Thursday, June 17, 2010

No More Sympathy For the Impatient Motorist

Perhaps it's a product of the continually growing length of time I have gone without driving (my license is actually expired now pending renewal after I realized), but I am becoming less tolerant and understanding of the wants of impatient drivers and the double standards they apply to other road users. I was waiting to go straight on Broadway Ave. during lunch and practicing my track stand in the process. A driver pulls up and honks at me to get out of the way so she can make a right on red. First of all it is not marked as a right turn only lane, since cyclists can continue through the connecting bike lane. Second of all, rights on red are hazardous to pedestrian traffic by their very nature, and are illegal in more pedestrian oriented places, so I am not inclined to be that sympathetic to someone trying to make a right on red to begin with. If I was in a car waiting to go forward in a lane that was not marked as turn only, there is no way she would have honked, it's a clear double standard of treatment that comes from a belief that even on streets with a bike lane, cyclists do not belong on the road or at least belong on it less than drivers. She asked more nicely out of her window after honking 3 times, but sorry I'm not budging anymore, I'm not going to accept this get to the back of the bus mentality drivers exert over cyclists. By that time the light changed anyways, a delay of perhaps 15 seconds, but to the driver, 15 seconds is often so valuable it is exchanged even when it is risking the lives others.

Sometimes I go through ebbs and flows of more aggressive and cooperative stances with the world of driving. Lately reading the book Fighting Traffic, about the history of the dawn of the auto age in America, has me leaning a little more on the aggressive side. Automobile interest groups and drivers wrestled the purpose of streets from everyone else, often by bloody force (200,000 Americans were killed on roads in the 1920's, a majority were pedestrians back then). It was not uncommon in the early decades of automobiles on the streets for newspapers to depict the typical driver as Satan, and mass memorial services for slain children were common in urban places. Safety campaigns eventually brought down the proportion of pedestrian fatalities, but in the process began to highly limit what had been previously very liberal rights to those who walked in cities. Eventually "motordom", as the auto interests called them selves began influencing the entire design of cities around principles essentially tailored to sell more cars. Auto clubs tried to sell the idea of cars with sexy ads, and promises of freedom, but just as often they were launching campaigns against pedestrians, referring to them as bumbling idiots and creating the term jay walker, blasting against campaigns for car regulation with counter ads that fed on anti-government fears and even stoking racism at times. If we are going to create a culture change of the purpose and dynamics of city streets to be safer and more inviting for all users, we will sometimes have to play dirty too, and we cannot simply back down and make way for every driver who is quick to their horn.


danceralamode said...

I know what you mean, sometimes I just want to enjoy my ride and not fight traffic, so I'll be more docile, but sometimes, dammit, I have a right to be here.

The same thing happened to me on a long ride down and back up the coast. I was on PCH going through Laguna, and was stopped in the right hand lane that was not a right turn only sign. Not only was I there, but also another cyclist next to me (who had shoaled a little but was waiting behind).

The woman honked on her horn twice, and I ignored her. Then she rolled down her window and called out (politely) "excuse me, but I need to turn right and I don't want to hit you."

All I could think is, "so, regardless of whether I move or not, you're going to turn right. You're going to just mow me down, but you'd rather not hit me?"

I turned to her and said, "I'm sorry you don't want to hit me, but I have a right to the full use of this lane. You'll just have to wait." Then, as I was speaking, the light turned green. She then says "well, will you go then because the light is green." Of course, I didn't see the green light now because I had to turn around to deal with her harassment. I just gave her a look of "you're an idiot" and started pedaling.

I don't want to be overly aggressive, but I want to be inexorable.

Andy said...

I used to stay to the curb at intersections, but now I take the lane. Once in a while, even while in the middle of the lane, someone will squeeze up the left side pretending that there is still enough space there, so generally I try to take all of the lane to discourage passing while waiting at intersections.

When they honk, I usually give a thumbs up. In my mind, it's a middle finger, but they can interpret as they choose :D

I'm a vehicle on the road, and they will just have to wait. If they seem particularly impatient, I try to recite their license plate a few times, just in case they decide to do something really stupid when the light goes green.

Joe said...

I usually stop on the left side of the rightmost lane (where the bike lane would be if it were to continue through the intersection), so that right-turning cars can get by me on the right.

I'm all for asserting my presence on the road when it is required for safety, but when I can safely share the road, I'd rather do so.

Gary said...

I usually stop to the right side of the next lane over as well, but if there is a row of cars already present there, I am not going to tuck in the little space usually left there and be sandwiched between car idling waiting to go straight and car making right, unless there is obviously plenty of room. Also I don't like to do what many cyclists do and ride so far up as to get in the way of the pedestrian crossing. I much prefer to be respectful of sharing space with pedestrians than to "get out of the way", of motorists.

Gary said...

Also, if the driver had rolled up and said hey could I get by, I might have done it, I am usually nothing but nice and accommodating, but she decided to honk 3 times first. More and more I feel like unnecessary honking is a rude, brutish and uncivilized form of communication. As long as drivers can simply assume that any cyclist will scatter out of their way if they just honk, we will never be seen as having equal right to the road.

danceralamode said...

It depends on the width of the lane, where I decide to put myself. I try to not block people from turning right, but sometimes the lane just isn't wide enough. And I won't hug the curb so they can right-hook me. What really ticked me off, was that she expected me to get off my bike, pick it up, and move to the side for her. I don't ask her to get out of her car, pick it up, and move to the side for me, do I?

In the end, why can't they just wait 3 seconds?

Larry Clarkberg said...

I think motorists are blissfully unaware that to people outside their car their horns are startlingly heart-stoppingly loud. What they think is a friendly toot is an angry shout to us. For the record, even without honking cars make a lot of noise. When I walk my son to school there are certain streets where we have to shout to hear ourselves over the car noise. Do these people even know that they are making life miserable for the rest of us?

Anonymous said...

People are idiots anymore. They are completely unconcerned about safety and are more often than not discourteous. I am a bicycle rider and a motorcycle rider, but have relegated my motorcycling to weekend mornings only now after a few close calls caused by distracted motorists, discourteous motorists, or drivers who simply do not obey traffic laws (i.e, driving 15+ mph over the speed limit and nearly driving over me, coming with a foot or so of my back wheel on the motorcycle.) Not sure when civility will return. Cops don't enforce the law... not enough patrols.