Friday, March 11, 2011

I love an early morning ride. It gives me time to think.

Today was another early (04:30am) ride to work.  I saw one pedestrian, two other bicyclists, and one jogger.  I saw a handful of cars.  What I thought about:

1.  The visor of my bike helmet blocks my view of the stars.  Disappointing.
2.  The light mounted to my helmet (thanks Contraption C) is great for when I am going through intersections.  I look to either direction and people approaching know I am there.  Since I live in the bay area and not NYC that means they slow down as opposed to aiming for me. 
3.  I really need to get something down concerning the myth of the law-abiding automobile.

Car people love to expound on bicyclists who do not obey the law, leaving us to assume that they are paragons of virtue themselves.

Cars do not obey the laws of the road. 

I bike past numerous displays that provide the speed of the approaching car and then flash if the car is speeding.  I have never once ridden past one of these displays, when cars were around, that did not flash urgently.  In a 35 mph zone the cars do 40.  In  a 25 mph zone they do 35.  On the highway where the speed limit is 65 they do 70 or 75.  We're not talking rockstars here either, we're talking ordinary housewives and househusbands and shmoes on the way to work.  Cars. Speed.  All.  The.  Time. 

NEWSFLASH:  Those posted speed limits are not just suggestions.  They are The Law.

So you ask a driver, "hey, that's breaking the law, how come you're speeding?"  They'll give varied answers.  "It's not really speeding, just 5mph or so over" or "I am in a hurry" or "Everyone does it" or "I have a fast car*" or "I'm an excellent driver" or even "The limit is too low here, so I just do what makes sense."

See?  We're more alike than you thought, bicyclists and car-drivers.  Very similar.  We do what seems correct in a situation.  Here's where we are different:  if a bicyclist makes a bad call on what is going to work they get themselves killed.  If a car makes a similar bad call they kill someone else.  Guess who has more invested in the outcome?  Ding.  That would be the bicyclist.  Guess how many automobile drivers are killed each year by speeding bicyclists?  That would be zero, actually.  True story. 

Ok we'll say you don't speed when you drive your car, although I know you do.  Everyone does with the exception of people in witness protection programs and on the 10 Most Wanted list.  If that's you go ahead and turn yourself in, I'll wait.  So you don't speed (but you do) yet you commit endless other traffic violations.  Here are a handful of what they are:

1.  Despite bitching endlessly about bicycles who slow down at 4-way stops without halting and putting a foot on the ground, when YOU approach a 4-way stop you (funny how this works, really) slow down and if you think you will get their first continue on without stopping.  This even has a name.  It is a Cincinatti stop, a Boston stop, an LA stop, a New York stop..  That's right.  Any city in the world cars don't actually stop at 4-ways.  They slow down and stop if someone else is coming. If the driver doesn't see anyone coming from the other direction they may or may not give a nod to the stop sign by slowing down.  Many will just continue through.

2.  You drive in the bike lane.  Hey your turn-off is only a half mile up the road and traffic is really backed up man...

3.  You park in the bike lane.  "I'm just running in for a second."

4.  You run red lights.  No.  Really?  A car?  Running a red light?  Never happens.  HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!  Meet me at El Camino and Sandhill during rush hour.  Two to six cars run that light every cycle. 

I could go on but I don't want to get tedious.  Suffice to say, you cars can kill people at a mere 15mph.  And you only obey the laws that suit you.  So get off your high horses already. 

*What?  Really?  Yeah, really.

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