Motorists driving in British towns and cities during peak periods travel painfully slowly. Horse and cart speed, basically. Bumper to bumper traffic means many vehicles never get as high as third gear. To cut through the traffic, some motorists are resorting to bizarre tactics. The Guardian reports that one chubby male driver has taken to dressing as a nun in order to get courteous treatment from fellow motorists. Cyclists, of course, speed through the jams but until the government bites the bullet and heavily invests in public transport and makes road riding safe for 'average' cyclists, the traffic jams of Britain will keep on getting longer, and motorists will adapt to the increased journey times.

Road rage: it’s habit-forming

An article in today’s Guardian is all about ‘rumination rage’:

"As I sat in gridlock on the westbound carriageway of the Euston underpass yesterday, I pushed down thoughts of setting fire to other people’s cars and cannibalising their remains. When was I going to get into third gear? I asked myself rhetorically. How about never? Is never good for you? I replied. There was a report on the radio about road humps that automatically disappear if the driver is travelling at a safe speed in order to reduce pollution caused by slowing down and speeding up. Unaccountably, this made me very angry, especially when I learned that the manufacturers were called Transcalm and were proposing to charge £4,000 per hump.

"I was suffering from what psychologists call rumination rage, which is like road rage, but less active. It doesn’t involve going toe to toe with white-van men with nothing to lose, or jabbing one’s fingers towards adrenaline-pumped cyclists menacingly waving D-locks. These are cases of road rage, and have no place in polite society. Rumination rage, by contrast, concerns thinking nasty thoughts about other road users, and perhaps imagining firing a twin-cannon machine-gun from beneath your radiator grille into the backside of the clown in the Astra in front who just cut you up.

There’s going to be a lot more rage in the future, both road and rumination varieties. The transport secretary, Alistair Darling, admitted on Tuesday that the government has spectacularly miscalculated the amount of traffic on Britain’s roads. He warned that motorists were likely to spend up to 20% more time in traffic jams by 2010 (instead of Labour’s earlier projection of a 5% cut by the same date), which was nice news on the same day that the capital’s commuters were told that price rises of up to 10% on rail tickets were looming.

"Why do gridlocked motorists go tonto? "There’s a kind of conflict for drivers," says Dr David Lewis, the psychologist who invented the term road rage and is now finessing the rumination-rage thesis. "On the one hand they feel a spurious sense of control. They have a sense – which is a dangerous sense – of security and control. People feel that they are better drivers than they are. The car promotes that – you can create your own environment.

"But this conflicts with them often experiencing a lack of control because of events happening outside the car. Most people set deadlines for their road journeys, and if that deadline is frustrated they become enraged."

"What can be done? "Move to France," suggests Lewis. "The roads are better there. But, honestly, I don’t think there is a solution. It’s like the pensions crisis – such drastic things would have to be done, so much investment in public transport is required, so much reform that would provoke so much opposition, that we’re stuck. We’ve really painted ourselves into a corner."

"One way of getting out of this corner was suggested recently by a Warwickshire man who was so fed up with road rage that he started dressing as a nun. "The habit’s the answer to my prayers," said one Shane Ryan, reportedly 17 stone. "I might look ridiculous but driving is bliss. Other motorists are so courteous when they spot me." This may work for Mr Ryan, but it would be subject to the law of diminishing returns if more widely adopted. If every motorist dressed as a nun, we would be back where we started. "

Full article can be found at:…/0,2763,862552,00.html

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