CONTACTTRAFFICABOUT TOM VANDERBILTOTHER WRITING CONTACT ABOUT THE BOOK

How the Apes Crossed the Road

Photo by Kimberley Hockings

All the discussion about giving Great Apes new rights in Spain reminded me of an interesting “traffic study” of sorts that had been done involving chimpanzees — with whom we share 98% of our DNA — in Guinea.

In a fascinating report, a group of researchers set out to learn how a recently enlarged road, running through the territory of a 12-strong chimp colony, might have changed their behavior. After all, roads have been known to have had quite negative effects on wildlife. Interestingly, though, the chimps seemed to “draw on a phylogenetically-old principle of protective socio-spatial organization to produce flexible, adaptive and cooperative responses to risk.” In other words, they learned to cross the road.

As this delightful video clip shows, the chimps have a well-established routine, with alpha males acting as crossing guards of sorts, scanning both ways and herding their charges across. Apparently, the chimps are not afraid of humans but are less likely to come near the road when vehicles are present. In the short term, this is a good survival strategy (if traffic grows it’s easy to imagine problems developing for the chimps.)

When I contacted Kimberley Hockings, a researcher at the University of Stirling and one of the authors of the study, she noted that in some 30 years the researchers “had never observed any chimpanzee fatalities on the road.” On the large road, she noted, “the chimpanzees tended to cross either immediately if no vehicles or people were present, or on occasion would wait up to around 9 minutes if they perceived the degree of risk to be high.” As with human pedestrians, females tended to take fewer risks than males.

If the apes have managed this adaptation to modern circumstances (and will the Spanish charter lead to their being given rights as pedestrians), I imagine it’s only a matter of time before one of them will be able to say, a la Ratso Rizzo upon being encroached upon in the crosswalk, “hey, I’m walking here!”

[del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Slashdot] [StumbleUpon] [Yahoo!]

This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 16th, 2008 at 2:05 pm and is filed under Pedestrians, Traffic Wonkery. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses to “How the Apes Crossed the Road”

  1. Juanman Says:

    Nice piece, but what are these rights that have been given to Great Apes by the Spanish Government?

  2. Juanman Says:

    Just another note: perhaps some of these Apes are also driving in Spain, read the article and you’ll get the gist:

    Driving in Spain and the Trouble With Spanish Drivers

    Driving in Spain is a lot of the time pleasurable, smooth new roads with few fellow drivers to look out for, allowing one to take in the beautiful, changing countryside, but at other times it can also be a nerve racking experience, navigating bone shaking routes where you try not to blink in case you cause irreparable damage to body and machinery!

    In recent times the Spanish have invested heavily on new toll motorways with the intention of removing traffic from the heavily congested national routes that seem to run through every town no matter where you are heading.

    Unfortunately, it seems that the average Spanish motorist resents having to pay for his driving pleasures and continues to use the national routes therefore, allowing the more affluent to benefit from the faster, smoother and obviously emptier toll roads thus avoiding a lot of the Spanish drivers.

    Spanish drivers are by no means the worst in the world but they do have many habits and mannerisms that will make you both cringe and chuckle; they possess the same love of the horn embraced by so many other nations’ drivers, (the Italians spring to mind). But their use of the horn doesn’t seem to be for notifying another driver of a serious driving infringement but instead to remind people that they are sitting at a red light or that Real Madrid or Barcelona or whoever they have pledged their allegiance to, has just scored a goal!

    I think most drivers would agree that round-a-bouts are quite simple to use, but they seem to be a complete mystery to many Spanish drivers, on many occasions, a happy- go- lucky Spaniard in the right hand lane will decide that he is turning left, often with no indication, the result of this being the screeching of quickly applied foot brakes from vehicles traveling in the left hand lane with the intention of carrying straight on. Amazingly though, this type of manoeuvre, as mentioned earlier, is apparently deemed quite acceptable by the average Spanish motorist and the barrage of horns one would expect is never heard.

    The Spanish have rather a crazy way of overtaking also, or at least the speed merchants amongst them do. Many of the major roads in Spain are dual carriageways and at times you will need to overtake slower traffic. It is at this time that you are likely to encounter the presence of ‘loco’ driver. You will go through your overtaking procedure – mirror, indicate, manoeuvre -and then, as if by magic, a quick look in your rear view mirror reveals that you have a car practically riding your bumper with its left indicator flashing like there’s no tomorrow. My advice, pull in as soon as humanly possible and let the lunatic past! Strangely enough this is also deemed acceptable practice!

    I would say on the whole though, having driven in the UK, driving in Spain is vastly more enjoyable with far fewer vehicles and far less road rage and once you get used to the quirkiness of the Spanish driver (for want of a better description) it is a lot safer as well.

