2/23/11

Ride Home 2/23

Sometimes, I like to pretend that me and the pedestrians and drivers are all playing a big game. It's not a zero-sum one, where one of us wins at the cost of the others, but it's one of those games that you might have been forced to play in 5th grade gym class where "winning" requires each person to succeed and the failure of one person results in the failure of all. There might have also been some dingy gym mats involved and maybe a rope hanging from a ceiling. My memories of gym class have probably been superseded by those portrayed in tv shows and movies- I don't really know. This kind of conceptualization works a few different ways. It makes sense- we all benefit when we all get home safely. I benefit when drivers don't hit me, pedestrians benefit when I don't hit them, drivers benefit when more people choose to bike and walk. The fact of the matter is that a "commute" is the sum total of the intwined actions of individuals working towards their own self-interest. It's just a big system and it's best for each person when it's best for all people.
On a personal level, thinking about my ride this way prevents me from conceiving of fellow road users as adversaries, competing for a limited amount of space, (I think of traffic laws in terms of property rights, but that's for a different post, I guess) but instead as "teammates." Reading this back, it sounds tremendously hokey. Anyway. Just because someone is your teammate, though, doesn't mean you're going to get pissed at them for making poor choices and mucking up the larger system. So, that's one big preface to the following bullet-pointed diatribe/expurgation/friendly advice:

  • Left turns should be made, at let's say, something close to a 90 degree angle and not a 130 degree angle so you can beat the bike coming down the hill. If you have to drive 50 feet in the oncoming traffic lane prior to making your turn, I don't think you're doing it right. I was going downhill plenty fast and I would have been past you. I'm sorry for yelling "COME ON!" but that was exasperation and the realization that had you not completed the 130 degree turn at about 35 mph, I wouldn't have been able to brake in time and I would have flipped over your hood, if not the roof of your car. 
  • If you see me coming and we make eye contact and I'm only 15 feet away coming uphill, it confuses me when you decide to pull out and make your sharp left turn in your big beige SUV. It confuses me why you own a beige SUV. Beige is for carpets in rental apartments. Get a real color car. Why were you rushing? I know that there was "finally" no car coming in the other direction, but I saw you waiting and I'm pretty sure that you saw me. Did you know that I was thinking disparaging thoughts about your beige car? 
  • Jaywalking. I'm a fan, really. Pedestrians get the short end of the stick a lot and jaywalking is generally just the redressing of planning wrongs. But do it better! There's some some of nefarious bike blindness gripping jaywalkers in Rosslyn. I know that you're looking for cars, but I'm wearing a jacket with the brightness of a not-so-distant star. I have on a big white helmet. I might look a little like this. I'm also in the middle of the street- the same place you were just checking for cars. My recommendation- don't run across the street. That embarrasses us both. Instead, look for the bike guy. See the bike guy. See me. Wait til I go by. Then go. I promise that there's enough time. I'm not that slow. 
  • Turning right from the center lane is never ok. If you hit me doing that, I will be very sad. 
  • Not everyone might look at road signs as closely as I do. You see, I'm a bike blogger, so I try to be observant of the world around me for "fodder." Sometimes, signs say Right Turn Only Except for Bicycles. If I go straight in that lane, it's ok. You don't need to honk. You don't need to try to pass me thinking that I'm turning right. It's cool that your car gets really close, like 18 inches close, but I'm still gonna go straight and you shouldn't be so confused about it. I knew I was in for trouble when I saw your temporary Maryland tags. My head shaking was borne of my confusion about your confusion. There was a sign. 
Anyway, all of these things happened in the right home. They sucked, but it's fine. It's really not personal from them or from me. Life goes on. On the plus side, it's getting bright enough to have to wear sunglasses on the ride home. I'm ready for the end of winter and nicer rides. 

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