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#1 2008-07-19 01:32:48

barnes.stu
Member
Registered: 2008-07-19
Posts: 2

Us vs Them

I want to describe an encounter I just had.  Having just spent the best part of 7 hours driving from West Texas to Austin, I decide, upon reaching home, to leave the car (a rental by the way) in the driveway, while I take a walk to the grocery store.  I had reached the intersection diagonally opposite where the store is located.  I cross the one section of the road on the walk sign.  As I stand there, in a kind of pedestrian island, waiting for the next walk sign a car approaches the opposing red light.  Instead of waiting for the green light, in a blink of an eye, the driver makes a dash across the grocery store fore-court, then, makes a sharp left, crosses the road, and takes a right as if to continue in his original direction.  As he passes me, upon noting that his window is wound completely down, I shout (well, actually, given how close he actually was, more in rather a loud speaking voice):  "Hey, isn't that what traffic lights are for?!"  The driver, obviously in less of a hurry that I had anticipated, does a complete U-turn, and loops around back on to the store forecourt, where I've now reached, having gotten the walk light myself.

Now, here's where the drama begins.  The driver jumps out of his car and comes around the car to confront me.  While I confess I would dearly loved to have argued the finer points of the legality and morality of his vehicular maneuver, however, after seeing the driver flex his muscles, and watching the veins pop out of his neck and forehead, for safety's sake I decided to play the docile and apologetic ignoramus, clearly out of his depth (especially when it comes to physical confrontation).  Nevertheless, what I want to relate is the manner of the drivers rebuttal.  Instead of the generic "Get the f*** out of my face" kind of attack (actually, this is the response I got the time I suggested to someone that they might want to slow down after racing through a crowd of pedestrians to park their bike next to mine) - which I had being expecting - I actually got something like: "What is it with you f***ing pedestrians - I'm sick of you guys ... (various expletives) .. always crossing in front of me without looking ... (etc).  You and your walking about kind of ways."  (Okay, so the last sentence wasn't exactly phrased that way, but it was something to this effect.  This was about the point where I was wondering if I should be fearing for my life, so I guess I zoned out a little).

Anyway, what I'm getting at, is that this driver had quite an "Us (drivers) versus Them (everyone else - especially pedestrians)" kind of attitude.  Is this really so prevalent?  Is this some indication of just how psychically attached to the concept and action of driving an automobile that todays drivers are?  I find it quite ironic that, on the first decent walk I talk after an 1800 mile round trip (taken as part of my job), that I get accosted is such a manner.  Is my behavior really so unique.  That is, the ability to switch from being a car driver to pedestrian (to biker - see below) with relative fluidity, that one simple remark (badly aimed I admit) could send someone into such a spin.

Oh, by the way, perhaps just to reinforce the opinion of me as a dangerous reactionary, the one other time (about a year ago) that I had a similar encounter (with someone doing an almost identical maneuver), I was on my bike (my usual mode of transport in Austin).  This time, the driver, of a bright yellow Hummer H3 no less, completely reversed their direction, and chased me half-way down Speedway, all the while hurling verbal abuse at me.  This driver had me so angry (and scared), that I was spitting by the time I decided to high-tail it out of there (again, for safety's sake).

So, the point of all this verbose commentary, is to simply pose the question: Is it really us versus them?  Are we ever going to reach a point where everyone can more readily rationalize their choice of mode of transportation?  That is, are people not able to move between, and respect, the various alternatives, of which, I'm afraid, at least in Greater Texas (as I demonstrated myself this past week), the car will continue to dominate for many years to come?  Or will people, apparently the overwhelming majority, always exist, such as my burly forecourt friend, who, perhaps being the owner of a car, who never walk, never bike, and therefore always look down on "Us" with a feeling of disdain?

    Stuart

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#2 2008-07-19 08:31:44

Adriel
Member
Registered: 2008-05-27
Posts: 91

Re: Us vs Them

I believe very strongly that we need to educate motorists, and we need a national anti road rage campaign.  If anyone knows how we can get the ball rolling on such a campaign I have some ideas.

People have been taught the last few decades by experience, that cars rule the roads, and the law alone cannot dissuade them from that belief.  We need to teach them somehow.  Billboards, commercials, spots on tv shows, I would like to see a sitcom where a motorist harasses a cyclist which turns out later to be his neighbor that he knows, and he feels like a total idiot about it once he finds out.

This is more important than bike lanes, or speed limits, etc.  If we could get 90% of the drivers to see pedestrians and cyclists as human beings, and have just a little understanding and compassion, the roads will get safer, and you will notice it when you are walking or riding.

Remember, this is a prejudice, and we need to address it as such.  A great majority of Americans feel that the car is superior to the bike or the feet, and by extension, those who choose those forms of transportation. 

