Monday, October 27, 2014

Road Users

When I'm using roads and sidewalks, whether walking, biking, or driving, I'm pretty passive and defensive. I prefer to follow the rules and give others the benefit of the doubt; however, I've been becoming increasingly frustrated by the incompetence shown by many road users ever since I started driving or cycling for transportation.  This is only natural, of course.  I guess I could say that the last straw before I said something about it was last night when I nearly ran into three cyclists with
no lights while I was biking home from work. Anyway, here goes.

I have zero tolerance for the following:
1. Inattentive drivers. You are operating a 2-ton, potentially deadly hunk of steel; treat it as such.
2. Bikers who don't run lights at night (you get people like me who can't see a damn thing in the dark except they'll be driving a car ... ).
3. Bikers and walkers with their headphones in while taking up the whole lane/sidewalk. I'LL BE ON YOUR LEFT and I won't be able to stop!

4. People who walk, bike, or otherwise move in front of a more massive vehicle, expecting it to stop on a dime for them.

This is here for a reason.  Click to enlarge. 

I ride my bike everywhere because it's faster and more convenient in Ann Arbor than any form of wheeled motorized transport, including the campus buses.  I also just love to ride; however, we cyclists always get the short end of the stick: Drivers get mad at us for being in the way and tell us to go onto the sidewalk, despite the "Share the Road" signs.  When we do take the sidewalk, people tell us that sidewalks are for walking only.  We just can't win.  Despite all this, I still think biking around town is worth it.

I have to deal with almost getting turned-into on a daily basis as people roll forward at in intersection as I'm trying to cross.  I'm sure all commuter cyclists have this issue.  There are stretches of road where it's much safer to ride on the sidewalk, but a consequence is that drivers seldom check the sidewalks before rolling right across and making a turn.  I never just try my luck and cross immediately just because I have the right of way like many pedestrians do.  I always try to make eye contact with drivers first but sometimes, even when I think they've seen me, they look the other way and take their foot off the brake pedal.  This elicits a swerve and a "What the hell were you doing?" hand gesture from me.  At least I haven't had to deal with cars traveling too close to me on the same path.  On the roads here that are labeled with bike lanes, they're at least sufficiently wide enough.  Roads without bike lanes are always too narrow anyway, so I take the sidewalks then.

I have a friend who rides a blacked-out bike and usually wears a black jacket who doesn't run lights at night.  I try not to take it upon myself to tell others what to do, but it is pretty frustrating when there's a blatant disregard for the safety of oneself and others.  Many people think that just because streets are lit or they can see in the dark, they don't need headlights.  Same goes for rainy days.  It's light out and I can see, so I don't need lights, right? I'm not sure why drivers' ed classes don't emphasize this more, or why the U.S. doesn't just mandate daytime running lights, but having lights on makes it a ton easier to be spotted, thus avoiding a potential accident.  A large majority of road accidents are caused by lack of visual check and I'm sure that lights, even in the daytime, could help reduce the frequency of those accidents.  That being said, riding or driving without lights in in the dark is just plain stupid and people do that surprisingly often here.  Back to the earlier topic, many bikers tend to think they're exempt from road rules because they aren't driving cars, but that's just plain wrong.  This needs to be brought to public awareness somehow.  Road manners not only include obeying traffic signals, but using lights at night.  Once someone learns the lesson in real life, it's probably too late.

The third point I made in the list above is less about law but more about being considerate of others and aware of surroundings.  I've generally been a pretty old-school kid, if that makes sense, and I don't like using sophisticated technology (funny I should say this while I'm typing on a computer).  The fact that people are always plugged in and looking down at their phones doesn't help change my dislike of digital technology.  If it wasn't clear before that I only preach what I practice, I like to stay out of people (and harm's) way when using public walks and roads.  I stick to the right side of the road and ensure people have enough space to pass me if they choose.  Sadly, not enough people think about this and I end up having to slam on the brakes on my 3-speed (which does not like to stop) and yell "on your left!" multiple times until the people hear me.  I guess it's a little harder to think of other road users or vehicles until one has had the chance to stand in the others' shoes.

Lastly, walking in front of a moving car/bus/truck as often happens on campus.  I just don't know why they do this, but many people don't realize a machine can fail any time (my brake lines have blown out before, too) and when at the end of the day, when a car meets a person at speed, the person won't fare well.  This is common sense.

I know most of this post has been a rant to blow off steam, but I feel like if I could make some of these concerns known, it would help.  If someone reads this or spreads it to others and ends up saving a life or even a foot, this post would be worth it.