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The Intersection of Motorists and NonMotorists

April 20, 2016

A fellow non-spandex/carbon cyclist in his recent and more frequent contribution to the blogosphere pointed out that even drivers in public employ i.e. bus drivers have little regard for the bicyclist’s perception of one’s personal safety. Laws meant to ensure adequate distance between enclosed and powerful shiny metal boxes and flesh/blood on a minimalistic piece of machinery first fail to consider the impact of differential velocity as well as the perceptions of safety.

We now live in a world that is statistically safer than at any time in human history (albeit I concede that the last 50 or 60 years are also the first time in human history in which humans could very quickly and voluntarily decimate all animal life on earth), yet we are afraid to let kids act like kids, we insist on the Theatre Securite Americaine despite a lack of evidence of effectiveness of personal screening to get on an airplane, and we are afraid of inanimate objects (mostly because we’ve allowed the insane to “mainstream” and then grant them access to those objects).

We have an entire political class exemplified by hypocritical Villagers such as Hillary who proclaim that we owe each other peace, love and happiness not to mention health care and the benefits of the Land of the (formerly) Free.  Right or wrong (and I, as a scientist, don’t have the foggiest scientific opinion) we are told that humans are destroying the earth by profligate conversion of fossil fuels to atmospheric carbon….while I don’t know how scientifically valid that claim may be, I am certain that we are overpopulating and overdeveloping the earth and their will be consequences….But this class of person proclaims that we should cease the use of fossil fuels while they glide about in their Priuses or various “hybrids” (if they have to stoop to drive themselves) or their driven limos (if they’ve managed to get elected to a taxpayer salary).  They work in air-conditioned offices and expect to get on jets to go see their foreign pals even in this era when video conference calls are very easily accomplished.  And last time I was in DC, I saw no veggie gardens on the Mall from which to feed the Villager Class.

So why is it that their is scant attention paid to the comfort and safety those who would actually advocate a more direct interaction with the natural world and contribute to the preservation of resources?  I speak of cyclists and pedestrians.

We do not need more useless laws about how much clearance motor vehicles need to give cyclists.  Mandating unpopular behaviours has never worked and I have no reason to believe human nature has changed.  As countless governments have shown repeatedly, legal coercian on the pain of penalty is highly effective (think what happens if you fail to pay your income tax….the boys with the guns eventually take you to jail.  Fail to pay your property tax?  Eventually that property is no longer “yours.”  etc. etc. etc….).

There are already laws that prohibit pedestrians on roads and streets except at regulated crosswalks etc…  There are already laws that specify that cyclists are to use the roads (and statistics showing the roads are – believe it or not – much safer than sidewalks for cyclists)…  High-speed thoroughfares are already off=limits to pedestrians and cyclists.  And automobile drivers have legal obligations to have their cars under control at all times.

So let’s have a new law that holds the motor vehicle operator definitionally liable (both criminal and civil) in the case of any collision with a pedestrian of cyclist.  This is not “guilty until proven innocent” any more than if you shoot somebody you are presumed guilty of a crime until you can prove that it was in self defense; it is simply acknowledging that on thoroughfares legally shared among motorized and nonmotorized vehicles, those who are motored about have a responsibility to not injure those who are not motored.   (and it is not disingenuous to compare cars and guns…..far more people die as a result of cars every year in both absolute and relative numbers than die as a result of gun play.  Motor vehicles are in fact highly lethal weapons).

I would also argue that if a segment of society can pursue civil lawsuits because of failures to ensure restrooms appropriate to one’s perceived gender, then that same society must certainly be open to huge and punitive financial awards to pedestrians and cyclists who are merely frightened by a motor vehicle that passes too close, or whose occupant(s) harrass by yelling, honking, swerving, etc….

An armed society is a peaceful society, the Founding Fathers wrote about that. We are in the process of granting the legal arms to the less powerful in this society in hopes of advancing civilization. Let’s include in this how we transport ourselves about our cities and towns.



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