One idea I had to get the ball rolling is to get some billboards designed and have a donate button on a website, whenever the donations reach the amount a billboard costs, we post the billboard.  We can also set up voting on several locations.   I can do all of the web stuff, but I need someone who is creative to come up with some billboards, and someone to scout locations.

This is just local, but I think we should act as soon as we can and not just sit around and wish the streets were safer.  Maybe once we start this ball rolling, others will take it up and we will gain momentum.

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#3 2008-07-20 15:16:42

jmayson
Member
Registered: 2008-06-28
Posts: 46

Re: Us vs Them

Your story reminds me of something that happened when I lived in Georgia in the early 1990's.  Somewhere up north of Atlanta, I forget where now, a man said he was going to kill his ex.  He ran her over with his truck, backed up, hit her again, drove forward, hit her again.  Because he killed her with his vehicle, even if they charged him with everything possible and was given the maximum sentence the MOST he was going to face was 5 years in prison.  The sheriff in that county said if you want to murder someone in Georgia, use your car (he was disgusted by the guy and thought the laws were too weak).  If the guy had gotten out of the car and killed her with his bare hands he would've face the death penalty.  But since he used his vehicle, he got away with it.

Our traffic laws are strongly in favor of motorists and assumes every crash they cause is an "accident".  Perhaps at one time when Leave it Beaver was on the air and people actually said "jeepers", most crashes were in fact accidents.  But today automobiles are little more than weapons wielded by anti-social morons who were given a laughably easy test half a lifetime ago in order to "earn" their license.  Traffic laws are barely enforced causing many motorists to lose all respect for the law.  I live in Williamson County near the Austin city limit.  I see APD and WCSO cruisers out all the time and I have wondered just what you have to do to get pulled over in this town.  I was sitting at a red light at US-183 and Lake Creek Blvd.  There were both an APD and WCSO unit there, both drivers on their cell phones.  A car ran the red light and I don't mean he almost made it through the yellow.  It had been red for a good 10 seconds.  Neither the cop nor the deputy did a thing.  Just today I was driving down Research Blvd next to an APD unit.  I was driving about 60 mph, the cop maybe 1 or 2 faster than me.  Cars in the left lane were just zipping by.  He never went after any of them.

I hate to sound so down, but I really think it's a lost cause.  For so long society has treated driving like a inalienable right that getting people used to the idea they must share the road and respect others on the road is hopeless.  I've actually distanced myself from what were friends because I got sick and tired of hearing their daily rants against cyclists and pedestrians.  I generally don't bring up cycling issues, particularly at work.  But someone sees me in my cycling garb is lays into me about "if I ever see you on the road I'm runnin' you over".  WTH?  I have also had people tell me driving should be a Constitutional right and even requiring licenses is wrong.  Someone else told me school zones were un-Constitutional because they protected only a certain class of citizens (school age children).  This is the mentality we're up against.

When I'm riding to work I act as I'm an ambassador for the cycling community.  At 4-way stops even if I have stopped first I act like I stopped last.  I wave to motorists even if it's just because they obeyed the law and didn't go out of their way for me.  I have chatted with motorists at red lights showing them I'm a human being with a sense of humor and not some strangely dressed robot bent on slowing them down.  Every little bit helps I suppose.

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#4 2008-07-20 19:39:28

paulsjv
Member
Registered: 2008-06-02
Posts: 7

Re: Us vs Them

I think you did the right thing and not confront the guy.  He was looking for a fight.  Besides no one is going to change his mind about anything no matter what you or anyone else does.  He's a moron, you are very much in the correct.  Anyone with half a brain can see that, too bad this guy can't.  He'll probably live the rest of his life ignorant to all issues that are important and only continue to care about himself.  I wouldn't worry too much.  If you would have gotten into an argument with him it would have been a waste of your time and energy.  I have much respect for how you handled the situation and hope in the future you can keep your cool again.  Not too many people are blessed with keeping their cool. ;)

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#5 2008-07-21 06:41:48

eraycollins
Member
Registered: 2008-06-02
Posts: 7

Re: Us vs Them

I personally think it will always be us vs them, based on a a lot of experience. Anyone out there more optimistic than that?

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#6 2008-07-21 08:50:47

Adriel
Member
Registered: 2008-05-27
Posts: 91

Re: Us vs Them

See, in the UK they take this crap seriously, and attitudes about speeding and laws are changing.

Watch this video and see if your attitude about speeding is ever the same again.

Oh, warning, there is blood etc etc (Just like the real world).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lb5q_YYpxB0

I have not found any directly related to road rage, but if we had an attitude to "show it like it is" here in America, people might just start taking it seriously.

Last edited by Adriel (2008-07-21 08:53:16)

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#7 2008-07-21 09:15:12

Lynn
Member
Registered: 2008-05-27
Posts: 22

Re: Us vs Them

eraycollins wrote:

Anyone out there more optimistic than that?

