Never ascribe to an opponent motives meaner than your own.
-James M. Barrie
I’m annoyed. But first, kudos where kudos are due and due they are!
After threatening for the past year to switch up his route and steal my Strava KOMs, Adam made good on his word and did just that Tuesday morning. Since its creation, I’d managed to hang on to the “King of the Mountain” on a 1 kilometre stretch of my daily commute with a record speed of 52.5km/h. That’s history now. Not just bumped but smashed into little bitty pieces.
Sixty point four kilometers per hour. 60.4km/h!! Are you kidding me? A huge congratulations – I suspect that will stand for a long while before it’s topped.
Back to being annoyed. My Twitter feed has been full of what I can only categorize as anti-car rhetoric lately. With a rash of pedestrian and cyclist fatalities involving cars, trucks and most recently a cement truck, there’s plenty to be fired up about.
I like to think I ride a fair bit when I’m not afraid of falling down. I crossed off 2013’s first 1000 km on the route home yesterday (no fanfare, no shirts), I rode throughout the winter and I made it my (missed-by-that-much) goal to put more miles on the bike than the car. I’m pretty comfortable saying I’m an avid cyclist.
This does not preclude my use of or appreciation for motorized transport however. While my car spends more time parked than driving, it’s still a valuable tool. Cars (some) are beautiful, powerful wonders of mechanical genius. If I were an oil baron, there’s no little doubt where my play money would go. I am every inch a car guy.
Driving my car or the family hauler doesn’t make me evil, nor does riding my bike somehow bestow righteousness and blamelessness upon me. Riding a bike doesn’t infer that I run stop signs and red lights or cut off traffic, and sitting behind the steering wheel does not mean I’m trying to run you down.
Growing up, my dad used to rail about people who knew only their rights, but none of their obligations. I used to think he was missing it, but now I understand. Your rights come with inherent obligations and the more we ignore our obligations, the more our rights are challenged, eroded and re-shaped.
Take Montana for a moment. A few years ago, they did away with posted speed limits on their interstates (though the sign stated plainly a reasonable and prudent speed). I took the opportunity to experience that on my motorcycle. Did I mention that Montana is also a no-helmet law state? I know what you’re thinking – I wouldn’t be that stupid. Oh yes. Helmet-free and speed-limited only by fear (and a lack of aerodynamics) I rushed headlong down the black ribbon with only the occasional bug in the forehead. Others were not so lucky and enough fools did themselves harm exercising their right that the speed limits came back – eroding the rights of the rest. Rights without obligations.
As a pedestrian in Canada, you always have the right of way. In fact, while not well known, you have the right of way even while “jaywalking”. Makes sense – a motorized vehicle never has the right to hit you – the alternative is absurd. However…<sigh> you have the obligation to ensure that exercising your right of way is prudent at that moment. Walking up to a crosswalk, slapping the signal and stepping off the curb because it’s my right does not alter the laws of time, space, force, mass or acceleration. Your rights don’t trump physics. It is your right to activate the crosswalk lights without any need to take into account the required stopping distance of the traffic already on the road. It is your fault if you then step into the path of an oncoming vehicle that had no opportunity to stop. This isn’t Star Trek. Your rights do not include an energy shield to deflect an unwanted space/time coincident of vehicular force and mass with your own.
So there’s my Twitter feed with the cycling and driving equivalents of religious extremists, both shouting about the anti-social behaviour, idiocy and selfishness of the other. Enough already. Drivers – understand that I will not take a road position with the intent of slowing you down or irritating you, ever. If I’m in your way, it’s because my safety is at risk elsewhere in the lane. Seriously – do you really think I want to anger you into pushing me into the curb – me in my paper-thin Lycra that doesn’t even pretend to offer protection, you in a 5000 pound hunk of safety and security. And what’s with your need to pass me at an intersection so you can then immediately turn right across my path? Surely the impending carnage is worth 3 seconds to avoid.
But you. Ahhh yes, I’m looking at you. The smug, self-righteous cyclist (and jogger and dog walker and so on). It’s your right to act just about any way you please, to dress in any fashion, colour and style that you will, to be ignorant of your surroundings and generally act like the self-appointed center of the universe. The one who suffers for your ignorance is you, not to mention the people you put at risk. You dart out into traffic because you’re staring at your iPhone instead of paying attention, texting while riding (Seriously, what the hell is wrong with you?), jogging down an unlit mixed-use path in the dark in your trendy non-reflective all-black running gear, stepping into the intersection, damn-the-consequences-I’m gonna-teach-that-driver-a-lesson because it’s your right. The list of infractions is endless – both sides – and the argument is dominated with zealots trying to out-yell their opponent while the rest of us look around embarrassed while trying to get on with the job of enjoying life.
I’m not sure I’m comfortable ascribing to the title of car guy or avid cyclist come to think of it. I’m just a car lover that loves to ride his bicycle.
*Bring on the cycle tracks and increased bicycle infrastructure!