Happy Distracted Driving Awareness Month, everybody.
Here’s an Internet trope that frequently pops up whenever bicycles are mentioned in the news. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
I’m a pedestrian, a cyclist, and I drive a car. Bikes might be only 1% of the traffic, but they’re responsible for 99% of the traffic violations I SEE EVERYDAY. Car drivers are licensed, responsible, and OBEY THE LAW. Maybe one in 50 drivers break the law.
What kind of fairy tale land do these people live in where the vast majority of motorists obey the law? Here’s what I see every single day I’m on the road.
During lunch today, I biked around the block at my office. I counted 12 cars leave the office parking lot — EVERY ONE OF THEM RAN A STOP SIGN and EVERY ONE OF THEM ROLLED THROUGH A RED LIGHT and EVERY ONE OF THEM FAILED TO SIGNAL THEIR TURN. Two of them nearly mowed down a crowd of pedestrians walking to lunch and VIOLATED THEIR RIGHT OF WAY. (An aside — besides stopping short to avoid getting hit by the speeding cars, I betcha this right-of-way violation was not noticed by the walkers. If I had pulled the same move on my bike, however, and startled them as I whizzed closely by, they almost certainly would have gotten a little upset at scofflaw cyclists endangering their lives. We call this “modal bias.”)
For those keeping count, that’s at least 38 moving violations by 12 drivers in the span of about 90 seconds. Instead of the one in fifty proportion of scofflaws to legal drivers I’ve seen in online claims, these guys are batting 1.000.
Here’s another violation I see every single day I go to the office.
This driver is violating California Vehicle Code 21453, which says drivers must stop before the stop bar or the crosswalk at a red light. This guy was also talking on his cell phone and his turn signal wasn’t on. This is in a left turn lane where the light is always red until a car stops on the detector loop, so it’s not like he was surprised by a yellow light and couldn’t stop before the crosswalk.
So tell me — where is this land of make believe where drivers don’t constantly endanger the lives of everybody around them?
Please understand I don’t get particularly uptight about the scofflaw behavior itself. If I did, I’d probably be unable to function, and I imagine it’s part of the reason most of us ignore the lawbreaking. It’s the rank hypocrisy that people believe they’re much more law abiding inside of a car that drives me a little nuts sometimes.
And for some real irony, SF Citizen holds a phone to shoot video while driving down Castro Street in San Francisco and then presumes to lecture cyclists on traffic safety. While a cyclist kills a pedestrian in a rare bad year in San Francisco, car and truck drivers routinely kill at least one every month, but there’s
rarely never any outcry from the public, city council or the media when that happens. When’s the last time Matier & Ross published anonymous tips about a random car fatality in San Francisco?
I’ve never created a “Rant” category, so file this one under Musings.