Virtually every day you drive a car in Seattle, you’re going to sit in traffic. I keep seeing a city adding mass instead of reducing it, and I wonder (aside from the whole big business thing) why the fairly obvious math of why cars don’t fit is consistently left out of the conversation. The only people who don’t sit in traffic are those of us who ride bicycles or walk to get around.
At its current population, if each Seattle metropolitan resident drove a car every day at the same time, we would have roads full of skyscrapers made of stacked cars. If you love sitting in Seattle traffic (4th worst in US), you can skip this post. If you would like to understand why it’s so durned gridlocked and learn a simple approach for doing something about it, read on.
Upon returning from virtually any ride through Seattle’s traffic mess, I could easily sit down and tap out a scathing rant about how poorly driving humans treat riding humans, but why? I understand the plight of drivers. The fact is bicyclists can react and maneuver in traffic quicker than cars, and it probably frustrates people who have spent a year’s salary on two thousand pounds of steel, plastic, rubber, and glass to have to share “their” space with human counterparts aboard 19-pound machines of love and grace that cost maybe a month’s salary. Goats are likely gotten when they have to witness that same bicyclist travel across town faster than their more expensive vehicles will allow on the very same roads. But since we all pay taxes, there’s realistically no valid argument against bicycling.
Whilst addressing the ‘us versus them’ approach of car drivers versus bicycle riders, whereas drivers use gas pedal pressure, hand gestures, yelling, and borderline psycho steering in wielding their belted-on massiveness to state protestations on road sharing, I tend to use agility, good bike handling, and the keyboard.
I know how frustrating it can be for a motorist to not elicit the hostile response that would justify the not-so-lovely hand gestures bestowed upon bicyclists, instead receiving a friendly wave of the hand when you really want to see the rapid ascension of a middle finger rocketing skyward. I get it.
I understand. It’s about apathy. The thing is, we don’t need to be apathetic about changing commuting habits. It’s a solvable problem which can inspire healthier, happier living for durned near everyone.
We all want to change, but change is hard. Many of us see the ridiculous nature of planting 3.5 million human beings (Seattle metropolitan area) in automobiles in a city that can’t possibly house that many. I’ve been doing a little math, and the numbers paint a clear picture. The cars don’t fit.
The right of passage at 16 years old for earning a driver’s license sets people up to believe we have a right to “own the road,” but there simply is not enough road for each of us to own it.
Washington state is ranked as #1 in Bicycle Friendliness, an interesting score which ranks states by legislation and enforcement, policies and programs, infrastructure and funding, education and encouragement, and evaluation and planning. Oddly, however, less than 2% of Washington residents commute by bicycle. Clearly, Washington, and particularly Seattle given its small area footprint, are poised to turn bicycle commuting into the majority transport method.
It is high time to stick those angry hand gestures in your ear, face the realities of our region, and embrace healthy change. Here’s the math:
Seattle Traffic Math – It’s not rocket science to see that a change in commuting methods is essential to our health and happiness.
Seattle Office of the City Clerk
WikiAnswers (How big is a car?)
Seattle Department of Transportation
NWCN – Study ranks Seattle 4th for worst US traffic
The League of American Bicyclists
TomTom Americas Traffic Index
Bicycle Friendly State Report Card
A compendium of other interesting facts resides at Cars Stink.