Monday 7 June 2010

Driving is boring

Something that has long amazed me is that people actually claim to enjoy driving cars. I find driving for everyday journeys is quite excruciatingly boring. I could see the attraction if people went to track days and raced around with other like minded people. A bit of speed, a bit of danger, testing your skills etc. I think I could enjoy that myself. After all, racing bikes is great fun. However, it seems that a remarkably small number of people who claim to like driving cars actually ever do it competitively at any level at all. Except perhaps on a computer screen. I really think that's a shame.

Anyway, back to the boredom of driving... Cars manage to make speeds of over 100 km/h ( 60 mph ) a sleep inducing experience. Bicycles make 50 km/h ( 30 mph ) into a fairly scary experience which demands that you're alert, and 80 km/h ( 50 mph ) down a hill on a bike is quite terrifying. I always think of all the things that could go wrong, and how injured I'd be if they did.

I think boredom explains an awful lot of why there are so many deaths and injuries on the roads. So many SMIDSY (Sorry Mate, I Didn't See You) type incidents. Drivers are simply bored, or distracted by something more interested, and not concentrating. There are regular campaigns around the world to encourage drivers to sleep well before driving, take breaks every so often on long journeys etc. but this is frequently ignored. This boredom is a good part of the reason why campaigns to encourage drivers to behave perfectly never actually work. It doesn't really matter how good a driver you'd like to be if you're half asleep at the wheel.

Crashes due to drivers falling completely asleep are quite common. Other incidents due to loss of concentration are also common. In fact, driving is so sleep inducing that even an insomniacs' website warns of the dangers of falling asleep while driving.

Campaigning for drivers to always behave perfectly, and for cyclists to always behave perfectly, will never eliminate this problem. Cyclists will continue to be the victims of crashes with drivers while bikes are mixed with cars on the roads. Separating the modes is the only way of significantly improving the safety of cyclists. It worked here in the Netherlands, where cycling is safer than in any other country.

The poster image is from a Dutch campaign against "slaaprijden." It reads "2 hours driving, quarter of an hour rest - " It is one of many such pieces of advice being handed out on the campaign website. These posters appear beside the motorways in order to remind drivers of the importance of taking a rest from driving.

So I'm going to stick to riding bikes (and trikes) for most of my journeys. I'll stay awake, and I'll enjoy the experience.

I've always seen driving as a boring activity. I was 27 before I bothered to learn to drive. On moving over here my license became invalid and for over two years I had no legal driving license at all, which was no problem as I didn't need to use a car in that time. In December I got a Dutch license, primarily so I can take my turn with driving the company van. One of my favourite videos showing driving as a boring activity is here.


Anonymous said...

Hi David,

I completely agree with your assessment of driving being a boring activity.

I've been riding my bicycle non-stop now for 7 months and I love it - the car just collects dust most of the time. Getting in the car is not enjoyable and my wife is finding the same thing... and it is a very nice car too.

I only need my car when I'm on-call for the hospital and that's the only time I really use it.

The only driving I have enjoyed over the years has been on a racetrack, as you suggest, for advanced driver training courses - now that is fun but not something that you want to do every week.

The world of advertising still seems to convince people that when they drive they'll be on smooth roads with no other cars with big smiles, conquering the world. Why do people continue to fall for this dross?

Dr Paul Martin
Brisbane, Australia

Anonymous said...

Completely agree. If only cars could deliver a realistic sensory experience to the driver of the danger they pose to others. Maybe cars should feel like the wheels are coming off when you get over 50kmh instead of feeling like they are going too slow.
Or just get rid of most of them - that would probably achieve better results.

jenskristinn said...

I like the analogy that driving around in beautiful landscape and nature is like watching an aquarium, while cycling the same roads is like snorkeling.

ibikelondon said...

What's interesting though is how many people *believe* that driving is fun: have you watched car ads on TV recently? They promise such a lifestyle, so much fun and grace. When in truth you'll be paying through the nose to use it to sit in traffic jams every morning and drive to Tesco at the weekends.

Of course cars are boring, but from a safety point of view what is interesting is how the design of cars makes it even more so. People want a totally smooth, totally silent, comfortable air-conditioned ride, rather like traveling along in a bubble at 100mph. It's no wonder people fall asleep at the wheel, and of course the whole pretty picture only comes apart when something goes wrong...

Just another reason why segregation is good, David, thanks for sharing it.

WestfieldWanderer said...

Oh, guys. It's great to see that there are "kindred spirits" out there after all. People think that I'm "odd" not liking driving, but treating it as a necessary evil, a chore that needs to be done on occasion. Like cleaning the bog, scraping mucky oven pans, et al...
I certainly agree that track driving adds a bit of fun to driving activity. When I was much younger and dafter than I am now (if such a thing is possible) I raced stock cars and destruction derby bangers. Fun, but time consuming and expensive. And destroying cars as a hobby must have been a portent for the current ever growing contempt and distaste of the day-to-day motoring grind. I retire in three years. Then the daily 50 mile commute ends. And my car ownership years, too.

Colleen said...