You called?

I've noticed that while I am on my bike, at least 99 out or every 100 drivers are quite courteous - they wait extra long to pull out of drives until I've passed, make eye contact and wave me through at intersections, don't get on my case at all when I'm crawling up a hill and holding them up, etc. I smile at them, and they smile back! The instant I get into my car and pull out of my driveway, however, at least 50 of those drivers turn into absolute jerks. I can't even think of the last time that anyone voluntarily allowed me to merge onto the highway. Heaven forbid they should reach their destinations 3 seconds late! My husband was rear-ended in his car last week when he slowed down to observe a yield sign - the other driver was not expecting him to slow and voluntarily give right-of-way. I don't even want to think about the parking lot wars - have you ever seen two drivers be nice to each other over a parking spot? When my husband and I moved here two years ago, I started forming the impression that most of the folks here are maniacs, based on the way they drive. Getting a bike this spring and putting in lots of urban miles has changed my view of the people here, just because so many of them suddenly are so nice.

Yes, I'm aware that I'm being a touch optimistic. However, riding around town with this mindset has been the heck of a lot more fun than hunkering over the handlebars feeling like "they" are out to get me was. I still attempt to practice the best defensive riding I can, but now I try to focus on all of the nice folks out there instead of the few unhappy ones. Yes, there are incidents of motorists purposefully running down cyclists and pedestrians. There are also "road rage" incidents on our highways and in our parking lots involving car vs. car that we don't hear of at all anymore, because they have become so mundane.

I don't think that the animosity between bikes and cars we are discussing here is simply a case of "us vs. them." I think that it is a smaller part of a larger problem on our roads, and that as a nation we have become impatient, selfish drivers, far too ready to both give and receive appalling displays of temper at the smallest imagined slight. We talk a lot here on this list about driver education regarding cyclists, but in my opinion what we really need is a national change of mind and heart regarding our manners on the road towards *everyone.*

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#8 2008-07-21 10:15:24

Pedal Pusher
Member
Registered: 2008-06-02
Posts: 23

Re: Us vs Them

I agree with Lynn that most drivers are very courteous, nice folks. In fact, if you have ever been waving someone through a stop sign when they got there first and they absolutely refuse to move and insist on lettng you go first,  you could come to the conclusion that some motorists are too courteous or else they fear that all cyclists are going to do something unpredictable because sometimes cyclists do do something unpedictable (just as vehicles do-but we are more vulnerable).

The  minority of jerks out there make motorists look bad to cyclists and make us leery of motorists because we don't know which ones are jerks.  Very infrequently - honestly I can almost count on one hand the number of abusive motorists but it is very scary when it happens.

Which is why I think that if the news media actually did some public service broadcasts about how motorist should drive around cyclist (leave a three foot distance passing, etc.), as well as how cyclists should cycle, it would help immensely.  There is nothing anyone can do about the psychopaths out there that have driver's licenses, but many people who are decent human beings inadvertently endanger cyclists out of ignorance.

People like the lady that killed the cyclist up by Fredricksburg and they guy in Kansas City.  They asked him if he knew what "share the road meant?" and he said yes, but in fact he really hadn't been educated about how sharing the road means one should leave 3 feet between their vehicle and the cyclists.  It hadn't beem emphasized.

People need to be reminded too.  I'm disgusted with CBS.  I suspect some of those news broadcasters are motorists and only motorists.  We need to convert at least one of them into a cyclst.  People go for physical exams all the time.  My doctor will tell me if I need certain tests and Ron Oleveida (sp) can't do enough of those public service annoucements about medical tests, but NO ONE reminds motorists or educates motorist about how to drive safely and share the road with cyclists.

Last edited by Pedal Pusher (2008-07-21 10:17:41)

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#9 2008-07-21 13:59:16

Kedron Touvell
Member
Registered: 2008-06-08
Posts: 2

Re: Us vs Them

>I believe very strongly that we need to educate motorists, and we need a national anti road rage campaign.  If anyone knows how we can get the ball rolling on such a campaign I have some ideas.

Great timing!  It's National Road Rage awareness month this month.  Complete with a proclamation this Thursday by the Mayor:

"Proclamation -- Road Rage Awareness Month -- to be presented by Mayor Will Wynn and to be accepted by Charles "Chick" Laws "

http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/council_meet … tingid=135

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#10 2008-07-21 14:13:50

jmayson
Member
Registered: 2008-06-28
Posts: 46

Re: Us vs Them

I will say 99%+ of drivers are in fact courteous.  Before moving to Austin in 1998 I lived in Florida where people (generally old ladies from New York and rednecks in large pickups) would go out of their way to run me off the road and yell at me for being on "their" road.  So in comparison Austin is paradise.

However there are aggressive, jerk drivers out there and we have a legal system that defends them a whole lot more than it defends us.

