Archive for October 27th, 2008

A Car Named Sue

Via the Boston Globe Ideas section. If you believe what college undergraduates have to say on questionnaires extrapolates at all to the real world. And that people still do things like name their car once they graduate.

“YOU BETTER WATCH what you say about my car. She’s real sensitive.” Nevertheless, unless you run across a car named Christine, there’s nothing to worry about, right? Think again. A study by psychologists at Colorado State University found that almost half of the more than 200 drivers surveyed in a college class had assigned a gender to their car (more females than males) and that over a quarter had given their car a name, including ones like Lolita, the Sweat-box of Death, and Jolly Green Giant. Drivers who had assigned a gender to their car – regardless of whether it was male or female – indicated a greater tendency to driving-related aggression and anger. The students were also asked to assess their car’s personality. The personality ascribed to the car was typically somewhat different than the driver’s, and knowing this invented personality improved predictions of the driver’s aggressiveness.

The study is: Benfield, J. et al., “Driver Personality and Anthropomorphic Attributions of Vehicle Personality Relate to Reported Aggressive Driving Tendencies,” Personality and Individual Differences (January 2007).

Posted on Monday, October 27th, 2008 at 6:35 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Kerb Your Enthusiasm

A nifty little meditation on the visual language of the street, by Peter Campbell in the LRB (subscribers only; but you should really subscribe).

It begins: “Step into the street, look down, and it tells you what to do. Kerbs and gutters separate walkers from drivers. Painted words, lines and changes of material nudge you forward or make you pause. The street surface shows what is going on underground: scars left by repairs indicate new pipe work; trapdoors, lids, covers and grills point to drains, cables, coal holes and cellars. Signals of activity other than that created by people going from place to place proliferate. Responsibility for all this is diffuse.”

Posted on Monday, October 27th, 2008 at 1:28 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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NASCAR on the Hudson

From the NYT I couldn’t help noticing this detail about Brian Vickers, who seems to have followed Jeff Gordon to NYC:

“This stock car driver does not keep a car in New York, and he hates the city’s ultra-heavy traffic.

He does own a sturdy black bicycle, which he has used to explore Manhattan from tip to tip. “This city is so big, with so many neighborhoods,” he said, “and until you get here, you don’t really understand that.”

Posted on Monday, October 27th, 2008 at 9:52 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Unattractive at Any Speed

This bit caught my eye, via Paul Ingrassia’s diagnosis of Detroit’s woes in the WSJ (“a tale of hubris, missed opportunities, disastrous decisions and flawed leadership of almost biblical proportions”):

“For all the Pinto’s infamy, perhaps no car better captured America’s decade-long haplessness than the pug-ugly AMC Gremlin, which debuted in 1970 and died — mercifully — in 1980. The Gremlin’s shape, fittingly, was first sketched out by an American Motors designer on the back of a Northwest Airlines air-sickness bag.”

Story after the jump…
(thanks Jack!)

Posted on Monday, October 27th, 2008 at 9:16 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 Transport column to me at:

For publicity inquiries, please contact Kate Runde at Vintage:

For editorial inquiries, please contact Zoe Pagnamenta at The Zoe Pagnamenta Agency:

For speaking engagement inquiries, please contact
Kim Thornton at the Random House Speakers Bureau:

Order Traffic from:

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Random House | Powell’s

U.S. Paperback UK Paperback
Traffic UK
Drive-on-the-left types can order the book from

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

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 “Ingenuity” Conference
San Francisco, CA

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



October 2008

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