone just jockeys around until they find a spot in the traffic. It's kind of a controlled madness. The stress level is high and I could not deal with it on a daily basis, but is can be fun for limited periods of time. Also as long as you're not pressed to get anywhere. I had a blast a couple summers ago jockeying a rental car down the length of Manhattan. It took two or three hours and the car didn't get a scratch.

It's the last type of driving that I find difficult. It is a situation where there is a mix of the other two types. This seems to me to be the current situation in Chicago. I also probably find it more difficult that others because I'm trying to be more like type one than type two. Maybe from now on, I'll just drive like type two when I'm in town. My thinking is that as cities become larger, they make a transition from type one to type two. Chicago is currently stuck in between.

This is a topic I would really like to hear your opinion on. I will probably revisit it in future posts.

6 comments:

jason palma said...

I'd have to say not that the chicago is becoming larger, but denser. Most interesting neighborhoods are becoming concentrations of young urbanites. Moreover, retailers are sprouting like mushrooms everywhere--and such retailers only invite yet more traffic. Some neighborhoods (like Andersonville), through their chambers of commerce, seek to check such growth....

Frank said...

Thanks for chiming in Jason. The addition of big box or chain stores in the center city is something else I'll talk about later.

The post ended being more about the demeanor of drivers rather than the actual flow of traffic. Thinking about it this morning, as someone was tailing me on our residential street, I was thinking that much of the demeanor has to do with the time pressures on the individual. Take away the need to get somewhere by a certain time and things become more civil.

My biggest beef is people cutting to the front of the line.

Frank said...

Also, so everyone doesn't think that drivers here are saints. There are two things that they seem to do consistantly. Tailgate and block intersections. Blocking intersections can be written off as absentmindedness or not knowing any better,though it happens consistantly. The tailgating thing seems to be an accepted tradition. Some of the nicer people I know here do it and it is not out of malice or to push the guy ahead.

Mark said...

Downtown in rush hour Montreal is closer to Shanghai traffic than anything (cars, bicycles, buses, and people moving at approximately the same rate, interesections becoming parking lots)...maybe not so bad in the burbs... do people who live within former city limits actually drive anymore?

-mark
(Fellow chicagoan who expatriated to montreal, like you! since 2001)

Malek said...

People in Quebec and more precisly in Montreal do not care about speed limits on highways.

Tailgaiting someone who's driving at the top permitted speed limit and some on the leftmost lane is the norm... rightfully so ;)

Frank said...

Mark, I don't know if I agree about downtown Montreal traffic or downtown Chicago also being total gridlock and chaos. Now that I think about it the two cities are pretty much the same with Montreal being slightly more fluid.

Malek, Thanks for the comment and I see you've been poking around. Glad you find it interesting. It does seem the tailgating is an understood fact of driving. Speeding is also pretty popular, but people still don't drive as fast as Chicago (when they can). The average speed of traffic is slower here and actually the number of speeders is still lower. The other place I can think of where tailgatering was as popular is North Carolina. I'm getting used to it and drive to prevent that type of situation, but if it's done agressively, I react in kind and slow up. There's respectfully giving a hint and there's showing obnoxious superiority.