A green Taurus Wagon from county 61 had a little trouble this morning with a curb. So did a white Pontiac this afternoon. Today: a very special cars vs curbs episode of The MinusCar Project.
There is a hill on my route to work. It’s a pretty steep hill. It’s steep enough that riding it knocks my speed down to 6mph. (I like to come here for interval training.) The speed limit on the road is 30 or 35 which puts most cars in the 40mph range. My personal quad-factor risk calculator (40% speed of vehicles, 40% speed of bicyclist, 10% width of road, and 10% volume of vehicles) puts this particular stretch of road in the red zone. I use the sidewalk to avoid inconveniencing a large number of fast moving vehicles.
This morning, just as I was transitioning from sitting to standing on the pedals, a car came by me scraping two tires on the curb. The sidewalk here is directly adjacent to the road, there’s no grassy strip of separation, this vehicle was remarkably close as it went by. It’s possible, but probably (hopefully?) unlikely, that this driver was trying to teach me (by risking my life) a lesson about bicycling not being a safe activity, especially near traffic.
The irony is that if I assume the best in this driver, the potential for disaster only goes higher. Perhaps the driver didn’t mean to come in contact with the curb. Perhaps they were distracted for a moment by a phone call or the newspaper, or their spilling cup of coffee. Or maybe they were shaving, and smoking and eating a doughnut and then their phone rang. When the driver is teaching me a lesson it’s clear that the driver knows I’m there and a conscience and relatively controlled decision is being made. When the driver is distracted disaster is avoided only by chance. The driver may or may not restore their attention to driving, and may or may not have time to restore control of the vehicle before it hops the curb.
The legal repercussions between the two are unsavory too. If the driver is teaching me a lesson they can, for better or worse, be tried for assault with a deadly weapon. Scenario two is an accident. Clearly the driver didn’t mean to lose control of their vehicle while eating a doughnut, reading the paper, and taking a phone call resulting in the accident. Heck, the judge probably reviews cases and talks to mom each morning during his drive to work. Really, that’s normal car culture morning commute behavior.
This afternoon while I waited at a red lighted intersection another car came in contact with the curb. Coincidentally it’s the same intersection that appears in the eighth post of this blog. I didn’t see the whole thing but this car appeared to have been forced to the curb as a result of another drivers errant lane change. The curb blew out the front tire as the lane changer continued on their way, seemingly oblivious to the wake of destruction.
Why is it that stories like these are always used as examples of how dangerous bicycling in traffic can be? Can't they just as easily be turned around and used as examples of how dangerous driving is?
115 peopled died every day in 2004 in traffic related accidents. Today's news today: "Harrisburg crash victims were best friends, Police: Sioux Falls driver also killed after teens swerved"