Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Those Pesky Curbs

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.

And then...

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"


Anonymous said...

I think that it's been reported that soup causes the most accident in food / car related accidents. When was the last time anyone ate soup at the table and didn't spill?

Anonymous said...

Additionally, what about how dangerous stupidity is in traffic?

I'm an avid cyclist, also in the North Country. As dangerous as riding on a busy street can be, I've found that it can be safer than riding on the sidewalk on a busy street. Drivers entering traffic from side streets and parking lots are looking for on-coming street traffic and invariably don't even see a cyclist who's on-coming on the sidewalk.

The issue comes back to one of responsible driving. It's an automobile driver's responsibility to know what's in their path (or would-be path)before moving their vehicle. I encourage all riders to file complaints with local police departments any time they have an auto-related incident. Granted, you may not have the offender's license plate number, and the officials may not be able to do anything about that specific incident, but they have to take the complaint regardless. The intended outcome is that the officials will tire of spending time and energy on complaints that can't be rectified and start exerting energy on driver-awareness programs.

Eric A. said...

Today I rode by Shopping central on my way to the Post Office by Home Depot.
I am use to riding in traffic at either 9am , 1pm or 1am.
At these times there is little or should I say "kind" traffic on my way round.
To ride at a peak noon hour on the busiest street in the state today reminded me how Ultra aware one must be riding in traffic , and how I have become soft by riding at times with light traffic.

Anonymous said...

which brings me to my point and my new website- the MinusSoup Project. Friggin' Soup.

Anonymous said...

I tried It was 404'd. Maybe you should check your TCP/IP or your DHCP. If not that they maybe your DNS is all out of whack.