The automobile, once a portrait of freedom and independence, has since had its benefits outweighed by congested traffic. The term ‘road rage’ was coined by psychologist Dr David Lewis in 1985. This state of anxiety is something that affects 1 in 3 motorists. Driving is one of the most highly dramatic activities we hazard ourselves in regularly. The series of events and incidents such as changing lights, lane changes and near collisions require concentration, are sometimes frustrating, and often formidable.
The expectation of freedom only leads to frustration when drivers are held back from their destination by other motorists undertaking privileged journeys to fulfill their needs. Predictability and unpredictablity are conflicting structural elements of driving; a steady speed in one lane is safe and secure, whereas a sudden manoeuvre not signaled creates danger, stress and risk of an accident.
A large amount of frustration when driving is immobility and constriction, whether it be caused by roadworks, congestion, speed limits or traffic lights. Drivers feel like they are wasting their time simply ‘sitting there’. You cannot perform other tasks whilst behind the wheel, whereas a journey taken by foot or bicycle includes excersise, relaxation and a chance of social encounter, without being held up.
I sold my car a year ago with the commitment of using only sustainable transport methods or lift-shares. Agreed there are some restrictions, such as not being able to simply down tools and get to the waves when the swell is kicking off. But on the other hand, I have made friends through sharing lifts to the beach, have slept on the beach, and risen at dawn to hit the beach. Surfing has since become more of a social activity for me. I feel more freedom now than ever before. This is because of the limiting factors of driving such as regulations, loss of control and expense.
Whilst cycling, I am avoiding the hostility of drivers (I can ignore it more easily because I’m having fun), the defensiveness and territorial behaviour. I can predict exactly how long it takes to get from A to B and the chances of a disaster or break down en route are very slim. This avoids the stress of an unpredictable journey and the usual delays encountered. Cycling in heavy traffic is the faster option; a journey of 10 minutes on the bike can take 30 minutes in a car. There is always an alternative route to get to your destination than driving and is nearly always more enjoyable. If not; how much do you really want or need to get there?