What a One-Lane Bridge Teaches about Civility


The road into the town of Hanalei, Kauai, Hawaii takes a couple of hairpin turns winding down towards the river with signs warning of falling rocks along the way. No rocks fell.

At the bottom of this twisty bit of road was a different sort of challenge: a one lane bridge. Beyond the sign indicating that there was a one-lane bridge, there was no other infrastructure to sort out the situation, except for a sign: Local courtesy is 5-7 cars. Once stopped before the bridge, drivers can easily see their counterparts on the other side of the bridge. Cars stopped and people checked out one another.

The situation calls for both civility and efficiency. If drivers are too self-effacing, they risk offending traffic waiting behind them. If drivers are too aggressive they risk offending oncoming drivers or even worse outcomes.

The purpose of the bridge is to move traffic in and out of Hanalei and points beyond to the end of the road. In even the most lovely settings, civility is at the core of effective performance.

What has driving taught you about civility?

1 Comment

  1. Dear Dr. Leiter:

    All the time I’ve seen that almost all traffic conflicts call inmediatly to civility as the only possible solution. Those conflicts remain until the first person decides to cooperate and the others agree. Even when someone could be very upset with the situation, remaining in the same position only get things going worst. I think these situation you have exposed, shows how inherent is civility to the human process of solving interactional problems.

    Happy birthday and thanks for this reflections!!



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