Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Car Whisperer: Thursday Hate: the right (of) way

For those who don't follow Brian at The Car Whisperer, now would be an excellent time to go read The Car Whisperer: Thursday Hate: the right (of) way about automobile drivers improperly being gracious and yielding the right of way to cyclists.

Unlike The Car Whisperer, if the operator of another vehicle yields the right of way to me, and I've satisfied the requirements of the traffic control device or road situation, I'm not going to turn that down if it is safe to do so.  Soemtimes it happens that the driver is encouraging me to cross an intersection and other traffic has not evidenced any intention to yield the right of way.  That usually results in a driver who shakes their head and is apparently disgusted that their graciousness has been rebuffed.  Far be it for me to stay alive on the road.  Put me in the camp with the timid pedestrians who have no faith that they won't be struck and injured by brain dead drivers.

In his view, Drivers who give way at inappropriate times are enabling and conditioning bicyclists to not properly obey traffic controls such that cyclists won't stop for pedestrians or begin to assume that other traffic is going to automatically yield for them, despite not having the right of way.

I disagree.  I suspect that the same cyclists who don't stop for a pedestrian in a crosswalk are the same ones who won't do so when they're driving their car.  I don't believe the conveyance in use at the time makes a difference, but rather the attitude of most road users that if you aren't a vehicle, get the hell out of the way.

I think this goes to Brian's recurring point "You drive like shit."  Most people who are on the roads seem to have a very superficial familiarity with the rules of the road and even if they know better, have determined through countless examples and repeated reinforcement that driving like shit doesn't have any consequences.  If you are never given a ticket for taking a right on red without stopping, breaking the maximum speed limit, rolling through a crosswalk when pedestrians are present or as a cyclist blowing a stop sign or red light, the entire method of driving will quickly degrade to the minimum necessary to get from A to B as fast as they possibly can.

On the Pedestrian side of the world, I see two types of pedestrians.  The timid, afraid to cross, afraid to slow down traffic, afraid to get hit type who won't step off the curb until the road is clear for more than ample time to allow them to cross.  The other is the pedestrian who steps out without looking at any point on a block and cross lackadaisically as though there were no other road users.  Actually, the second group can be interesting, as often they'll stare down approaching cars after strolling into the road.

In the first group, I once had a pedestrian in a tourist area refuse to cross in front of me while I was on my bike, because there was a car behind me.  Never mind that I was already stopped and telling them that they had the right of way and had no need to wait.  My impression was that somehow the pedestrian felt they were impeding traffic to cross the road and felt guilty to get in another person's way.  Talk about an overdeveloped sense of graciousness.

And finally, for the cyclists.  Many of the ordinarily courteous riders that I have the pleasure to ride with get bent out of shape when riding on a bike path and not being yielded to by a vehicle coming from a cross street.  These cyclists apparently do fall in to the class of enabled cyclists that Brian is concerned is developing.  Apparently enough people have yielded the right of way to them that they feel entitled to be yielded to now.

Brian closes with a very simple statement that captures the essence of Motor Vehicle, Non-Motor Vehicle and Pedestrian interactions under the law:
Determining the right of way isn't hard. Bikers: ride like a vehicle. Drivers: bikers are vehicles. Pedestrians: stand up for your goddamn rights. Hey, if you're not killed, you'll get a helluva'n insurance settlement out of it.

Maybe more of those signs that you see on trails near crosswalks would drive the point home, except put a Pedestrian where the horse is, remove the arrow between the bike and original pedestrian and put a car silhouette in place of the original pedestrian?