Sunday, January 12, 2014

Roadways I

The other day, I pulled up to an intersection in which the traffic lights were not working. A police car sat on the other side, lights flashing. Drivers, me included, did the "act-like-it's-a-stop-sign" routine and proceeded through the intersection, carefully. 

Here was an example of the roadways, and people proceeding along them. As John Donne observed nearly 400 years ago, "No man is an island."  Each vehicle driver must cooperate to some degree with other people, usually strangers, in order to get from point A to point B. Everything is peachy when people cooperate smoothly, with strong hearts and generosity and some kind of social etiquette.

As anyone who drives knows, however, many drivers act as if they own the road. They are special. They deserve some edge. They get to do as they wish. When this happens, things tend to get dicey. Even dangerous.
The roadways are a microcosm of society. Almost everything comes together on them and through them: individual freedom, mobility, government interaction (usually at local or state level; at the federal level only in times of large-scale disaster), commerce. There are rules, courtesies, practices, inspections, and crackdowns. There's insurance. There are distractions. 

Almost anything one wants to know about society, good and bad, can be seen happening (and experienced directly) on the roadways. And we, anyone using the roadways, are the active participants.

The roadways are simple, and they are complex. They promote freedom of mobility, but also pollution, a massive commitment of individual and collective resources, disruptions of space. And let's not forget parking. Infrastructure. 

We are always making choices with roadways. All this stuff on the roadways has really taken hold just about anywhere people live or transport goods and services, only in the past 100 years.

If you could make a couple of changes to a roadway you frequently drive on, what might they be?  If you don't use the roadways as driver or passenger, how do you get around?

On the roadways, more to come.

Today's Rune: Flow.


Charles Gramlich said...

The roads as a microcosm of society. You know, I never really thought of that before. Interesting. Gotta give it some thought.

jodi said...

Erik-It's a hard job, and one society is enough for me. I'd rather dig a ditch!