    Learn Spanish Today

Leave a Reply

Traffic Tom Vanderbilt

How We Drive is the companion blog to Tom Vanderbilt’s New York Times bestselling book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), published by Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S. and Canada, Penguin in the U.K, and in languages other than English by a number of other fine publishers worldwide.

Please send tips, news, research papers, links, photos (bad road signs, outrageous bumper stickers, spectacularly awful acts of driving or parking or anything traffic-related), or ideas for my Slate.com Transport column to me at: info@howwedrive.com.

For publicity inquiries, please contact Kate Runde at Vintage: krunde@randomhouse.com.

For editorial inquiries, please contact Zoe Pagnamenta at The Zoe Pagnamenta Agency: zoe@zpagency.com.

For speaking engagement inquiries, please contact
Kim Thornton at the Random House Speakers Bureau: rhspeakers@randomhouse.com.

Order Traffic from:

Amazon | B&N | Borders
Random House | Powell’s

[del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Slashdot] [StumbleUpon] [Yahoo!]
U.S. Paperback UK Paperback
Traffic UK
Drive-on-the-left types can order the book from Amazon.co.uk.

For UK publicity enquiries please contact Rosie Glaisher at Penguin.

Upcoming Talks

April 9, 2008.
California Office of Traffic Safety Summit
San Francisco, CA.

May 19, 2009
University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies
Bloomington, MN

June 23, 2009
Driving Assessment 2009
Big Sky, Montana

June 26, 2009
PRI World Congress
Rotterdam, The Netherlands

June 27, 2009
Day of Architecture
Utrecht, The Netherlands

July 13, 2009
Association of Transportation Safety Information Professionals (ATSIP)
Phoenix, AZ.

August 12-14
Texas Department of Transportation “Save a Life Summit”
San Antonio, Texas

September 2, 2009
Governors Highway Safety Association Annual Meeting
Savannah, Georgia

September 11, 2009
Oregon Transportation Summit
Portland, Oregon

October 8
Honda R&D Americas
Raymond, Ohio

October 10-11
INFORMS Roundtable
San Diego, CA

October 21, 2009
California State University-San Bernardino, Leonard Transportation Center
San Bernardino, CA

November 5
Southern New England Planning Association Planning Conference
Uncasville, Connecticut

January 6
Texas Transportation Forum
Austin, TX

January 19
Yale University
(with Donald Shoup; details to come)

Monday, February 22
Yale University School of Architecture
Eero Saarinen Lecture

Friday, March 19
University of Delaware
Delaware Center for Transportation

April 5-7
University of Utah
Salt Lake City
McMurrin Lectureship

April 19
International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (Organization Management Workshop)
Austin, Texas

Monday, April 26
Edmonton Traffic Safety Conference
Edmonton, Canada

Monday, June 7
Canadian Association of Road Safety Professionals
Niagara Falls, Ontario

Wednesday, July 6
Fondo de Prevención Vial
Bogotá, Colombia

Tuesday, August 31
Royal Automobile Club
Perth, Australia

Wednesday, September 1
Australasian Road Safety Conference
Canberra, Australia

Wednesday, September 22

Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s
Traffic Incident Management Enhancement Program
Statewide Conference
Wisconsin Dells, WI

Wednesday, October 20
Rutgers University
Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation
Piscataway, NJ

Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Ontario Injury Prevention Resource Centre
Injury Prevention Forum
Toronto

Monday, May 2
Idaho Public Driver Education Conference
Boise, Idaho

Tuesday, June 2, 2011
California Association of Cities
Costa Mesa, California

Sunday, August 21, 2011
American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Attitudes: Iniciativa Social de Audi
Madrid, Spain

April 16, 2012
Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
Gardens Theatre, QUT
Brisbane, Australia

April 17, 2012
Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
Centennial Plaza, Sydney
Sydney, Australia

April 19, 2012
Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
Melbourne Town Hall
Melbourne, Australia

January 30, 2013
University of Minnesota City Engineers Association Meeting
Minneapolis, MN

January 31, 2013
Metropolis and Mobile Life
School of Architecture, University of Toronto

February 22, 2013
ISL Engineering
Edmonton, Canada

March 1, 2013
Australian Road Summit
Melbourne, Australia

May 8, 2013
New York State Association of
Transportation Engineers
Rochester, NY

August 18, 2013
BoingBoing.com “Ingenuity” Conference
San Francisco, CA

September 26, 2013
TransComm 2013
(Meeting of American Association
of State Highway and Transportation
Officials’ Subcommittee on Transportation
Communications.
Grand Rapids MI

 

 

[del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Slashdot] [StumbleUpon] [Yahoo!]
Twitter
July 2008
M T W T F S S
« Jun   Aug »
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031