There Is No Right to Unimpeded Fast Driving

How come you don't see drivers raging about this? Photo: Washington Bikes
How come you don’t hear more drivers raging about this? Photo: Washington Bikes

How do you explain the outrage some drivers feel when they have to slow down for a few seconds for a cyclist or a passing pedestrian? There seems to be an ingrained sense that people outside of cars violate the natural order of things, and the natural order of things is motorists sailing uninhibited to their destinations at high speeds.

As kids go back to school this week, dangerous driving is on the mind of Barb Chamberlain at Washington Bikes. She says it’s time for a reality check:

There is nothing guaranteeing any street user anything like “unimpeded speedy passage with no need to slow down, ever.” There just isn’t. Get over it.

– let me point out that typical street traffic includes all of the following, every single day (well, except maybe for item #1, which probably doesn’t happen every day):

  • Drivers concerned about their declining abilities to see and hear clutching the steering wheel and peering over it while they travel down the street at slightly under the speed limit
  • Pedestrians crossing at any intersection (in Washington every intersection is a legal crossing even if there’s no painted crosswalk, unless signage forbids crossing there)
  • Having to veer around some kind of hazard in the street: part of a blown-out tire, an item that fell off the back of an unsecured load, a pothole
  • Emergency vehicles for which everyone has to pull over
  • A driver hitting the brakes because someone’s pet — or child — is in the street
  • People slowing to look for an address or read the sign name on a cross street
  • A train passing through and making everyone on both sides of the tracks wait
  • People causing collisions — everyone waits while the wreckage is cleared and the ambulance takes away the bodies

This is just a sampling and you probably have your own favorite story about something that hung you up when you were in a hurry.

People in traffic have many causes for slowing, stopping, and sometimes even choosing an alternate route. Someone riding a bike is only one of many such things you’ll encounter in your driving day.

You never had any reason to expect that you could just barrel straight to your destination without anything slowing you down.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Urban Milwaukee says loud motorcycles are a quality of life issue for city-dwellers around the country. Strong Towns explains how municipalities can help build physical infrastructure that will help build wealth. And Mobilizing the Region reports that a controversy over speed cameras in Long Island demonstrates how badly automated enforcement was needed.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

When people who bike get behind the wheel of a car, Photo: John Luton/Flickr

What Do Drivers Really Think of Cyclists?

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There's ample research out there backing up the safety benefits of streets with protected bikeways and slow car speeds. But what about the critically important yet less tangible factor of individual attitudes -- how does the mind of the person behind the wheel affect driver behavior toward cyclists? A new report from Portland State University looks at the question.