09 December, 2009
People, can't we all just get along?!
Ripples in the calm of Lake Routine
Regularly trapped as I am in the space/time continuum formed by cyclists and motorists, I feel well qualified to declare some brutal truths:
1) As a cyclist, I dislike it when automobiles approach and pass me.
2) When I'm driving I dislike having to approach and pass cyclists.
There. I said it. I named the elephant in the room. I feel uneasy regardless of which side of the fender I'm on. There's always a sense of relief when The Pass is complete; it's hardly different from when the dental hygienist says, "There. You can rinse and spit now." Life becomes a tad easier; heart rates dip, breathing regulates and, ideally, resentments - no matter how minor and vaguely directed - dissipate.
Let's face it: The Pass means that at least two strangers* need to temporarily form an undesired partnership that is only successful if they can share the same space and time. There will be an overlap of their "bubbles". It's like we're thrust into one of those old Hope/Crosby road shows but without the laughs. All fun and games until someone breaks a spine.
* It gets exponentially more complicated with four lane roads, or oncoming traffic. Then additional drivers are roped into joining the party to anticipate the reluctant dancers' space requirements.
I'm guessing we'll never achieve greater cycling safety until cyclists and motorists both admit to even just slightly resenting these brief collaborations. Forget the PSAs about one another's rights, we must acknowledge - not ignore - the list of events that must unfold for The Pass to occur: motorists must surrender expectations of unimpeded progress; mirror and shoulder checks may be needed to ensure a safe drift leftward; the slightly shallower breaths + whiter knuckles that can only relax once The Pass is complete. Cyclists must ramp up their vigilance to hold their line; they ignore the possibilities of what could go horribly wrong while scouring the road ahead for booby-traps.
These impositions, no matter how brief or seemingly inconsequential, are very necessary, and they must occur above and beyond the usual routines of driving. (the word routine here is fitting, insofar as driving can ever be considered routine; there is enough repetition involved that we can easily come to expect the task to be predictable.) Cyclists and motorists represent to one another a wrinkle in this zoned-out state and once we can honestly admit this upset not only exists, but is natural and understandable, we might stand a better chance of coexisting safely.
We may not be going far enough when simply reminding the cats and dogs to share the road because they're obliged to. Hopefully a smart cyclist or motorist will come up with a message of empathy for the combatants that strikes the chord of respect for their overlapping bubbles.
It can't be rocket science, can it?