Wednesday, June 23, 2010

No More Sympathy For the Impatient Motorist

Perhaps it's a product of the continually growing length of time I have gone without driving (my license is actually expired now pending renewal after I realized), but I am becoming less tolerant and understanding of the wants of impatient drivers and the double standards they apply to other road users. I was waiting to go straight on Broadway Ave. during lunch and practicing my track stand in the process. A driver pulls up and honks at me to get out of the way so she can make a right on red. First of all it is not marked as a right turn only lane, since cyclists can continue through the connecting bike lane. Second of all, rights on red are hazardous to pedestrian traffic by their very nature, and are illegal in more pedestrian oriented places, so I am not inclined to be that sympathetic to someone trying to make a right on red to begin with. If I was in a car waiting to go forward in a lane that was not marked as turn only, there is no way she would have honked, it's a clear double standard of treatment that comes from a belief that even on streets with a bike lane, cyclists do not belong on the road or at least belong on it less than drivers. She asked more nicely out of her window after honking 3 times, but sorry I'm not budging anymore, I'm not going to accept this get to the back of the bus mentality drivers exert over cyclists. By that time the light changed anyways, a delay of perhaps 15 seconds, but to the driver, 15 seconds is often so valuable it is exchanged even when it is risking the lives others.

Sometimes I go through ebbs and flows of more aggressive and cooperative stances with the world of driving. Lately reading the book Fighting Traffic, about the history of the dawn of the auto age in America, has me leaning a little more on the aggressive side. Automobile interest groups and drivers wrestled the purpose of streets from everyone else, often by bloody force (200,000 Americans were killed on roads in the 1920's, a majority were pedestrians back then). It was not uncommon in the early decades of automobiles on the streets for newspapers to depict the typical driver as Satan, and mass memorial services for slain children were common in urban places. Safety campaigns eventually brought down the proportion of pedestrian fatalities, but in the process began to highly limit what had been previously very liberal rights to those who walked in cities. Eventually "motordom", as the auto interests called them selves began influencing the entire design of cities around principles essentially tailored to sell more cars. Auto clubs tried to sell the idea of cars with sexy ads, and promises of freedom, but just as often they were launching campaigns against pedestrians, referring to them as bumbling idiots and creating the term jay walker, blasting against campaigns for car regulation with counter ads that fed on anti-government fears and even stoking racism at times. If we are going to create a culture change of the purpose and dynamics of city streets to be safer and more inviting for all users, we will sometimes have to play dirty too, and we cannot simply back down and make way for every driver who is quick to their horn.


clintpatty said...

I'm getting more towards feeling like this. I'm also not so big on obeying a law that doesn't do anything to motorists who kill cyclists (or others) due to inattentiveness/lack of concern for life. Or if they were just in a big hurry. Sometimes I'll ride harder on Meridian when there is a motorist behind me who is waiting a few car lengths back until it is clear or it's the divided section, but motorists that get really close just make me slow down. "You thought that was slow..." Share the road kind of goes both ways, but motorists should never expect it when a good 20%+ aren't trying to share the road with cyclists.