- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Montgomery County lawmakers are coming to the rescue of motorists stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, this time with a punitive measure that puts the onus on employers to ease the problem.

This is wonderful stuff from the Orwellian state.

We can agree that traffic in the region is the beast that knows no rest, except perhaps at 2 in the morning, depending on those arteries decorated with a roadway construction crew.

Area residents, if possible, attempt to plan their daily schedules around the mixed-up traffic patterns in the region, often to no avail. You are liable to be as backed up trying to get into the city as out of it during the evening rush hour.

So you grit your teeth, grip your steering wheel and gripe to yourself.

You know the drill.

Traffic is the principal pastime of Washington.

Nothing facilitates a conversation like a death-defying yarn from the Beltway.

Everybody has at least one. A few rise to the level of urban myth.

Manhattan has alligators in its sewer system.

We have the motorist who has a cellular phone in one hand, a laptop computer in the other, plus a newspaper draped over the steering wheel. This person, like Houdini, is able to contort the body in such a way that navigating with the left big toe is possible. We have all seen this person, and we all agree: “This person is going to kill somebody.”

In fact, this person could kill somebody and not realize it because of the high level of self-absorption. The person would read about it during the next day’s commute from the newspaper draped over the steering wheel.

This is life in the big city. This is just the way it is.

The social engineers in Montgomery County believe otherwise, so long as employers are willing to do their paper-pushing, money-burning part that encourages employees to make the daily trek by either public transit, carpool, bike, sled, kayak, horse or osmosis.

Employers can embrace the quality-of-life concept or pay a fine or go to jail.

We just have too many vehicles on the roadways and not enough pavement to accommodate them all.

As maddening as that elementary equation is, many of us to choose to add ourselves to the mess.

We want the freedom our automobiles provide. We go to work and then we go here or there. We want to be on our schedule instead of someone else’s schedule. We accept the headache of traffic in exchange for our freedom, which is becoming almost a quaint notion in America today.

Here is good old Big Brother, after arm-twisting employers, looking to show us the quaintness of it all.

You, the small-business owner, do not need this additional burden.

Maybe you own a mom-and-pop restaurant that employs 30 workers, most working odd shifts.

You went into this business for whatever reason, and now this business is who you are.

You are not in the traffic-reduction business. That is not your area of interest.

It should not be left to you to take your employees aside, pat them on the head and sort out proposals that would encourage them, if necessary, to hitchhike to work.

You should not have to put a bicycle rack on your premises to show you are doing your part.

Right. We get it already.

If there is a bicycle rack in place, the Spanish-speaking bartender might hop on a two-wheeler from his place of residence in the affordable hinterlands and make the 15-mile commute in snow, sleet, rain and Hurricane Isabel.

Yes, this bartender will fight the good fight. He will wear orange clothing and a helmet, pack a first-aid kit and go up against the harried motorists whistling past his brave form.

Perhaps Mr. Bartender is destined to become part of Washington lore, if not the Montgomery County Traffic Reduction Man of the Year.

One day our Mr. Bartender, in his two-wheeler, will be pedaling down Interstate 270 in whiteout conditions, with the wind smacking up against the icicles forming on his face, with a cellular phone in one hand, a laptop computer in the other, and with a newspaper draped over the handle bars.

He is our man in the traffic wars, our Mr. Bartender.


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