There is something especially dehumanizing about traffic lights. Our pleasurable driving experience is stopped by a lifeless light mounted on a metal pole.
Even at 3am, we must do what the light commands. If a traffic cop was there, he'd wave us through. He has some sense of justice and common sense. But traffic lights are dumb and allow for no exceptions.
Not surprisingly, people in large towns and cities drive aggressively to avoid the humiliation of the traffic light. So, if driver A is trying to pull out of a Loblaws parking lot, there is a good chance that drivers B, C, D, E, F, G and H will not let in driver A.
Contrast this will smaller towns without traffic lights and where drivers must rely on the kindness of other drivers. There are no traffic lights when you pull away from, say, an IHOP restaurant in small town America. Yet, a drivers will always let you merge into traffic.
Is it because small town drivers are nice and big city drivers are mean?
People act in their best interest. In big cities, their best interest is to screw other drivers. In small towns, their best interest is to help other drivers.
I read about initiatives in Portland and Minneapolis to install smart traffic light systems that manage traffic by sensing the number of cars on a road and changing lights accordingly.
But in a city like Montreal with its myopic city managers, I doubt we'll ever get such a system. After all, we don't even have properly illuminated (or painted!) crosswalks.
It's so sad.