Share the road, dammit.

THIS > Sharing the Road <—

(by Greg Cantori, past president of Bike Maryland)

“Pedestrians and cyclists are not the enemy, just people traveling without cars.”

Whenever there’s public hype and outcry over some infrequent cause of death — Ebola, guns, terrorists — someone always points out that you’re much more likely to die in a car incident.  Absolutely correct.

So, isn’t it time we do something about the MOST COMMON one?  Motorized vehicles remain the number one killer of people ages 4 to 34 in Maryland.

“We are not cyclists, nor drivers, nor pedestrians, nor runners.  We are people first.”

We’ve lived with cars for a century now, to the point where they literally rule the road.  Other very natural, human ways to get around have become dangerous.

Go ahead, ask me my worst fear.  It’s not terrorists.  It’s not guns.  Lions, tigers, and bears?  Meh.

My worst fear is dying in a car incident.  Maybe in a collision while I’m driving, perhaps getting creamed while I’m cycling or walking. Because recently it happened to a friend of mine; one morning he’s out hiking with his kids, that afternoon he’s struck by a car and gone.  Dead is forever, yet people have the nerve to tell me it’s my fault for being in the way of cars?  What the hell have we become?

I am not a fearful person in general.  There’s really only one thing that can push me to breaking down in fits of screaming hysteria.  It is being tailgated or harassed by aggressive drivers.  If I can’t get out of their way immediately, I very often pull over or turn off.  I will not tangle with bullies who have blatant disregard for my life.  Humans cease being humans behind the wheel of a vehicle; they become monsters.  Drunk, distracted, impatient, stupid, self-absorbed monsters.

SkylarMarionI quit biking in my own neighborhood, and I don’t walk on the roads here either. Because every day I witness bad driver behavior, and survival instinct tells me to stay out of their way.  Daily I pass the homemade billboard pleading for someone to come forward about the hit-and-run that killed a local teenager who was walking on the shoulder.  Multiple times daily I watch people driving on the shoulders at high rates of speed, impatient to get around someone making a left turn, and I cringe at the disaster waiting to happen….AGAIN.

We don’t learn or change our behaviors, because as a culture we’ve all bought into the car-centered mentality.  Since when did our rush to get somewhere trump someone else’s life?  Since when did a driver’s license become a right and not a privilege, with so little responsibility or accountability attached?  Why did we so willingly trade our humanity for vehicles?

I am tired of feeling powerless against anyone in a 2-ton hunk of steel with a gas pedal.  The cars-first mentality makes me seethe, as does the sickening sense of entitlement that comes with it.  Damn those who try to say that human-powered transportation is a niche activity.  Haven’t we been walking since homo erectus first stood upright?  You’re “against big government” but okay with telling me where, when, and how I can WALK???  Curse those especially who kill someone while driving, call it an “accident,” traipse through the weak justice system that is severely biased towards drivers, and get off with little to no penalty.  If this is the best we can do and we call it civilization, this world is seriously screwed up.

Statistics firmly back me up on this, and I think it’s time we do something about it.  My local representatives know my name, and associate it with promoting bicycle and pedestrian safety.  I’m a Bike Advocate. That doesn’t imply I’m some hipster who just discovered bicycles are cool again, and thinks everyone should hop on one, pedal down to the farmers market and buy artisanal bread.  It means I’m tired of people dying, while everyone acts like it’s status quo.

ParkRulesCycling, walking, wagon-pulling, stroller-pushing, and countless other human-powered activities are a natural part of any healthy life.  But while we weren’t paying attention, the places where it’s safe to do those things have shrunk to what’s in between space already dominated by cars, and they’re precious few.  If you’re lucky, a couple of small urban green spaces are connected by a bike trail, but that’s where the homeless population lives and there’s a whole bunch of rules imposed.  Good luck.

Bike Advocates are not in the marketing business.  Trying to create a huge tribe of two-wheeled warriors is not what it’s about, at all.  We should really be called Safety Advocates.  Because for people who are using self-powered means of getting around, it feels like open season out there.  And somebody has to speak up, before more of our friends become victims.

Cities like Washington DC, Minneapolis, or New York that have made huge improvements in infrastructure feel far safer than the places most people live.  Whether it’s wise or practical to walk to the grocery store wherever you live is a direct outcome of urban planning, and some of those planning practices in the last century were hugely flawed.  We have cities, suburbs, neighborhoods, and roads that were designed for the almighty automobile, at the expense of everything else.  Today, planning and zoning departments, DOTs, and civil engineers are all being challenged to think and design differently.  Some are catching on more quickly than others, many are still reading from last century’s playbook.  We need to educate and push our leaders toward change, else we keep doing the same thing over and over and hope it doesn’t kill us too.

Have some respect for your fellow humans.  And please, PLEASE drive like one.

RIP Tom Palermo.

ghost-bike

Ghost Bike

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~ by pasadenagina on January 23, 2015.

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