Intersection Impatience and Invisible Indicators




What is it with NZ drivers and a sudden impatience when the traffic light turns?
Generally kiwis are laid back, friendly and polite. Happy to wait and form neat queues for ticket sales or supermarket cashiers. Very polite and often even letting others go first. Nothing like the Dutch who are not good queuers at all. They believe more in ‘opportunity taking’ and being assertive.

But when that light changes to orange, something weird happens in these otherwise calm NZ minds. The foot goes down, the car speeds up and impatience kicks in. The first seconds of a red light don’t count either, we must make it to the other side.

As a pedestrian I have often wondered why I even wait for a green pedestrian light, as it is no guarantee that I can cross safely to the other side of the intersection. And trying to predict where cars will come from is almost impossible as well due to the concept of accelerating and that other challenge, the invisible indicator.

I don’t want to claim I am a good driver, as I have lots to improve on. But basic road rules are there for a reason and not that hard to follow. Indicating is another one that seems to have lost its meaning somewhere along the line in NZ. We now think it’s normal to merge into highway traffic by just starting to move into that direction or turn the corner by, well, just turning the corner. No need to put that indicating light on, I’m sure they see me coming.

Not quite unsurprisingly, there are a fair few accidents. Often these are blamed on the numerous drivers without NZ road experience. This may well be true. But do you agree that before we start pointing the finger, we could look at ourselves and be a little more visible and patient?

Bussing and the myth of losing freedom

B Bussing into work is for a lot of kiwi’s a foreign concept. Something that might happen in other countries or to other people who live in different circumstances. Those people that don’t have kids, pets, a normal working day, don’t exercise, don’t want to get home on time … Really? Traffic in Auckland peak hours is pretty horrendous since Auckland is one of the most congested cities in the world in peak hour. People are spending up to 101 hours a year in peak hour traffic (TomTom Traffic Index Q2 2013). And still people cannot see why leaving the car at home might help improve this situation. Growing up in the Netherlands of course I am used to taking public transport, and was very spoiled by the great train, tram and bus systems that are in place there. But it is also a mind-set no matter how extensive the bus network is. You accept that you plan in advance when you are going somewhere and yes maybe you will share your personal space with somebody you don’t know for an hour a day. Is that crazy? It’s a change, a big change for those who are so attached to their cars and believe taking this away is like giving up freedom. But look at yourself, sitting in traffic going 2 km/h, one car after the other with only a driver in it, every day, twice a day. You get to work stressed as it’s taken you 20 minutes longer then yesterday and you missed the start of a meeting. I’m up to date with my emails, refreshed from my walk to and from the bus stop, motivated by conversation I had with my co-bussers. I can have a drink on Friday afternoon and not worry about drink driving. Does that feel like less freedom to you?