Thursday, 15 March 2012

Reckless driving on bridges

I know this is the first post in a long while, but I need to vent.

Unlike driving motor vehicles, you actually notice your surroundings more keenly whilst riding a bike.  Specifically, when riding over (or around) bad surfaces, you know that if you end up in that crevasse, something is bound to come loose, or worse yet, you puncture.  Bridge decks are no exception; they often times contain many drains (more than a regular stretch of road) on the edges which are often recessed into the deck. Furthermore, bridges require expansion joints to prevent cracking of the superstructure; they too sometimes make for a surface irregularity. And then there goes the usual cracks and potholes in the deck from all the vehicles going over it.
Imagine what would happen to cyclists here. Now imagine this on a bridge.
The idea that bridges make some people cringe because going over the edge into an abyss and/or the bridge will fall if you stay too long on it isn't totally false; just think back to the 2007 Interstate 35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis. However, on structurally-sound, well-maintained bridges that carry the stereotypical country or arterial road, there is no reason to floor it and/or squeeze narrower vehicles (such as two-wheeled bicycles and motorcycles) to an edge for any reason. You could very well be the one who isn't careful and veers off the bridge into the abyss, quite possibly taking others with you.

This has happened enough times on enough bridges that I cringe every time I ride over one, especially when the bridge carries at least four lanes of bi-directional traffic. It's like the fear of losing a mirror when driving on an older two-lane bridge with a semi-trailer truck on the other side, but worse. And depending on the locale, if traffic is congested over the bridge, motorists do the craziest things, including threatening to get in a crash with two-wheelers.

Aside from reckless driving on bridges, I randomly saw a tweet a few days ago that after reading it can only be described as disturbing, cruel and selfish:
Bikers piss me the fudge off while I'm driving. Like get out of the way or go on the sidewalk.
Ah, the age old road war. With today's road laws, coupled with cyclists' fundamental right to the road (since they are considered vehicles by international treaties), this driver should have failed the knowledge test towards getting a driving licence.

Given the rights and responsibilities of cyclists are nearly identical to those of motorists, there is no reason to expect that the cyclist(s) will get out of your way.  If you really want to pass them, wait until the coast is clear and then give some lateral distance whilst passing. It's not that hard and it saves some anguish and bodily injury. Flipping the picture, do you have a reason to expect that the motorist(s) in front of you get out of your way?

Secondly, it is becoming increasingly illegal to ride bicycles on sidewalk (or pavement, depending on your geographical location).  Ontario, for instance, prohibits riding on sidewalks period, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania prohibits anyone over twelve years old from riding on sidewalks. Even if there exists no law prohibiting sidewalk riding, the practice is still downright dangerous. The often segmented nature of the sidewalk surface combined with the narrow width and pedestrian presence and priority makes safe cruising at 36–40 km/h (22.4–25 mph) impossible. Hell, sixty per cent of the time, sidewalks don't even exist!

Everyone using the road has a right to get to their destination safely. I emphasise safely since not everyone has a crumple zone, safety cell and lots of sheet metal surrounding them. Perhaps this is where half the aggression comes from. As a fellow cyclist eloquently states:
I also hope that you somehow find a way to feel better.  If you are angry enough at 6:30 in the morning to threaten a cyclist with your really fancy car that has to be enjoyable to drive, you are obviously in possession of some pretty serious problems.  I would not want to be you for a whole lot of money and as many S4s as I could handle.
[…]
I didn't get the chance to respond to your ranking of me as #1 this morning so I wanted to make sure you knew that no, you are number one.  You are the man.  Even this [four-year-old] knows it.  So congratulations on being a horrible person and leading a terrible life.  I can only hope that someday you manage to sneak your way out from under the terribleness.
But some of it is just plain selfishness:
When you decide that you need to slam on the gas to race around the slow guy to get to the stop light first when a four-lane highway with loads of room to pass beckons not 100m away, you have lost your mind.  When you decide that you need to honk at the guy in front of you waiting for an old lady to cross the road, you have lost your mind.  When you find yourself angry because the school bus is putting out its stop sign so that little children can cross a deadly street safely to get on the bus, you have lost your mind and your soul.  When you decide that you are so angry that you need to try to punish someone on a bike for breaking a rule you are less able to break (I can only guess that was why) you are, in a friend of mine's words "your own worst punishment."  Congratulations, you get to be a terrible person all day, hopefully you can get over it with a good night's sleep.
What if that person you wanted to kill, just because you needed to assert yourself on the road for that moment, was your best friend and/or a family member?

Seriously though, if you live that kind of life where you have to kill people, no matter your relation to them, to make a public road and/or bridge your dragstrip so you can get that big promotion, please go kill yourself now.  The world will be a better place.