Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Hint: It's the first word in the Boy Scout law (no, not brave or clean)

I had an epiphany the other day about cycling—while I was driving.

Maybe because I don’t drive very often any more, choosing to take Spokane Transit to work if it’s too snowy for my skinny road tires, I’m more conscious of the actual act of driving.

Or maybe I’m more conscious thanks to cycling itself. Behind the wheel I’m far more aware than I used to be, back when I drove-drove-drove everywhere, that there might be a cyclist about to come around the corner, or a pedestrian stepping into the crosswalk at the intersection of two one-way streets where most drivers will look only for other vehicles, not for walkers and pedalers.

At any rate, my aha moment was this: Roads require an enormous amount of trust.

Think about every four-way uncontrolled stop in the city. You trust that everyone remembers to yield to the guy on the right, and that they’re actually looking and able to see you there.

Think about every signal, for that matter. You trust that you can proceed into the intersection when the light turns green, because those other people will pay attention to the red light and stop. (There’s no trust involved in yellow lights, though, because in Spokane those mean “accelerate through the intersection!”).

On our bikes, we have to trust that drivers won’t swerve too close and catch us with a sideview mirror, or open a door just as we pass. (Well actually, as the Russian proverb has it, trust-but-verify—stay alert out there!)

When we walk, we have to trust that drivers and cyclists will observe pedestrian right-of-way laws.

When this trust is violated, we feel outrage, as drivers, as cyclists, as pedestrians.

Are you trustworthy?

4 comments:

Hank said...

I find I'm far more understanding, tolerant and aware of cyclists and pedestrians when I'm driving.

Bart_Mihailovich said...

I agree wholeheartedly that being on the "other side" has made me more aware of cyclists and pedestrians, but to answer the question, no - I'm not trusting of drivers whatsoever. I stop at every uncontrolled intersection, I slow down going through every green light for fear that someone will make a right on red without stopping for me, and I cringe in multi-lane traffic waiting for someone to merge into my lane or cut me off. I ride in fear most of the time. Even on the Centennial Trail in the upriver area, I fear that vehicles will drift too close to the trail. I fear all of these things because they are all experiences I've had... and probably all at least once in the last month.

BiketoWork Barb said...

What irks me more than untrustworthy drivers are the untrustworthy cyclists. They make it worse for all of us.

On Sherman the other morning a guy wearing all appropriate safety gear and looking like he knew what he was doing on a bike zinged down the sidewalk for a while.

He sailed through the green light at 3rd as if he were a pedestrian (freaking out the driver who was turning right and didn't expect a bike to suddenly pop out in front of him at cycling speeds in a pedestrian space).

Then he decided he was a vehicle again--for a while--until he decided to go back on the sidewalk. COMPLETELY unpredictable and untrustworthy. Had me very freaked out because I couldn't see him when there were parked cars between us and I didn't know when he might pop out in front of me, too.

@BarbChamberlain

Anonymous said...

Barb, et al,has ALOT of really good points. I cycle ALOT for recreation, no commuting, and I NEVER trust vehicle drivers. You can't trust all drivers because you don't have the personal knowledge of their trustworthiness. Even if you have the right-of-way, expect a driver to not see you and be prepared for such a circumstance. I know it isn't fair or "right" but I would rather surrender my right-of-way to a driver that is oblivious than be "dead right". And please don't make all of us look bad by being "that cyclist". Same roads, same rules, same rights!!