Friday, December 14, 2012

I am tired of the "chaos"

I am not tired of the chaos on the roads. I actually like that. It means I have to be on my game when I leave the house every morning. You never really know what is going to happen out there. Each day is a different group of trucks and cars driving by. I can't be sure how they are all going to react. My way to deal with this is to be predictable and aware. The chaos also means that my ride is a bit different each morning. This morning I didn't know the lower Spokane street bridge was going to be open. It never gets boring.

What does get boring is all the crap I read about the coming bike caused chaos. Could we stop already? Chaos is the state that we currently exist in. There are laws, but that is just camouflage for random and bizarre behavior. Everybody does it. Quicks stops. Unexpected turns. Moving without any warning. This is the world that we live in.

This isn't a car vs. bike thing either. Cyclists go the wrong way. Drivers run red lights. (I have almost been hit by two this week.) Pedestrians step out into the road without looking. It is time to face the fact that we can't make people follow the rules all the time. (Have you ever seen a car go the speed limit on the West Seattle Bridge?) Even if we could make all the people do that, animals don't listen. Try telling a moose to put on a reflective vest and stop running the wrong way down the streets at night. Each road user (drivers and cyclists) has to be prepared to stop or avoid objects all the time.

This isn't easy. I understand, because I feel the same way when I get behind the wheel. I want to get to the store before it closes. I want to pick up my girlfriend before she gets mad that I am late (again). I want to just get home so I can have a little dinner and relax. Having to go slow because the conditions don't allow me to go faster is frustrating. Needing to be vigilant for cars, bikes and pedestrians makes driving much more like work. I have to push myself to relax and take my time. I struggle to be aware of my surroundings at all times, but I do it. I know that is the cost I pay for being able to go 60mph.

That isn't what I hear in the media though. It is always that bicycles cause chaos. Not that drivers need to get off their cell phones and pay attention. Where is the call to stop fixing pot-holes until drivers can learn to use a turn signal? When do you hear someone asking to stop building more highways until drivers stop speeding? But cyclists hear this same message every time a new bike lane is put in. Or whenever a traffic signal is changed to make it safer.

When someone writes that bicycles are wreaking havoc on the roads, what the person is telling you is "I am a dangerous driver." What make it worse is that it proclaims to other drivers that this is okay. The problem isn't that people must pay attention when driving, it is that cyclist are the cause. They aren't big enough. They aren't bright enough. They are too nimble. For someone who has built their life around the notion that driving a car is a right, having to really think about how badly they drive can be scary. Instead it is easier to think it is someone else's fault. When you put it into print, or on the internet, it feeds the fear and frustration. It leads to cyclists being harassed and run off the road. Being yelled at and run into. All the while the driver is thinking that the man in the paper or the guy on TV said it was okay. That cyclist had it coming.

That brings me to my point. To the journalists, pundits, and commenters out there, before you go running your mouth off, chew on this. When was the last time you were driving in a car and were scared by a bicycle? I mean you thought a cyclist was going to kill you? The answer is never. Sure, that cyclist riding the wrong way down the street with no lights on is shocking, but not deadly. I haven't seen any reports of a driver who has been killed by a cyclist. Don't give me any crap about dangerous bikers while you are wrapped in 2000 lbs. of steel. If I can ride with nothing to protect me but a pair of aluminum wheels between my legs, you are going to be fine. Embrace the chaos. Be prepared for it. Slow down, pay attention, and relax. If we can do that, we are all going to get there just fine.


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