That's It: No One Gets To Be On The Road

That's It: No One Gets To Be On The Road
Visiting or Drunk?

I have no idea if the Divvy by that building in my neighborhood was a result of someone visiting that day, or if the person who was riding it was so drunk they couldn’t get themselves home, but didn’t think about the whole “returning the bike to Divvy” part. Either way, it amused me when I walked past it.

Now, just by mentioning bikes, I’m pretty much inviting a maelstrom of comments — “Bicyclists don’t follow the rules of the road.” “Drivers are crazy.” “Cyclists are a nuisance, why are we trying to accommodate them?” “Cars clog up traffic and are bad for the environment.” “If bicyclists want to be treated like cars, we should tax and license them.” “Even if the gas tax is supposed to cover roads that I also ride on, I also have a car and drive, so I do contribute.”

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. I will say this: as someone who drives, bikes, and walks, it always seems that the drivers in these threads are begging a “YOU MAD, BRO?” Cause their anger seems to be so disproportionate to the thing being discussed. There’s frustration and irritation, but then some people go off the rails with rage, suggesting that people should hit bikes or making arguments that sound fairly homicidal. Of course, that isn’t the norm, but even the drivers who are pissed sound pretty angry.

Why is this? I’m going to forward some thoughts that will probably still call out the fights between commenters in (three, two, one …), but I will close this blog with some insight that applies to everyone who uses a road. Stick with it, if you will.

So. I’ve driven plenty in my life, and in Chicago (most of my driving has taken place here, I guess), so I know of what I speak. And I will tell you, there is some sort of strange annoyance at being stuck in rush hour or Saturday traffic — waiting out three or four lights before being able to go, people driving like shitheads, changing routes only to find it just as bad or worse — and watching someone on a bike cruise past like nothing. To finally pass them, only to have them continually leapfrog you as you get stuck at light after light, 4-way after 4-way. There’s something that arouses a real antipathy as some other form of transportation glides by, getting to wherever faster than you, in your home away from home, your source of status, your trusty pal — your car.

I understand this deep-seated instinct. However, I will suggest that pure facts and physics be taken into account. Yes, there are some riders who flagrantly disregard signals, drive like maniacs, and see cars as their mortal enemy. But on the very real face of the situation is this:

  • The vehicle outweighs a cyclist by an enormous ratio.
  • If a car and bike collide, it’s nearly certain that the cyclist will end up FAR worse than the car and/or driver. Potentially up to, and including death.
  • Not paying attention in a car (ahem, texting, ahem) can quickly lead to errors that can end up in the aforementioned situation.
  • There is no protection for a cyclist. They have no cage or walls or safety mechanisms, outside of a helmet, which is a last-ditch effort to keep one’s *head* from getting the worst of it in case of an accident.
  • Roads in the U.S. are traditionally made for cars, so it’s hard to get into a mindset of sharing.

So, while it may not seem “fair” for cars to have to be more responsible than cyclists or pedestrians, it’s obvious when anything else goes up against a car, the other person will inevitably lose.

Here’s where I think the problem lies: We are all concerned with our own needs, and constantly thinking of ourselves. When I am driving a car, I just cannot believe how annoying bikes are and how stupid pedestrians are. When I’m riding a bike, I’m irritated by clueless pedestrians and enraged by cars who can’t seem to avoid doing things that will lead to my death. When I’m walking, I seethe at the cars and bikes who don’t know what “right-of-way” is.

But the key word in all of those is “I.” Being self-centered, I (and most other people) are only worried about MY time, how I am going to get somewhere, why YOU aren’t making it any easier. There’s no thought or consideration to the needs, wants, and agendas of others. Everyone on each form of transportation is solely focused on getting where THEY need to go, and when.

As you navigate these city streets, I’d encourage you to consider:
“Have I ever been careless and not paid attention while driving?” “Have I ever made a dangerous move on a bike that was reckless?” “Have I ever walked across a street with my head in my phone?” Chances are you can probably say yes to all three. Let’s be better and do better, kay?

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