Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Bicycling: How to respond to an unwise driver?

It wasn't even close. When the commercial lawn care pickup [3], MN YBB 1778, squeezed towards me I just moved right. Missed me by at least 3 feet.

I wasn't surprised. I had my eye on him at a prior intersection. He was only one of several drivers doing badly on a gray rainy morning. I suspect a lot of people slept poorly last night.

Still, it is unpleasant when this happens. In a follow-up "conversation" I heard his perspective. He felt I'd "cut him off" when I took my lane about 40 feet prior to the intersection [1]. So he tried to pass me, but of course there wasn't time, so when he pulled into the stop sign he also pulled into me (except I moved).

Clearly, he's not an ace driver; but he's not exceptional. If we eliminated every imperfect driver on the road our economy would crater. Half the population has below-average judgment. Many men, and quite a few women, will respond angrily to an apparent challenge (esp. from an obviously inferior vehicle). A lot of drivers don't remember the rules of the road. People age, rules change, only the extremely aged have to retake driving exams [2].

So I don't want the driver to be ticketed. He's below average, but a lot of drivers are. Education would be a great idea however. Does anyone know a mechanism to send educational information for a situation like this? Is this something the police will do?

[1] Note to non-cyclists: We claim our lane before intersections because one of the most common driving errors is turning right in front of a bicycle at an intersection -- often because the driver doesn't see the bicycle, or because they unconsciously (or consciously) think they have the right of way.
[2] Which is, of course, ridiculous. We should all have to do an online or in person exam every 2-5 years. I think we'll have autonomous vehicles before we get to that however.
[3] I think this was a Steigauf Brothers Inc, 1456 Osceola Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55105-2311 vehicle, but I would not swear to that. The location was right. I did send Steigauf Bros a note.


chrismealy said...

You're too nice. That fucker tried to kill you with a 4000 pound weapon. He should lose his job and never drive again.

John Gordon said...

I'm positive he didn't want to kill or even hurt me. Maybe intimidate me a bit, since he felt I was in the wrong.

It's useful to compare this to a far more dangerous incident that happened to my family about six months ago. We crossed at an intersection, expecting a distant driver to slow for us. He didn't! Just as I prepared to leap aside with the kids he stopped abruptly. He was outraged that we were in the intersection and terrified that we hadn't gotten out of is way. (In f/u to this I testified at a local transit meeting and we're getting blinking pedestrian crosswalk signs there -- yay for St Paul!)

That gentleman didn't know Minnesota's crosswalk law, he thought he was in the right, and he was angry. On inspection I'm fairly sure he had some cognitive disability (something I'm quite sympathetic too for family reasons).

There are a lot of drivers in the bottom 20% of the population. I'd include in this group many who think they're great drivers, but who refuse to (illegally!) cross over a double line and so pass to close to cyclists. A lot of this population has cognitive issues -- they've already gotten the ultimate raw deal from life. I don't really want them to be unemployed.

Education is good though.