CONTACTTRAFFICABOUT TOM VANDERBILTOTHER WRITING CONTACT ABOUT THE BOOK

Archive for December 23rd, 2008

I Break for Holidays

Photo by Fríða mín/Flickr

I’m shutting it down for a few days, folks. Drive safe, best wishes to you and yours, etc.

And watch out for the guy below (it may be Ian Walker, conducting his latest research!)

Photo by Peter Van Allen/Flickr
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Posted on Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008 at 9:00 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Give and Take

In Traffic I talk a bit about the curiously positive feeling you can get when you are “let in” by a driver with a friendly wave — perhaps, as some have suggested, triggering some inherent impulse towards reciprocal altruism, even though we’ll never see that driver again. Conversely, if that same driver rudely cuts in front of you with nary a glance, you might have a desire to punish them in some way, as if they would somehow learn not to mess with you the next time (even if there won’t be a next time). One question is: Were these feelings of positivity and negativity essentially equal, even if the value of the “transaction” (i.e., the right of way) was the same?

A new study by Boaz Keysar and colleagues at the University of Chicago, titled “Reciprocity is Not Give and Take: Asymmetric Reciprocity to Positive and Negative Acts,” (pdf here) published in the December issue of Psychological Science, based on a number of trials of experimental “giving” and “taking” games in the lab and on the street, suggests that we are much more willing to “escalate” our response in the face of “negative reciprocity” (e.g., when we’re cut off) than we’re willing to reward someone in the face of positive reciprocity. Indeed, our perception of the exchange is skewed by this dynamic. “Because giving appears to be inherently more generous than taking, an objectively more selfish giver can sometimes be seen as more generous than an objectively selfless taker.” The authors conclude by suggesting a new mantra: “You scratch my back, and I will scratch yours, but if you take my eye, I will take both of yours.”

In a University of Chicago release, Keysar made an explicit parallel to traffic:

“For instance in driving, if you are kind and let someone go in front of you, that driver may be considerate in response. But if you cut someone off, that person may react very aggressively, and this could escalate to road rage.” (of course, one problem is that it’s objectively more difficult to reward someone in traffic — you can drive courteously or safely, but that’s what you’re supposed to already be doing — than it is to find ways to harass them).

Things get worse when the offender doesn’t realize how much their offense is being felt by their victim. “The one receiving the slight cannot imagine that the slighter lacks that appreciation. And so it goes, because of such differential perception, they respond more and more strongly. Small slights could escalate to unbelievable, irrational feuds.”

Which might lead, just spitballin’ here, to something like this:

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Posted on Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008 at 8:37 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Mean Machine

This guy, linebacker Jeff Ulbrich of the San Francisco 49ers, drives a Prius. Got a problem with that?

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Posted on Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008 at 7:50 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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The Last Traffic Jam

“The auto industry must acknowledge that a rational transportation policy should seek a balance between individual convenience, the efficient use of limited resources, and urban-living values that protect spaciousness, natural beauty, and human-scale mobility. Twice as many autos and freeways as we now have would be a sentence of death for our cities. A necessary shift in public policy toward effective mass transit systems (which consume relatively little energy per passenger mile) would ameliorate the problem, but Detroit still must recognize that the time has come to begin developing external combustion engines (like the steam engine), to build sturdy engines of smaller horsepower that will travel twice as far on a gallon of gas as do today’s engines.”

A fragment lifted from some transpo-wonk’s position paper vis a vis the auto bailout? Nope. It’s an article by Stewart Udall, writing in The Atlantic in 1972 (thanks to Kottke for the tip).

Of course, we didn’t exactly see the “end of the love affair with the automobile” that Udall refers to — as historian Brian Ladd chronicles in Autophobia, that’s a rather cyclical conceit — and the cars Detroit went on to build (and we happily bought, or were encouraged by federal policy to buy) became less efficient. And as the always insightful Dan Neil notes here, in a review of the new Ford Fusion (52 MPG!), better fuel economy out of Detroit was never a technological hurdle as much a matter of overcoming its own lassitude, enabled by government and the mass of consumers who, let’s be honest, never had much altruistic interest in better fuel economy except when they began to take the hit.

In any case, Udall’s article is an interesting reminder of roads not taken.

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Posted on Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008 at 7:18 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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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

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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

 

 

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