The Online Voice of the Bicycle Alliance of Washington

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Traffic as a Tornado

Jef Mallett is the cartoonist who created Frazz, an accomplished triathlete, and one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet. He recently moved to a new house in a new city and set out to explore the nearby streets and training routes by bike. He posted a blog entry a few days ago in which he said the conditions were surprisingly good, not nearly as bad as people said. Drivers were more tolerant, streets in better shape than he expected. Later that evening, though, a road rage incident on a street near his new place involving a cyclist and motorist resulted in an injury and an assault charge. Jef's post yesterday, here, reviews the event and reflects a bit on what to do when confronted by a similar situation. Jef is a very thoughtful person and his take on dealing with errant road users is the best I've heard. Key quote:
It's not that I've never been harassed or threatened or scared or that I've never done anything dumb myself. It's not that I've never wanted to set someone straight. But to me, drivers are another form of weather. Some good, some bad, some types more common in certain areas than in others. With bad weather, you have a choice: You either prepare for it and accept it, or you stay inside and avoid it. Trying to educate a bad driver on the spot is akin to trying to lecture a tornado away from your trailer park.
The temptation to try to communicate with an errant motorist (or cyclist) is pretty high, and I have succumbed. In traffic you just don't have time to have an effect. I've heard many times the maxim that "You can't change the world, you can only change how you react to it." Picturing an attempt to lecture a tornado is a good way to think about that.

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