I must chime in here. Not only have I loved the privilege of driving for
27 years, I am a driving instructor in the Portland Oregon area, said to be the bike capital of the U.S.A. though I have read the Netherlands
is the bike capital of the world. With the fewest amount of bike/car collisions if I remember correctly.
Bicyclists can be very rude in Portland. I think teaching people to drive is more exciting than driving! (It's an addiction!)
I wouldn't have the physical strength to ride a bike everyplace.
My girls have had 3 bikes stolen in the Portland area in 3 years!

christhebull said...

Well, I don't drive, but being driven long distances can be rather boring [The same can be said of train journeys, but at least there is more legroom, and the view is usually better].

Cycling, however, has the edge when it comes to engagement; although it does feel rather "edgy" when idiot drivers overtake me on blind bends...

spiderleggreen said...

If driving a car were so exciting, why do they all seem to be putting all of these gizmo's(Radio, TV, Wi-Fi) in to keep you interested?

I like cl3mcgee's comments about rude cyclists. While they may seem rude to you, sitting in your car, they are very unlikely kill you with their rudeness. On the otherhand, your kindly car could turn them into roadkill in the blink of an eye.

Anonymous said...

Yes driving is a tedious, stressful and physically detrimental responsibility. Autos have always been a source of danger to all road users and this is likely to get worse.

The auto manufacturers and our cell phone providers are working hard to get infotainment on your dashboard to make driving more entertaining though (and distractive):

gingerbeard said...

Like you I never had a desire to drive. I started riding a motorcycle at 30, started driving a car at 32. Until then I cycled everywhere and was happier. the past 12 years of driving has allowed me to travel much grater distances, but it is boring. I've also put on 20 kg...I am so looking forward to my new job in the same city I live more commuter driving!

Anonymous said...

I would also add that driving makes places boring and ugly. There are vastly more places that are made ugly and boring because of cars than are made beautiful or interesting because of cars. Cars compress distances so people car little for what lies between their destinations. I love the fact that the cycle paths take me through parks and across creeks. If I take the same journey to work by car it's and endless ugly congested life-sapping sewer. How do people sit in traffic jams inching forward everyday?

joncrel said...

Very very boring, uncomfortable for anything other than a short journey, very tiring (but not of body, just a bit of the brain that detects collisions). And quite often anger inducing, the few times I've felt incandescent rage is when I've the misfortune to be driving a car. Why are people so attached to this means of getting around? Its a mystery.

...but I think the answer lies in the addiction to the idea that you can go anywhere when ever you want, and the inability to see how you could any other way. I rarely drive now, I mostly cycle, or cycle plus public transport. ....but it took me a while to appreciate how much better that often is as a way of getting around.

I have enjoyed driving occasionally, in my youth, along almost deserted twisting roads in North Yorkshire. ...probably the nearest I've had to the ad-fantasy.

Andy in Germany said...

Quite agree with you there David. I never drove in the UK and I was about 24 before I was finally badgered into learning to drive in Germany. I sometimes wonder why I bothered as I still avoid cvars- at the moment I manage to drive twice a year: once to a yout event I work with and once to Ikea.

Apart from anything else, I feel so guilty: on a bike I'm part of the scenery and the villages I ride through. In a car I'm just destroying them.

Anonymous said...

A good outward sign of boredom is the driver with his or her head held up by an arm resting on a window sill, often at traffic lights or when behind a slightly slower vehicle (that's me). How quickly they sigh and give out the negative body language. I am not so sure it is the design of the vehicle, more the inability to think for themselves, that creates the dispondent driver. True to say that the mismatch between the carefully crafted advert and the poorly crafted reality has a part to play.
Mark Garrett, Bristol UK.

Isla... said...

Good post.

I think Joncrels spot-on comment about driving being anger inducing is actually a serious understatement.

I drive occasionally, as smooth & as slowly as possible, and if any of you on here who also drive, think that as cyclists you are on the recieving end of road rage, try driving as I do; in fact David, I reckon slow drivers could do with some infrastructure & separation from all those in a rush ;>D

It seems like the average driver over here must accelerate towards red lights & the back of queuing traffic, to then enjoy the luxury of harshly using their brakes...'s a funny old world, but seeing how addicted some are to their cars, how others change so much for the worse when getting behind a steering wheel, and seeing some pretty sad aspects of human nature in action, in that sense it isn't funny in the slightest.

Micheal Blue said...

Horses for courses. I love biking, but it's practical only for short distances (relatively speaking) in reasonable weather (unless you have a velomobile as Dave suggests, but that vehicle is not practical for everyone). I live in Toronto, by the lake shore. I bike to work as often as possible (20 km one way). But to get out of the city to one of the closest country roads for a nice trip is at least 20 or 30 km (no bike lanes), plus once you get outside the city, there are hills everywhere. So a normal person who doesn't do long-distance touring cannot just hop on a bike like a Dave and go for a country ride. A car is needed to take the bike outside the city.
I wouldn't call car driving "boring". I would call it "bland". Boring means that the person's mind needs constant entertainment, which is not a very positive state of being. Bland means that the activity is un-inspiring, tasteless.
I love those Mangos, but would have no place to park/store one, even if I could afford it.