My 12 year-old nephew, Jinny, is doing a school project on the topic of gridlock traffic. Can you believe that? Like, doesn’t understanding traffic congestion require at least rudimentary experience as a driver? Obviously, it’s totally possible for a 12 year-old to get their head around it in theory, and they’ve probably been exposed to traffic jams at some point in their short life. But what does that knowledge really amount to if you haven’t directly experienced the powerlessness of sitting in your personal convenience machine, unable to move in the direction you’re trying to go – or any other direction, for that matter?
I’d wager that the majority of drivers in Australia haven’t experienced true gridlock, yet everyone seems to have a story about it and fancies themselves as a traffic engineer. In Melbourne, compared to other parts of the world, traffic is really not a thing. As much as it might feel like it is, in reality it’s just not. Trust me; I was in China during the great highway jam of 2010, when drivers on the Beijing to Mongolia expressway were stuck in traffic for over 10 days. That changes you, man.
I should probably tell Jinny about that, actually. It seems pretty relevant to his project. I guess it depends on what subject he’s doing it for – like, whether it’s meant to have more of a sociological or mathematical bent. If he’s supposed to come up with some kind of traffic management plan, I’m not sure how much use I’ll be, since my knowledge centres on my subjective experience of traffic jams.
That probably could translate to a logical appraisal of road and signage layouts,though. When it comes down to it, I’m just like everyone else in imagining I could do better than your average traffic engineer. There’s something about sitting idly in banked-up traffic that leads one to entertain illusions that a slightly altered sign placement could solve all the world’s problems in an instant.