Why road rage has electoral implications | AspenTimes.com

Why road rage has electoral implications

John Colson

I woke up the other day to an epiphany – just as our national economy is far too closely tied to the health of the automotive industry, so our individual psyches are linked far too closely to the time we spend in our cars.And I’ve realized my epiphany has electoral implications.I muse often on the growing segmentation of our society, the isolation we suffer because we spend too many hours either getting to work, working or getting home. As a nation, we have lost our focus, shifted it from life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to the pursuit of something rather insidious – how we can best fit into the predetermined molds that society places before us.And part of that is our willingness, even eagerness, to place ourselves in the most isolated position imaginable. Every working day, and often on weekends, we sit behind the wheel of a fast-moving hunk of steel, rubber and glass for up to an hour or more, whizzing down ribbons of concrete or asphalt in a crowd of other similarly isolated people, each locked in his or her own private world.And as the phenomenon of road rage has shown us, all too often that person behind the wheel is fuming, seething with misplaced animosity, ready to flip a finger, pull a trigger, tailgate the car that just squeezed in ahead – whatever it takes to vent the steam in the head.I know whereof I speak, for I have felt it in my own mind. I once jumped out of a car and accosted another driver for tailgating too close to my rear bumper, and if he had offered the merest defensive action we likely would have been fighting in the middle of the road. Luckily for me, he wasn’t as keyed up as I was, and the moment passed. I learned from that incident and generally look for the amusing aspect of every traffic conflict, though I can still get pissed off if someone pulls a particularly boneheaded move that threatens me in my steel cocoon.I was heartened recently to see that the idea of a train up and down the Roaring Fork Valley still prompts occasional and favorable comment. A letter to the editor was the source, though it referred to an earlier letter from a former highway engineer who pooh-poohed the idea of trains being effective movers of people in this day and age.All I can say about retired highway engineers is that they’ve had their day, they paved over it, and they should leave the world alone long enough to recover from their rapacious ways.Our valley has been luckier than most when it comes to mass transit, I must say. I’ve not always agreed with the policies of the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, but they’ve done a pretty good job, with the help of certain local governments, getting us on the bus as much as possible.I’ve always felt that RFTA was too quick to dismiss rail as a viable addition to the transportation mix, however, and I feel a kinship with politicians who refuse to let the train idea die since it was seriously proposed in the early 1990s.For that reason, among others, I’m suggesting Rachel Richards is the best choice in the Pitkin County race to replace outgoing Commissioner Mick Ireland.Her opponent, the capable and amiable Jim True, has made it clear he wants to leave Highway 82 as it is, winding through the S-curves as it enters town, and that mass-transit lanes have no place in his vision for the Entrance to Aspen. I like Jim, and I think he once did a good job as a commissioner. He probably now would do as good a job as Richards.But Richards, throughout her noisy and tempestuous political career here, has been a staunch advocate of mass transit, and I believe she would jump on the train if it were to come up again. She also has a sharper edge than True, and it seems to me that Ireland’s replacement should carry on his tradition of hard-charging, never-back-down politics at the local and the state level. Richards, I think, is more likely to do that.That said, I’m hopeful that her continued role in local politics will help get me out of my damned car as much as possible, so I can start to enjoy life and shed some of those bad vibes that have been building in my head.John Colson can be reached at jcolson@aspentimes.com

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