Skip to content

Fifteen Minute Observations and the Lions Gate Bridge

My students are starting to think about their term assignments – 15 minutes observations of a scene in everyday life – and I continue see great examples of things or places they might observe. The goal of the assignment is to identify the taken-for-granteds in our own culture, to identify the rules for behavior and to comment on them, all while trying out an anthropological research method, heightened observation.

To my fifteen minute observation … I drove across the Lions Gate Bridge in Vancouver this morning. For those unfamiliar with this icon of the Vancouver skyline, the bridge moves a considerable amount of traffic between downtown (Stanley Park) the suburban ‘North Shore’ communities. It is a three lane bridge which allows two lanes of traffic to enter downtown in the morning and two lanes to leave the city core in the evening. (And sitting there for 15 minutes or more, inching towards the bridge deck, is common.)

At both ends of the bridge, several lanes of traffic are squeezed down to one or two lanes. I am always amazed at how beautifully everyone follows the rule of alternating – four lanes become two and two lanes become one without any trouble because, apparently, there are advantages of efficiency to all for cooperating and for remaining patient. BUT, should someone mess up the system and jump the queue, horns honk and fingers are raised in anger. Clearly, this is an example of rule-based driver behavior in a specific and repeated traffic situation.

The ability of drivers to navigate the entrance to the Lions Gate Bridge is all the more amazing to me when I compare that situation with any other place around the city where unsuspecting drivers lose a lane. If there is an accident, or road work, or something else restricting the flow of traffic, it is all about the drivers who get lined up in time to get through in the free lane. Everyone in the blocked lane must wait for an opening … and the traffic backs up. No patience here … no sharing or collegiality either. At the Lions Gate Bridge, everyone is in it together. At other places, looking after yourself takes precedence. Clearly, there are different rules of behavior in these less predictable traffic jams.

Sphere: Related Content

2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] comment to heart that fieldwork usually involves more than simply counting patrons! Trackback· […]

  2. […] blogger Rob Hyndman gives us his fifteen minute observation of a Toronto-area breakfast spot. My students should take note. Trackback […]