I always hesitate before writing anything that might be perceived as anti-car. I do this for two reasons. One, I don’t want to unintentionally give those who take issue with vehicular cycling any ammunition to use against us. Two, I’m actually not anti-car. My wife and I own one. We use it when it makes sense to use it which is to say not as often as some people use theirs. For shorter trips, we both know that bicycles are better.
But today I’m going to rant because of two items of interest that crossed my desk this week. The first was in North Dakota where the legislature is debating a bill (H.B. 1203) that would, in effect, criminalize walking on a highway. The chilling language in the bill would exonerate (by statute) any motorist who “unintentionally” hits a pedestrian. I assume that state courts would lump cyclists in with pedestrians though the bill is silent regarding bicycles. The second item was an intentional attack on pedestrians by a motorist (images and video in the link are disturbing) in Melbourne, Australia. It occurred just a few hours ago.
First things first. This is a not a car problem. It’s a people problem. A growing segment of the motoring public is using cars as weapons against anyone who crosses them on the road. This isn’t all that surprising. Watch an automobile commercial and you’re likely to see speeding, aggressive driving and other anti-social behavior being glorified. There is no consequence. The message is that if you buy the product this is what you get to do. It’s bad enough that innocent people are dying as a result. It’s made worse when governments officially sanction such behavior, for whatever reason.
You can’t protect against this sort of thing by building better infrastructure or mandating that cyclists and pedestrians wear brighter colors or carry a flag as some legislative dolts have suggested. That’s the real problem…laws that suggest we’re the problem and implicitly criminalize walking or riding a bicycle. You say we’re hard to see? Slow down. It’s amazing what you can see when you drive at a reasonable speed for conditions.
As some of you know, I am a big proponent of autonomous vehicles. It’s not that I want to give up control of how I move about to some large monolithic body, whether it be government or corporate. It’s about safety…nothing more. Autonomous cars will not have their manhood (or womanhood) threatened by a pedestrian or a cyclist. They will not take reckless chances with the defenseless or text while they should be paying attention to who is in front of them.
Autonomous vehicles will save lives. I understand that they won’t be perfect and that technology is fallible, but in the long run it will be safer for us when computers rather than humans are controlling 4,000 pounds of heavy metal death bearing down on us.
We are all pedestrians every day of our lives. I don’t think the motorists who bully and try to intimidate us into getting off “their” roads stop to think about such things. Neither do legislators, apparently. I don’t have answers but I do know this: The madness needs to stop.