Today, all four lanes of Auckland's Victoria Park motorway flyover will be open for southbound traffic, the northward lanes having been diverted to a new tunnel under the park since November. The tunnel has naturally attracted more interest, but it is the end of the southbound bottleneck that will make more difference, particularly for morning commuters.
Many of those commuters have waited patiently for this day, others have not. There is nothing like a bottleneck to expose the selfishness of some. Southbound traffic in St Marys Bay has provided a daily study in human nature. Drivers knew that the lanes leading to the flyover were nearly always congested as far back as the Harbour Bridge, while the lanes leading to Fanshawe St were not - or would not have been if decency had prevailed.
Every morning, queue-jumpers used the lanes to Fanshawe St to get as close to Victoria Park as they dared before nosing into the lines for the flyover. This not only caused those lines to move more slowly, it impeded city-bound traffic when the queue-jumpers slowed, often to a stop, until somebody let them in.
By rights, nobody should have let them in. But most New Zealanders are tolerant and cheats can take advantage of them.
The selfish can always blame the system, in this case faulty highway planning. When the Victoria Park flyover was built in the 1960s, planners supposed that two lanes in each direction would be enough for traffic likely to be passing through rather than entering the city centre. Long ago, they were proved wrong.
Auckland's employment and business life became so dispersed that far more people were soon commuting to suburban and regional centres than were working in the inner city. The trend has been apparent in relative lane congestion for so long that the flyover ought to have been widened decades ago. When eventually funds were made available the project was further delayed by pressure from St Marys Bay residents for a tunnel.
The original motorway planners failed to foresee the decentralised traffic demands created by their plans. Selfish motorists can blame the planners for the disruption queue-jumping caused but it is a convenient excuse. The selfish, as always, exploited the goodwill of the rest. If everyone had jockeyed for advantage in the same way, chaos would have resulted.
No society worth living in is ruled by laws alone. Law enforcement cannot be everywhere at once, and should not be all-pervasive. A decent society relies on voluntary codes of fair dealing and self-restraint. The roads might not be the most important area of life where behaviour needs to be governed by honesty, courtesy and consideration, but the roads are one of the places where those habits, or the lack of them, are most visible and can set standards.
Queue-jumping is cheating, petty cheating perhaps, but a possible indicator of character in other dealings.
Petty cheating is beginning to appear also where motorway ramps are now controlled by lights. Many seem to find those controls an irritant, inching forward on the red and getting out of phase. Possibly they cannot see the benefit of the system, particularly when the motorway is flowing well, or possibly they do not care.
When one of the Victoria Park flyover's former northward lanes was made available to southbound traffic two weeks ago it caused unexpected confusion and lines of traffic stretching back from the bridge as far as Takapuna. In preparation for the fourth lane opening today, the Transport Agency has erected overhead electronic signs well before the flyover that indicate where each lane goes. "Get in lane early," the signs urge. Let us hope cheats can learn.