Too much car

A tale of a 2012 Chevy Traverse, an old box truck, and me on my bike.

Commuting by bike is normally routine, but there are occasional adventurous moments to liven up my day.

I’m zipping north with traffic on University Avenue through East Palo Alto, California Thursday morning. I have the green light at Bay Street when a young woman in a shiny brand new Chevy Traverse (an SUV-like “crossover” vehicle from General Motors) with paper dealer tags on west-bound Bay blasts through her red light for a right-turn-on-red without even looking. I saw it coming so I cut to her inside without even thinking about it, while I yell vaguely instructive comments about her poor driving skills with *ahem* percussive enhancements on her passenger side window, startling both the driver and her older, matronly passenger.

The driver of the big box truck just behind me leans on his horn while slamming on his brakes, leaving burning rubber in his wake. Aggressive girl driver accelerates beyond killing range of the truck with her 280 hp 3.6 liter V6 and *vroom* she’s gone.

Three weeks ago, school teacher Alisha Whiteparker killed a six year old girl in a crosswalk less than a block away from this location. Although charges are pending investigation in this particular case, Whiteparker has previously been cited for speeding, using cell phone while driving and failing to stop at a limit line or crosswalk. Nobody stops at the limit line — how bad of a driver must you be to be ticketed for that?!

People constantly write that something should be done — licensing, increased enforcement, new laws, even restrictions — about the bad behavior of cyclists. Car drivers have about the same compliance rate in obeying road laws as cyclists do, and, honestly, most of you are worse than you think you are at driving. You manage to get away with it most of the time because, like the driver of the Chevy Traverse, everybody else around you takes evasive action. Whiteparker received numerous sanctions from law enforcement for her poor driving, but she — just like everybody else — likely excused this tickets as revenue generation for East Palo Alto. Even after she killed a little girl, some people close to Whiteparker blamed the mother for allowing her to enter the crosswalk in a school zone during school hours on a residential street.

Bike Snob NYC looks into the Muskingum County Sheriff’s approach to public safety.

11 Comments

  • MikeOnBike
    October 21, 2011 - 10:36 am | Permalink

    I think you mean “Traverse” instead of “Tra(ns)verse”?

    I think enforcement would be more effective it was far more common, but the fines were lower.  As the saying goes, lower the price and make it up on volume.  The current trend is like a reverse lottery: The fines are high, but enforcement is rare enough that it’s moot.

  • October 21, 2011 - 10:42 am | Permalink

    Fantastic post, Richard.  I haven’t seen this side of your in your writing for a while and it’s nice to get your perspective on this.  You are a great advocate and spokesperson for cycling….keep up the good work.

    Darryl

  • October 21, 2011 - 10:49 am | Permalink

    Oh, you’re right. Must be thinking of transverse mounted engines. I’ll correct.

  • Ethan
    October 21, 2011 - 12:59 pm | Permalink

    “I saw it coming so I cut to her inside without even thinking about it, while I yell vaguely instructive comments about her poor driving skills…”

    That is precisely how I feel/act/react sometimes. Self defense on a bike become instinctual.

  • Curtis
    October 21, 2011 - 1:58 pm | Permalink

    Great post!

  • Anonymous
    October 21, 2011 - 3:06 pm | Permalink

    I got a ticket for stopping past the limit line at a stop sign in Hawthorne, California about 1985. They laughed at my ticket in traffic school.

  • Trailerparkcyclist
    October 22, 2011 - 11:48 am | Permalink

    Yeah thanks Richard.  I mean,  some of these air heads are using their vehicles as deadly weapons.  So why shouldn’t cyclists carry firearms?

    Do you remember Spike?

    http://linux.stevens-tech.edu/kmh/spike.bike.all.txt

  • October 22, 2011 - 3:27 pm | Permalink

    Great post!  I know what you mean.  I see this rolling past the stop bar and sometimes stopping in the crossing too much for comfort.  Many times, not even a brake light is seen.

    Had an asshat motorist pass me within 100 feet of a stop sign last night.  I asked him if he was serious?  I was giving the hand signal for stop.  His reply:  “I don’t know what those signals are”.  I told him you must know them in order to get a DL.  He rolled up the window and returned to his cellphone conversation in progress.

    At least he used the entire oncoming lane to give me a 6 foot passing clearance.

  • October 22, 2011 - 4:01 pm | Permalink

    Spike Bike is my hero and inspiration.

  • Toronto Airport Taxi Gta
    October 23, 2011 - 11:05 pm | Permalink

    great post about cycling i like cycling bcz it is my 1st habbit
    my last post was Toronto Airport Taxi

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