A few entries ago, I introduced a new phrase to everyday English. It’s time to introduce another one; the Traffic Food Chain.
You are probably familiar with the current way the phrase “food chain is used. A food chain “describes the eating relationships between species within an ecosystem or a particular living place”. In my opinion, the same way of thinking can be used when we’re describing traffic and the different objects involved.
On the bottom of the chain we find pedestrians. Above them bicyclists, then people driving mopeds, motorcycles, ATVs and similar vehicles and then cars, trucks and buses of different kinds. If you’re in the upper part of the chain your position is defined by the number of wheels and the weight of your vehicle. A MAN truck will for instance be higher up in the chain than a Mini Morris.
You can also define an objects position in the chain by measuring the amount of pain that would be inflicted should two members of the chain happen to be at the same place at the same time. The lower you are in the chain, the more pain you’ll feel. The same MAN truck will for instance be higher up than the pedestrian and that Mini Morris.
Another way to look at it is that a member of the chain always feels a certain amount of hate for a member higher up in the chain. An object high in the chain will probably also have negative feelings for someone lower in the chain, but that feeling is not hate, more a feeling of annoyance; someone driving a car can quickly be rather annoyed because of all the pedestrians. But hate goes the other way, bottom to top: A pedestrian, for instance, will in many case loathe bicycle riders. This is, of course, related to the fact that most bicyclists are morons who for some reason don’t think that even the most basic traffic rules apply to them.
If you increase the granularity of the chain while looking at it from this “hate” perspective, speed is also a factor. The higher the speed, the higher up in the chain you will be. A casual bicyclists, for instance, dislikes people on racing bikes going past them at breakneck speed (most likely middle management types on their way to work).
These are the kind of things I think about when I’m home alone and the power goes out.1
Being a bicyclist myself, I’m roughly in the middle of the “bicycle” part of the chain. I’m more than a causal biker, but I don’t put on tights when I ride my bike to work. This shows that my Traffic Food Chain theory also works in real life, because I fucking hate those middle management dimwits with their racing bikes, tights and holier-than-thou attitude on their way to work!
I have to dodge these idiots every single day, and I’m very happy that I know I have to be on the the lookout for people who think they are competing in the worlds most important bicycle race or I would probably have been very seriously injured by now. There is one spot in particular on the route that I take to work that I’ve just barely escaped an asphalt face plant, not just once, but twice in the last month.
I’m thinking about the roundabout outside of the Oslo Central Station taxi parking entry and exit ramp and Thon Hotel Opera in Oslo. If you’re not familiar with that part of the city, or the city of Oslo at all, I’ve got this nice aerial photo to help you visualize.
It’s all fairly simple, really. In the middle of the photo, you see the roundabout. On the top you have the ramp, which can safely be ignored during this rant, I’ve just marked it so it’s easier for you to pin-point the location of this area in case it was remotely familiar to you. More important is the Thon Hotel Opera short term parking in the upper left corner, the road towards downtown Oslo to the left and that I’m coming from the right in the photo, cleared marked as “This is where I’m coming from”. Another important detail that you’re not able to see from this photo is that the Thon Hotel Opera short term parking area merges with the road to downtown Oslo about 60 meters to the left of where the picture ends.
Now on to exhibit B. It’s the same picture, but with two paths added. The black one is a car driving through the roundabout while the red one is me doing the same thing on my bike. I’m fully aware that the paths are somewhat messy, but have you ever tried to paint anything with the pencil tool in GIMP using a touch pad? That’s what I thought.
At least the paths do not cross and that’s important. Now let me add, in green, the most likely path of a tights clad middle management type with sub-average cognitive functioning:
Do you see how the red and the green paths cross each other? But why would the green path want to cross the red one? Instead of following the red path that takes the bicyclist on to a clearly marked, and mostly vacant, bicycle lane on the right hand side of the road, the green path goes straight through the hotel’s short term parking area, which is usually crammed with cars and pedestrians.
And the most interesting thing about all this is that the green path crosses the red one left to right, meaning that if I follow the red path (I do), I will unfortunately crash into every moron following the green path. You see, green path user, because the traffic is rather heavy in this part of Oslo during the morning rush hour, I can’t hear you coming at me from behind at five times my speed. And, since I don’t have mirrors on my bike - I an considering getting some - and I don’t have eyes in the back of my head, I have no idea that you are there.
So, thank Jebus that I’m always looking over my left shoulder when I’m half way through the roundabout. I do that because I know you might be there, following your green path of doom. Since you some times are on that green path, I’m also thankful that I, after countless hours of playing Counter-Strike, have developed Cheetah-like reflexes that enable me to hit the breaks so I manage not to crash into you as your jump in front of me on your journey through the Thon Hotel Opera short term parking area.
Have you noticed that I’m usually in front of you again when the parking area and the road merge? I’ve made this map with easy instructions as a handy guide for you so that next time you are exiting this particular roundabout, maybe, just maybe, you’ll follow the red path. I’d love not to spend any time at the emergency room.
I don’t have a drivers license, and that is a very good thing. If I’d driven a car in Oslo, there is a very good chance I would have hit bicyclists quite often. Not accidentally because I don’t see them, but simply because I would have wanted to.
Rest in Peace, George. ↩︎
2009-06-04 21:05 CET