July 31, 2012
There is a civil war brewing on our streets, and it is time to pull both sides back from the brink.
Like many other residents of Summit County, I am both a cyclist and a motorist, and I am therefore on each side in this dangerous and increasingly bellicose drama that is played out daily on our county’s roads. Tempers are flaring among both cyclists and motorists, as each side regularly flaunts the rules of the road with a sense of misplaced entitlement, leading to arguments, fights, accidents, injuries, and someday soon, death.
Cyclists ride 3, 4, 5 and more abreast on two-lane roads, run red lights and stop signs, refuse to signal their turns, and generally ride in a most unpredictable manner. Motorists fail to give cyclists a three-foot buffer, don’t use mirrors or glance over shoulders (thereby failing to see and avoid cyclists), honk unnecessarily at cyclists, turn in front of cyclists causing collisions and dangerous near-misses, throw things at cyclists, talk on handheld cell phones, thereby drifting (or worse) into bike lanes, and generally drive in a most unpredictable manner.
The drivers and cyclists who behave like this not only serve to strengthen and enhance the stereotypes that already exist about motorists and bicyclists, but also are engaging in actions that are illegal, dangerous, and/or generally irresponsible. It is time for this to stop.
When I lived in Los Angeles, where the dominant car culture made it downright dangerous to be a cyclist, I would come home from a long bicycle ride and my wife would ask, "How many people tried to kill you today?" Zero was never the answer. There isn’t a doubt in my mind that this is the future we face here in Summit County unless attitudes and actions begin to change.
Abraham Lincoln is famously quoted as saying that "a house divided against itself cannot stand." Here in Summit County, where our roads are populated by increasing numbers of both cyclists and motorists (many of whom are both cyclists and motorists), it is time for both sides to realize the folly of their ways, begin to take responsibility for the safety and temperament of each other, and begin to back away from the brink of civil war.
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As in the American Civil War, lives truly are at stake.