Spring and Cars.

Spring has sprung with amazing rapidity round these parts. Barely a week ago there was 15 inches of snow on the ground, these days all that remians are the quickly fading mountains at the corner of every block where the snowplows pushed the street snow into huge icebergs.

Yesterday it was 71 degrees and I wore shorts. Fuck yea spring!

The Caranator and I got some riding in, and I even got some for real, balls out exercise riding in last night as well. All the snow that was on the streets has melted leaving piles of grit, sandy bits, and pebbles about 2 feet out from the curb (where bikes usually go) and the months of cautious driving have apparently been too much for the Pittsburgh motorist because they are driving like assholes recently.

I have a theory that driving a car is sort of like owning a gun. Neither objects have an inherent ‘good’ or ‘bad’ness, they are simply ‘things’. However the function of those things allows a person, any person, to suddenly have a power that is far beyond what any of our primitive ancestors could have imagined. For 20,000 years a person could injure or kill another person through the application of tools, but these required some muscle or skill and generally some risk to the weapon user themselves. Guns and Cars have taken the ability for the average person to deal death to a level where there is very little risk to the user. A vehicle is very much like a suit of armor, and people tend to act like it. Within the protective shell of steel and plastic people act like little tyrants, demand a respect they haven’t earned and display a sense of entitlement and a cavalier disregard of other peoples safety that is frightening to behold (especially from the seat of a bicycle). It is a lot of power to give an idiot and getting behind the wheel seems to turn a lot of otherwise intelligent folks into idiots.

I think that most folks subconsciously feel this responsibility when they drive even if they are not aware of it and that is why most folks get strangely irritable when driving. Being in a car really is like strapping on a machine gun to take a stroll to the grocery store and our minds know it, its a lot of stress to know that you could inadvertently kill someone by a slight miscalculation of the wheel or gas pedal. YIKES!

It is not uncommon when im riding my bike to lean back, and pedal at a really leisurely pace, to enjoy the air and trees and just the sound of the world as seen at 8 or 9 miles per hour. But in a car it seems like you must go as fast as possible at all times, anything preventing you from achieving that is cause for a flash or rage. Ive had folks scream at me from their car while wildly tearing around my bike that was going “too slow” and coming dangerously close to hitting me as they whip their car back in front of me , squeal tire away from me and after all of this I stroll up next to them stopped at a red-light not 20 yards later. Why? I’m sure that most of these folks are not in the presence of a woman in labor nor are they running to assist in putting out a house-fire, no I’m pretty sure that most of them are going to work, the store, the bar, a friends house, all sorts of things that might be important but that I don’t believe are important enough to murder someone over (or to even lose your temper over). When this happens they refuse to even look over at me (and Im not the type to be screaming back or shaking my fist at them) they are embarrassed and they should be.

A car is just a tool the way a bicycle or a coffeemaker is a tool, however unlike the other two a car is immensely dangerous and powerful. I don’t believe that they should be banned or that bike should receive special privileges, i just want to get around on my bike out of their way and with my (and my fiancee’s) life intact.

Categories: bikes, pittsburgh | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “Spring and Cars.

  1. abuddhistintherustbelt

    While I agree with you regarding the way some individuals drive their vehicles, I wonder if you’re not making some generalizations. I’ve lived most of my life in the ‘burbs, so my experience in sharing the roads with bicycles is limited. But, on those occasions when I have to either go through or to Downtown, I see cyclists (couriers, I believe) who display a complete lack of respect for anything aside from getting wherever they’re going. On a recent trip to the Strip, I had a cyclist run a red light while I was in the same intersection (and coming close to an accident) and then fire a stream of … lets call it discursive words…at me for it. Yes, there are many who drive cars that could really use some time with a therapist, but I do not believe that they are limited to piloting four-wheelers.

    BTW, Great blog!

  2. true enough, however its really hard to kill a lot of people with a bicycle. sure if you make a really concerted effort you might be able to take out 1 or 2, but the chances are pretty good that you would suffer the same or more damage than whoever it was you hit with a bicycle. I assure you that I can trot out hundreds of personal encounters with cars where I literally feared for my life (including the fact that I watched my little brother get broadsided by a car on his bike and had to run to fetch my mother while he sat on the grass cradling his badly broken leg at age 10) this post was not about whether some bike riders are jerks (they are) and such an argument is a distraction from the actual point.

    Namely, that being encased in armor with a weapon which makes you able to be effortlessly lethal is way too much responsibility for most folks to handle mindlessly. The key word being ‘mindlessly’. If one is aware that they are not just driving to the store but instead aware that they are driving a dangerous piece of equipment to the store then i believe that the driver of the car (and me on my little bike) would both benefit. The stress happens, I believe, when the driver is subconsciously aware of the fearful fact that they are piloting something with such dangerous potential but rather than dealing with that fact, without being mindful of the actual reality of what it means to have that responsibility, the energy comes out sideways as roadrage, irritability, a hurry for no reason, and a territorial mindset that makes bikes and pedestrians the ‘enemy’.

    I hope I didnt come across as a blanket attack on cars or drivers. Instead my intention was to possibly help some folks understand one possible reason they find themselves unaccountably rageful when driving and to remind them that the person on the bike that is making them 40 seconds late is a human being with a family and life of their own.

    thank you for your comment.

  3. A Buddhist in the rustbelt

    True enough. I think that your use of the word mindlessly is spot on in this case. Surprisingly, I had to go downtown today, and I was amazed that most of the people driving around me were still alive. They were doing everything BUT driving. Talking on the phone, reading and touching up the do were just a few of the non-mindful driving skills I saw today.

    Makes me want to stay off the roads.


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