I'm an IT consultant by trade... I travel to my clients, all over Miami-Dade county. Most people don't seem to 'get' that I do so by bicycle and by choice. Generally cycling is my zen, my chance to be one with the world. Unfortunately plenty of drivers are intent on making me one with the road - literally.

Watch these close brushes with death and dismemberment. See what I see, or sometimes (through the rear cam) what I don't see... thats even scarier. I've had more than my fair share of close calls, usually someone being too busy texting, calling or putting on makeup to notice that there is a vulnerable vehicle right near them

Often it's an uneducated driver that have mistaken the local public roads for the Homestead Miami Speedway. How dare a cyclist be on the road?! Why aren't you in the bike lane? Umm, there isn't one or don't you see that car parked in it? Once in a while its a truly homicidal maniac who has no regard for human life. Cyclists will understand - this happens all the time. Drivers don't respect the destructive power of the weapon they wield

Yes, weapon… have you ever had someone step on the gas, with the sole intention of running you over?! I have. All I can hope is that non-cyclists see these videos, and maybe as a result are a little more careful next time they see a bike out of the corner of their eye. All I really want is to live to bike another day

Is that really too much to ask?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Who's the real victim?

Many of you who know me personally have already heard this 'rant' - basically we are *all* victims when it comes to cyclists in the roadway.  Let's look at it from the point of view of three separate groups affected by this:

1) The drivers
It's part of the daily grind - you drive to work, to the store, to wherever you need to go.  It's so routine you don't even notice it half the time.  You budget your time so that you can get wherever you need to go with a little bit of time to spare hopefully.  Then all the sudden there is something holding up traffic.  There's a damn bicycle in the middle of the road.  Whether its a racing bike like mine doing close to the 30 mph speed limit (which is still under the *actual* travel speed of most vehicles, or a little beach cruiser moving at 5-10mph, the damn thing is slowing you down!  You've got places to be and things to do.  Why isn't that bike on the sidewalk?  How dare they be in the road?!

Yes my friends, the *drivers* ARE victims.  Although bicycles are legally allowed to be there (we will talk about that another time), the fact is the infrastructure as it stands is very poorly implemented for any form of transportation other than driving yourself.  Cyclists, pedestrians, skateboarders, roller bladers, runners are often forced to share the road - and sometimes only a narrow single lane road.  In many cases even the public transit is clogging up the roadways.  This slows down traffic to various degrees and further exacerbates the already prevalent traffic congestion.  Drivers have every right to be upset, this slows them down making them spend more of their day in their car then they need to, and possibly making them late to wherever they are going

As victims, the drivers lose a little bit of time, and are often justifiably frustrated

2) The enforcement - our police and on occasion judicial system
A significant number of our police force originally signed up for the job because they wanted to make a positive impact on society.  This noble calling, although sometimes putting them in jeopardy themselves, was a great way to do that.  When that dream is finally achieved... suddenly they are thrust into a reality that they are traffic cops.  So much for dealing with the real problems and doing something 'important'... there are people speeding, and blowing stop signs, and broken headlights, etc., etc... time to spend all day writing seemingly meaningless tickets.  That sucks!  Thats not what they grew up dreaming of doing as a kid!

The cops are victims too.  As a result of the infrastructure as it now stands, they have to deal with enforcement of seemingly insignificant laws.  Unfortunately that is an important job.  Motor vehicles are deadly weapons, even if that is *not* the intention.  Ten's of thousands of Americans die every year due to motor vehicle accidents, and most of them were protected by the seat-belts and airbags and countless other safety features in their car.  What about the cyclists, some of the roadways most vulnerable users?  They have no seat-belts, no airbags, no steel cage surrounding them.  Enforcement of these laws becomes critical to their survival.  And so our police our stuck spending way too much time enforcing them

As victims, the police spend a lot more time than they should have to enforcing the rules of a truly 'broken' roadway infrastructure

3) The cyclists
There are many who do not travel by motor vehicle.  Some choose not to, some have health reasons, some have financial reasons.  It doesn't matter what the reason is... regardless of the mode of transportation we all have equal right or privilege to be using the roadways.  It happens all the time, ask any cyclist - you are out riding and whoooosh a car zooms past wayyy too close.  The displacement of air can often be enough to move the bicycle on its own.  So how do many cyclists respond?  They ride too far to the right and get hit by opening car doors.  They ride on sidewalks and get hit by cars leaving driveways and parking lots.  Or they stay in the road and aggravate all the drivers stuck behind them

Clearly, the cyclists are victims.  Among the most vulnerable users of the roadway - higher speeds and lower maneuverability than pedestrians, yet lower speeds and less protection than motor vehicles - cyclists are putting their lives on the line every single time they ride!  Should it be this way?  Definitely not.  Unfortunately our roadways were not built to accomodate all of its users

Cyclists are undoubtedly victims - victims who stand to lose A LOT more than the minor time and aggravation that the roadways other victims face.  As a cyclist I can lose my life

So until our infrastructure is completely fixed, keep that in mind.  Yes that cyclist in front of you is slowing you down a bit.  Yes officer, that car that you saw driving in the bicycle lane has already moved on.  It's a few seconds to a few minutes of your time

I will discuss another time the incredible amount of work some are putting into fixing this extremely flawed roadway system, but while that work is ongoing (and it will be for many, many years), take a second and look at what everyone else stands to lose before you get upset about that five seconds you've lost.  Is it really worth the loss of a human life for that?

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