One would think that in the grand scheme of things, nothing should take precedence over self preservation. And second to that should be the protection of all human lives. But anyone with an ounce of sense knows that’s far from the case. Countless motorists drop big bucks on cars that offer “driving excitement” that consequently turn transportation into a matter of entertainment. Even tree-hugging hybrid car owners have been known to break the speed limit and roll through stoplights in the name of expedience, forgoing fuel efficiency and safety.
Let’s not just point the finger at motorists. Pedestrians are perhaps the most vulnerable road users, yet I challenge you to find a city free of jaywalking. You might think that common sense would win every time, but the desire for instant gratification via Starbucks Frappuccino has lured many a law abiding citizen to step out from between parked cars.
Of course, I’m just as guilty as anyone. I’ll be perfectly honest, I’ve been trying to behave out there on the roadways. Really, seriously making an attempt to act like a proper vehicular cyclist. But the truth is, I’m doing it for appearances, not for my own protection. With the number of urban cyclists still on the rise, as well as the inescapable bad reputation that I admittedly helped our community earn, I feel that it’s high time to show the world that we are in-fact sensible, responsible human beings.
My morning commute begins with me in the bike lane, signaling turns and stopping behind cars at red lights. As I get to the warehouse district, things invariably change, as the bike lanes give way to sharrows. Most people don’t know what shared use markings mean, so even if I’m not verbally assaulted I’m guaranteed to be passed at a distance that’s too close for comfort, usually when there is a full open lane to the left. By the time I get to downtown, my good behavior is out the window. I think of it as having entered the Thunderdrome, and even though I’m now arguably in the most dangerous portion of my commute, I feel energized. I feel like taking risks, swooping around jaywalking pedestrians, passing cars on the right, riding between trucks and busses. Like everyone else, fun and convenience become more important than arriving in one piece.
I’m not a psychologist, or a philosopher, so I won’t try to explain such complex thought processes. And maybe someday when I’m an old, white-bearded recumbent rider my tune will change. But for now, I feel pretty astute for even recognizing it.
This train of thought started a few weeks ago when a local child on a bicycle was struck by a motor vehicle. One of the major news sources created a rift by encouraging the audience to feel sorry for the driver, essentially pointing out how distraught she was over having injured the child. As you might imagine, this didn’t sit well with vocal members of the cycling community. At first I took the commentary the same way that my peers did, thinking, “To hell with the driver, think about how sad this kid’s family is, let alone the kid himself.”
Then it occurred to me, maybe the reporter really did the cycling community a favor. Because let’s face it, hearing another collision report isn’t going to do much to affect much change in the average driver’s habits. And frankly, in a world where people are mostly concerned with themselves, the fact that the driver was unharmed only helps perpetuate the notion of, “Oh, too bad, but...”
Now, on the other hand, when the evening news showed the driver sitting on the curb at the scene of the accident, head slumped between her knees and crying, the message was clear—this is not driving excitement. If you hit someone with your car, you will feel bad, even if you aren’t deemed to be at fault. You might even cry.
I know, it sounds a little far fetched, but I still think there’s something to my theory. Either way, I encourage everyone to be safe out there, even if you have to have a little fun in the Thunderdrome from time to time.