Every driver should read this
8 October, 2009
We had our encounter on Bedford Avenue this afternoon, just south of Division. I was the petite brunette in a white sundress, riding a red road bike in the rain; you were the Hasidic gentleman (and I use the term loosely) in a blue SUV who came up on my back wheel, honking, and attempted to run me out of the bike lane before swerving directly in front of me and pulling up to the curb ahead.
You refused to roll down your window and talk to me after this incident, leaving me to shout, “That’s against the law” at the rain-streaked glass and then continue home. And while it *is* against the law — both the laws that govern New York City drivers, and also those that govern general human decency — what I really wanted to say to you was simultaneously less accusatory and more important. This is it.
I know that the bike lanes aren’t great. You may not believe it, but cyclists don’t like riding next to you anymore than you like sharing the road with us. Given the choice between inhaling your exhaust and pedaling blithely down a forested greenway, I’d always take the latter.
I also know that presence of cyclists on busy streets can make driving in the city even more nerve-wracking than usual, and that some of us antagonize the shit out of drivers by disobeying traffic laws, failing to signal, and generally acting like we own the road (I am not one of these, but that is beside the point). And I completely understand if, at this point, you start hyperventilating at the mere sight of a bike with which you have to share the road. I empathize; I have a car, too. It sucks. I know.
Nevertheless, we can’t all live in Amsterdam, and the frustrations of sharing the road with me do not change the facts: You are in a car, and I am not. You are protected from collisions by airbags, fenders, and a steel cage; I’m not. You are piloting a one-ton pile of steel; I am piloting something that weighs as much as a dog. (Not even a big dog — we’re talking Welsh Corgi, here.)
And if your frustrations at sharing the road get the better of you, and you want to get in a fight with me, sir, there is no doubt whatsoever that you will win.
You’ll win… and, in all likelihood, I’ll be dead.
This is what I wanted to say to you: You may not like cyclists, and that’s fine. But you have a responsibility to the human race, and I don’t cease to exist the second I step off my bike. I am someone’s wife. I am someone’s sister. I am someone’s daughter.
And if you have any of those things — a spouse, a sibling, a child — do me this favor.
Imagine yourself on your way to meet your wife for lunch; imagine yourself waiting for your daughter to come home from school.
Now, imagine getting a phone call, hearing the voice on the other end telling you that that person — the person you love — is dead, because some asshole in an Audi thought her life was less important than waiting another five seconds to park his car.
This has been a public service announcement from the U.S. Department of Please Don’t Kill Other Human Beings.