Mike Stevens | Jun 17, 2008

I was late for everything, for most of the last month. Sharing the road during the day with the masses, and the stress that it entails, has been the cause.

Look at it this way: Think about the best time you've ever had in a car. I don't care how illegal—or even kinky—the moment you're recalling was. I'll go out on a limb here and say that sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic—inching along so slowly that your speedo needle barely even rises from its perch while you can just sense your wallet lightening from the fuel being burnt as your car goes nowhere—is not going to be one of those things.

Unfortunately, it's a sad fact of life that this type of driving is what most motorists know, with the other being the coma-inducing highway drive on their way to somewhere presumably more interesting. Cave-dwellers in Landcruisers tentatively mounting the curb to get past a car and into the left turn lane. M3 drivers changing gears at 3000RPM to sit 10kmh under the limit. Most people don't know the simple joy that comes from spiritedly driving a car on a picturesque winding road. Nor have they experienced the absolute freedom of the racetrack. A situation where the driving, and not the destination, is the point.

It doesn't help that, for the most part, many motorists either drive rubbish cars or don't even have an interest in driving the thing as the engineers intended. They'll never know why genuine drivers enjoy something they see as a chore—both because of the situations they find themselves in and the mindset with which they experience it.

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The problem as I see it is that these people who don't like driving, still do it. And, unsurprisingly, the fact that it's nothing more than a means to an end for them means that they're rubbish at it. The sheer levels of utter stupidity that seem to occur between 7AM and 8PM every weekday simply beggars belief.

Only last week while heading home down one of Sydney's busiest roads, I experienced it firsthand. I sat there, fearing for the state of my panels as arseclowns weaved around me through busy traffic. They dived across multiple lanes at the last minute. They cut people off. They try to force their way into another lane, and end up not only stuck, but effectively and completely blocking both. It's as though they can see some sort of oasis of clear road that disappears as soon as they get there. I can see a mass of dead traffic with no path through it, why can't you?

I saw two cars get their comeuppance when one of them decided to sit in two lanes because, at the last minute, the driver realised they needed to make a left turn. Another blockhead thought there was enough room to squeeze between this car and mine in what was left of the middle lane, and force his way through.

He was wrong.

Luckily for me, it wasn't my car against which this motorist tore the paint and bent the sheetmetal off the side of their car. Nor was it the corner of my rear bumper they ripped to shreds. But it could have been.

It doesn't help, of course, that Sydney's roads resemble a plate of involuntarily returned spaghetti bolognese. Unless you're going down to the shops, it's impossible to get from one point to another point in under a dozen turns. The roads are labyrinthine and narrow, which only exacerbates the problem. Don't even get me started on our motorways. Our latest one, the M7, is two lanes wide. In the 21st century and having—I would think—some understanding of Sydney's population versus a lack of transport options not made up of personal vehicles, the state still government thought it wise to build a road so narrow that the freeway leading to the 50 year old Harbour Bridge is wider.

The last time I went to Melbourne, it took a total of five turns to get from the CBD of Melbourne to my serviced apartment in Box Hill—20km away. When I leave my girlfriend's place here in Sydney, it takes that many turns to get to a main road in her suburb. Every now and again I'll read The Age and see Melbournians complain about traffic and congestion. They should spend a week in Sydney, if they want to know how bad traffic can be.

I'd love to just kick everyone out of Sydney, level it, and rebuild it from the ground up with actual town planning. Design a road network that makes sense, and ensure rail links can serve the entire city.

Of course, that's not feasible. However, we can build smaller channels and try to relieve the pressures on the roads. As driving enthusiasts, I believe we should support public transport. I'm a big fan of trains. I will leave my car at home and catch public transport to and from work, even though I can usually get parking nearby. I'll walk to the shops unless I'm doing enough shopping that I can't carry it back.

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Let's take the road back. Get regular commuters off the road—they who don't bloody want to be there anyway—and give it back to people who have the passion and zeal to use it properly, or who can't complete their mission without it. Stick everyone else in trains or even buses. There's nothing worse than seeing row upon row of single occupants in cars, who only needed to carry a briefcase or backpack that could quite easily fit on a train.

If your infrastructure is geared for it, then it's not a problem of usage. Sydney's rail network is already at failure point because people are balking at fuel prices and catching the train. The demand is there. All that's required is someone to meet that demand.

I lived in Hong Kong for a year, and I didn't miss having a car. All the public transport was efficient, regular—we're talking one minute intervals for trains on peak—as well as clean and air conditioned. A week after I got back to Sydney, I was thinking about buying a $1000 beater with what I had left in my bank account just so I could get anywhere.

Getting commuters off the road would make the world a better place. For one, we'd have a few less accidents, courtesy of the lower traffic volumes and room for regulatory department to tighten up the licensing system and its requirements without alienating the majority of the constituency. There'd be less pollution. I know my roadrage would disappear if idiots were dragged off the road. Our oil crisis would be lessened. It would even save the Australian car industry, as people would only need their cars for trips to the country while taking the family out on holiday...a task for which big Aussie sedans rule the roost.

Fellow drivers, join me in getting as many people on to a train or bus as possible. Bring the joy of driving our cars back to the road, and do the world a favour in the process.

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