Tuesday, May 26, 2009

At night cyclists should ride...in a car?

Riding a bike at night may be more harrowing than during the day, but I believe it's no more dangerous. In fact, the only difference is that when motorists come buzzing by, gunning their engines just as they pass, at night it's not intentional.

A pastime of the self-righteous motorist is to helpfully warn cyclists, legally and responsibly traveling at night, that they could be accidentally killed by the reckless impatience of some speeding lessee. Of course this courtesy has all the sincerity of a rival gangmember warning you you're on his turf: "I don't want you to have an...accident."

Motorists, eager to be less late, are quick to warn cyclists that they're barely visible. Nevermind that most are driving faster than their headlights, that is, faster than they can safely process and react to what they can see in the scope of their headlights. So, of course, their reaction is to admonish the smaller and weaker cyclist, rather than modify their behavior.

It's as if we've all agreed that the capability to drive too fast relinquishes one from personal responsibility. Now, total responsibility for safety lies with the likely victim. If you get run over, you're foolish to be in the motorist's way. If you get scammed, you weren't a careful consumer. If you're assaulted, you made yourself an easy target. If you lose all your money in the stock market from misrepresentation and fraud, well, you should have diversified your portfolio.

And if we think about it for just a second, it makes no sense to live in a city where it is unsafe to ride a bicycle at night, where the only safe form of transportation is personal automobile, where vigilante commuters enforce the hierarchy of mass from behind the wheel of vehicles they can't even afford.

Where is the vision in our design? The impartiality and equity in our justice? The concern for the weak in our leadership? I'm not on a tangent. I'm still talking about riding at night. Where should a cyclist ride? On the sidewalk where it's illegal, or in the road where it's dangerous? How about in the middle of the lane where it's equally illegal and dangerous? This should be better designed. And motorists should be penalized for killing cyclists and pedestrians regardless of the motorists' sobriety. We've elected and subsequently appointed those whom we choose to judge us. Let's take back that power from the impatient and overcompensating. Finally, let's remember that our greatness has always been found in our (humanity's) charity and compassion. The good Samaritan. The sinner and the publican. The lion and the mouse.