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?