Saturday, August 16, 2008

US and Dutch traffic contrasts

The Corporate offices are scattered around a number of campus sites, and even though I cluster the meetings, it still ends up being a lot of driving.  I allow fifteen minutes to get back and forth, the it takes five to get to the car, ten to drive, five to get from the car.  The driving process is, as a result, stressed.

I'm used to Dutch driving now, so I really notice the differences here:

-- The timing of traffic lights obstructs the flow: as I approach a light, it invariably turns red.  I've always appreciated the way Dutch lights sense the car and change it green just ahead of me.  I think it's just a difference in how to manage flow: the US lights force a series of gated stops, where the Dutch force steady progress at the speed limit.DSC09679 Stitch

-- US drivers occupy a lane and stay there.  Where the Dutch tend to (aggressively) pull to the right, US drivers tend to stay left, right, center, regardless of their speed relative to the traffic.  It seems to promote bobbing and weaving either way: the Dutch are constantly jumping out to the left to make a quick pass, while US drivers are forced to weave across lanes to get around traffic.

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-- US cars seem bigger and older.  It's not just the SUV's and pickups looming over every smaller car, but there are a lot of dented and rusty vehicles around as well.  European roads are filled with shiny jelly-bean cars, all stylish, but not much variety.  There's a lot of talk here of importing the Euro-style cars to help people cope with the cost of gasoline.

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-- The cost of gasoline.  It's around $3.50 a gallon here, still about a third of current prices in Europe.  Even at that level it's causing a lot of pain, not so much because of the price that people pay, but because of the volume that they have to consume to participate in everyday life (like driving between corporate campus sites.  There should be a circulating shuttle bus, or, perhaps a some sort of better use of tele-meetings).

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I'm back at the airport this morning, grabbing a quick bite and connect in the lounge before heading to Seattle.  It was a good visit here; lots to share when time permits in the next few days.  'hope everyone has a good weekend.

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