Friday, August 17, 2012

Two Ways of Thinking About Streets

Last night a motorist try to run me down. A couple of preliminary points. I use quite a few lights, to front lights, which is all that matters here as the motorist could only "see" the front of the bike. I was in a real neighborhood; one in which people jog,  walk dogs, wander to the grocery, and related etc. It was dusk and not pitch black and, because of the multiuser nature of the streets in this quiet area, motorist ought, but don't, drive the speed limit and pay attention.

I was coming up a hill riding toward the center of the lane, when I saw a car backing out of a street without paying attention, by which I mean the motorist clearly hadn't seen me. I rang the bell and slammed on the breaks. Well after the point at which the motorist would have knocked me down had I not been riding responsibly. The dolt saw me.

Like most motorists, the dolt seemed to think that saying "I didn't see you" was exculpatory instead of a condemnation of the dolt's inattentiveness. I said "I could tell."  The dolt responded "I was trying to be nice." To which I asked "How? By trying to hit me."

From my perspective some streets and roads are multiuser from the motorist's perspective all streets are belong to them, as they kids would say. This attitude, as Peter Norton points out, this attitude is the result of going on 100 years of lobbying, opinion buying, and other corrupt practices by the automobile industry. The dolt's implicit claim of motorists' ownership of the roads and idea that I need to get out of motorists' way isn't a natural condition but rather a sing and seal of how money shapes cultural assumptions.

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