By Cheri Rae
Driving down dimly lit Garden Street, the cyclist suddenly appeared, pedaling against traffic in the far right of the lane my car occupied. Dressed in black without a single light or bit of reflective material, the biker was barely illuminated by my headlights as I drove past, and the cyclist continued on, oblivious, I suspect to the proximity to split-second, life-changing tragedy.
Too close for comfort.
Too frightening to bear.
All the abstract talk about multi-modal transportation can’t compete with pure stupidity that’s seen on the road every day. There, I’ve said it.
I’m a careful driver, sick of returning home after a simple errand with heart pounding, hands shaking, and mind reeling about what might have happened.
It’s a three-ring circus out there these days. Everyone —drivers, cyclists, pedestrians, skateboarders—is texting, phoning, yelling, applying make-up, shaving, eating meals, sipping coffee, flirting, flipping each other off, ignoring traffic signals, confused about right-of-way, and zooming around as if in the moment there is something far more important to do than pay attention to getting from Point A to Point B. All this multi-tasking on the move can have permanent consequences. And this is without considering mind-altering substances all too often in the mix.
I guess it’s the mom in me that sees potential danger in so many situations: The unhelmeted heads of cyclists and skateboarders who still manage to insert earbuds. They can hear their favorite tunes, but not the vehicles right behind them. The parents who put their strollers in the street while they check their phones and wait for the light to change, with vulnerable baby sitting closer to traffic than makes any sense at all. Whole families running across the street against the light—instilling scofflaw behavior, if not terror—in their little ones.
Yes, the City needs to act to install safety measures in well-known trouble spots. There are plenty of places where the citizens want—and need—traffic lights, crosswalks and better lighting. Maybe they could even produce a few television shows on that city channel to raise awareness about bike safety; the value of reflective tape and flashlights and the rules of the road that apply to all of us.
At the same time, all of us need to slow down, think and behave differently—and become more conscious of how little behaviors become habits and lead to the kind of unconscious chaos that reigns right now.
Nothing can replace common sense in movement from place to place. We owe that to ourselves, our families and lived ones, and our community at large. Please be safe out there; for all our sakes.