Monday, September 9, 2013

Target rich environments and breaking the law.

For the last couple of weeks, I've talked about how observation and attentiveness are pretty much dead on the roads today. This week I'm going to talk specifically about pedestrians and cyclists. I don't know what it's like where you live, but where I live they both have very little sense of self-preservation.
In parking lots, for example, it's entirely normal here to see pedestrians just walk out in front of traffic assuming the traffic will stop. For some reason, they can't make the mental association that just because it's the parking lot of a supermarket or big box store, doesn't mean it's not a road. For motorists, these areas have become target-rich environments. I'd like to say it's the old "a few bad apples" analogy but around here it really isn't. It's the majority of pedestrians. It's extremely unusual to see someone stop at the side of the road now, the point where if I'm on foot and I stop at the side of the road, approaching motorists get extremely confused. They stop, causing a blockage in traffic, and then attempt to wave me across the road. I'm not that stupid - a stopped line of traffic around here means someone two cars back is about to decide they shouldn't be waiting for anything.
The other biggie with pedestrians is when they do use the traffic lights, but cross on red. I admit I've nearly hit three pedestrians in the last ten years because of this. I've been waiting at the light and my light goes green, so I set off, suddenly to be presented with a pedestrian who pops out from next to the truck/bus/tram next to me, running across the road on a red light. Sadly, I've also seen people do this and get hit by the car next to me. Darwinism at work.
Speaking of red lights, in Utah they recently passed a change of law that allows cyclists to go through red lights if they first stop and check the intersection is clear. Obviously this has been interpreted by the majority of cyclists as "don't need to stop". Several weeks ago, on my morning commute, a cyclist did this to me when I was on my motorbike. He cruised into the intersection from my right, not looking at me, but looking up the road the other way at the oncoming bus. Seeing this, he stopped right in front of me. I went as far left as possible without going into the lane with the oncoming bus and went around him, clipping his front wheel with my right footpeg and knee on the way past. The next morning, I saw the aftermath of the same thing. Apparently he'd tried to do it again but on that day, there was a silver Subaru Forester instead of me on my bike. The paramedics were scraping him off the road as I went by.
Frankly, allowing one set of road uses to have amnesty when it comes to red lights doesn't make any sense. If we're all using the road, shouldn't we all be using the same rules? Cyclists constantly complain about how they're treated by drivers in general, but then they abuse the law to the extent where people just don't care any more. Hopping on and off kerbs - playing car, then pedestrian, then car, then pedestrian. Not stopping at stop signs. Not stopping at red lights. And then when they do something stupid and get themselves injured, it's the motorist to blame. Because apparently, it's our responsibility to not hit wayward pedestrians and cyclists, but it's not their responsibility to employ common sense, obey the rules like the rest of us, and invoke some basic self preservation.
So do I break road rules? Of course. We all do. Show me someone who says they abide by every rule of the road and I'll show you an outright liar. Like most drivers, I've been known to cruise into an intersection after the light has turned orange. And once out of suburban areas, I regularly break speed limits that are set, in my opinion, unnecessarily slow. Seriously - a 45mph limit on a two lane mountain road with no traffic? Are you kidding? The difference is that I employ observation and self-preservation and I do my best not to get in anyone else's way. I try my best to ensure that when I break the law, I'm the only one affected. Does that make me a bad driver? Maybe, but at least I'm not a liar.


Anonymous said...

I think we should all have to take written and driving tests once a year or every two years to include proper pedestrian and cyclist behavior. Maybe police should pull people over for innattentive and/or rude driving...:)
And how about those stickers saying "Look twice for motorcyclists" Many motorcyclists are so rude and obnoxious that I look twice to make sure I get in their way. When they start acting like responsible drivers on public roads I will feel like being nice to them...Yes, I ride also...

Paul said...

OMG, you have struck a chord with me on this one. There are two things in this country that bug the hell out of me.
1/ The indicator IS NOT an optional extra, use the bloody thing!
2/ Pedestrians and cyclists slow walking through carparks and across roads as though they own the road. I feel that I'm a considerate driver but those people that walk slowly down the middle of carpark roadways, or across roads instantly put me into a state of being p*ssed off. Not a good attitude I know but the outright arrogance of these people just push my buttons, half the time they do it on purpose. In the last couple of weeks I've gone so far as installing 140dB airhorns on both of our cars to wake these idiots up!
Good grief, even writing this has got me annoyed! Everyone has their buttons I guess and this is mine.
Whew, rant over...

Tarhim said...

"In parking lots, for example, it's entirely normal here to see pedestrians just walk out in front of traffic assuming the traffic will stop."

To be honest, this is perfectly valid expections on parking lots and residential streets in most of Western Europe.
Of course, reasonable self-preservation instinct still applies (although in France, I had doubts)- walking literally in front of moving vehicle is not advisable.