I'm glad to see the mayor stepping up with Road Rage Awareness Month, but does he have room to talk?  Didn't he cuss out a construction crew recently for blocking the road?  :-)

John

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#11 2008-07-21 15:49:06

Pedal Pusher
Member
Registered: 2008-06-02
Posts: 23

Re: Us vs Them

He also apparently started choking some man in the lobby of a building and the guy reported it and Mayor Winn said he was headed toward anger management.  Let's hope he is a recovering rageaholic who realizes just how stupid someone can be when they fly into a rage.  In his case, he usually creates some very bad PR which is not good for an elected official.  Nevertheless, in his rage, he apparently becomes temporarily "stupid" so maybe he knows people will even shoot THEMSELVES in the foot when enraged.

Last edited by Pedal Pusher (2008-07-21 15:55:35)

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#12 2008-07-22 08:24:15

Adriel
Member
Registered: 2008-05-27
Posts: 91

Re: Us vs Them

jmayson wrote:

I will say 99%+ of drivers are in fact courteous.  Before moving to Austin in 1998 I lived in Florida where people (generally old ladies from New York and rednecks in large pickups) would go out of their way to run me off the road and yell at me for being on "their" road.  So in comparison Austin is paradise.

However there are aggressive, jerk drivers out there and we have a legal system that defends them a whole lot more than it defends us.

I would put it more at 90% lately, a lot of those California and Florida people keep moving to Austin.

I think you hit the nail on the head.  Most drivers are kind and courteous, but when we find that murderer on 4 wheels and try to get him off the road, the law enforcement takes his side almost EVERY time.  And it leaves them out there to do it over and over again.  If someone assaulted me in a bar and I and called the police, the man would be arrested, if he knocks me off my bike and drives off laughing, the police just look at me like I am wasting their time. 

It is not "us vs them" it is injustice from our legal system.

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#13 2008-07-22 10:47:40

RonB
Member
Registered: 2008-05-28
Posts: 20

Re: Us vs Them

I agree with the 99% figure.  It is just that the 1% sticks out so bad they seem 10 times worse.  I mean, the fact is, when you are out on the road, do you honestly think that 1 in 10 are really out there playing the "Me vs the world" game?  No.  But that one guy in 100 that is, he really sticks out.

IMHO, this is just like the "bad cyclists".  Are they the majority?  Not even close, in fact, I see them as a very small minority.  HOWEVER, they are extremely  vocal and visible, thus they seem like a larger segment than they really are.

Most groups, drivers, cyclists, sports fans, political advocates, etc, they, for the most part, will be a good group.  But a small minority will generally be loud and generally out on the "extreme fringe" end, and it will project as a larger image for the group than it truly represents.  And this is why the vocal minority is a really bad thing, because as a whole,  you see them as a bigger issue than they really are.

Stu - your situation reminds me of a run in I had at Robert Earl Keen's NY Eve concert.  Some guy accused me of cutting into the beer line.  He broke out the "Are you callin' me a liar?" line on me.  I have to admit, that stroke of logic was impossible to refute.

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#14 2008-07-22 15:13:36

Adriel
Member
Registered: 2008-05-27
Posts: 91

Re: Us vs Them

Ok, the trying to kill you on purpose, I'll give you 1%, but it is more than 1% that get within inches of me when passing because they are trying to tell me I shouldn't be on the road.  And this is when I ride in the middle of the lane.

Oh and the ones who tailgate me when I am going 25mph, if I hit a stick I am roadkill.

Oh and the ones who wait till the LAST minute to pass me, when THEY are being tailgated, and the tailgater behind them almost splats me.

I could go on and on, the problem is not only malice, but endangering me out of ignorance as well.

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#15 2008-08-06 11:40:53

tomwald
Moderator
From: 78722
Registered: 2008-05-27
Posts: 288

Re: Us vs Them

Hey, what's with knocking Californian drivers?  I'd love for more Californian drivers to move here to dilute the crazy suburban Texas drivers that are causing 125% of bicyclists problems.  :p  I've occasionally asked the bad drivers where they are from and it's usually suburban Texas.

When I biked in Austin ten to fifteen years ago (visiting), the situation was probably worse than it is today, aside from the roads where total increased traffic volume affects bicyclists.  The people who have been moving here over the last ten years (including me, nine years ago) don't seem to be the problem.

Maybe it's 99% of drivers who don't have it out for bicyclists, but I'd say that 90-98% are on auto-pilot, i.e., not really devoting adequate attention to the task at hand -- driving in an urban environment.

In any case, we're really just making very rough guesses based on our own experience.  Some big factors can influence this:  part of town we bike in, the roads we choose to use, our biking methods/habits, how much we look like a responsible bicyclist to the motorists behind us (e.g., I get more respect and space when I carry a pannier or a trailer), and various other things.

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