Friday, May 19, 2017

Images of Car Traffic The Go-To Picture to Symbolize Pain, Dysfunction

Note to Editors: Feel free to use this image, copyright free, to accompany any negative headline

Hope my cycling brothers and sisters east of here had a great Bike to Work Day.

I live in Silicon Valley. That means two things: traffic (which is caused ONLY by too many people driving) and that I read The San Jose Mercury News

It's the local newspaper (and if you haven't had the chance to read reporter Ramona Gwargis' live tweets of San Jose City Hall meetings you are truly missing out on some of the finer things the universe has to offer).

I have noticed a few patterns lately - particularly with the headlines I see on the San Jose Mercury News Facebook page: There have been several negative headlines accompanied by a shot of traffic (and not necessarily the ones that are about traffic).

More Bay Area residents say they want to leave. Where do they plan to go?

San Jose, Oakland, San Francisco job markets will cool: forecast

The Bay Area could be in for some nasty gridlock this evening 

Okay the last one is a bit of a no-brainer for use of an image of traffic. But still. 

It doesn't end there. Look at this headline from today: Job losses battered Santa Clara County in April (headline is a bit different on their homepage).

As I wrote not long ago when talking about how the traffic problem and the housing shortage are really symptoms of the same problem instead of separate issues, I got to thinking that the very image of traffic is just such a universally understood symbol of pain, dysfunction and just things-that-are-wrong one could use an image of traffic to accompany any negative news story.

Could be anything. 

Report Indicates Fewer Americans Reading Books

IBM Ending Benefit of Working at Home

That isn't a joke: it is a real headline and a real story. Nice work, IBM! Whatever 'spreadsheet blindness' that led to this decision isn't going to take into account the amount of energy, creativity and time sucked out of people when they drive to work.

Another bad headline:

Yoga Class Is Cancelled

Now on the flipside of this I want you to notice how often images of bicycles are used when the headline (or, as often is the case, an advertisement) wants to convey something positive. I do want a new rule: any company trying to cash in on the greatness of bicycles has to have outstanding bike parking in front. I'm talking to you, Home Depot. I didn't chain my California Cargo Bike to a handicapped parking sign just to walk in and see...

But still: the image of bicycles is positive, and it works with any positive headline - just look:

Kardashian Family Moves to Faraway Country With No Internet Access.

Larry Wilmore Gets New Podcast - Return to Television Inevitable

That's real - and I when I make a list of all the things that went wrong in 2016 The Nightly Show going off the air makes the top ten.

IRS Announces Plan for Mileage Reimbursement For Bicycles

VivaCalleSJ, Scheduled for Sept. 17, Releases Route Information

That last one is real - and pretty awesome. VivaCalleSJ is San Jose's open streets event where streets are closed to cars and you get to rediscover your city without cars. It's a wonderful thing.

So now that we are on the same page see if we can reduce the images of traffic by reducing traffic. Leave the car. Take the bicycle. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 


  1. Hmm....I think I need to go to Home Depot now, that is an adorable door mat :)

    I guess I'm lucky that I don't drive a car during the week (less than once a month). I'd lose my patience (and probably my mind and my freedom) if I had to deal with a traffic jam twice a day, every day of the work week.

    Every time I look at the packed highway (280) near my apartment, I'm reminded of a scene from one of my favorite movies called "Falling Down". It's set in Los Angeles, but it could just as easily be here in Silicon Valley.

  2. I may go back to buy the doormat if they add a bike rack :)

    I know "Falling Down" - haven't seen it in ages. D-Fens!

  3. You must have had a hell lot of a time travelling almost half of Europe and part of Americas on a bike. Thanks for amazing share, it has motivated me to experience the same now ;)

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