Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Honorary Collision

Okay, thankfully my near death experiences have virtually dissappeared on the road since I started tracking them.
That said, a friend of mine got cleaned up by a car on Monday. According to her recollection of events she was riding through a roundabout when she woke up in an ambulance.

Scary, according to the driver that hit her 'she appeared from an unknown angle', now trusting my friends version of events she entered the roundabout after looking to her right and back again to the left (where technically you shouldn't have to check because you 'give way' to vehicles in the roundabout and to your right.) This tells us two things as a cyclist:

1. Our brains are phenomenally good at shirking responsibility in times of crisis. Eg. reinterpreting 'she appeared from an unknown angle' from 'I didn't see her' the old active to passive tense. Other pertinent examples are 'the rider was hit' (passive) vs. 'I hit the rider' (active).
In defence of drivers, I'm sure the lady feels horrible, possibly went into shock, and whilst my friend had the twisted luxury of being unconscious for the collision she probably had to watch my friend slice her face open while bouncing off the bonnet of her car.
She may have even made her statement whilst not knowing whether or not she had killed someone.
While anger is the natural response to 'bad' drivers and you want to yell 'what the fuck are you doing?' and 'learn how to drive motherfucker!' and 'you are killing the planet!' (truly climate change was the greatest thing to ever happen to cyclists). I hope we can realise that the type of 'evil' that is running round-about's without looking, getting distracted by a mobile phone, reversing over a kid in your driveway, running a red-light, pedestrian crossing or overtake a tram that is disgourging its passengers is frankly banal not 'evil'. It arises from overconfidence, incompetence, impatience etc. not 'evil' or any malicious 'duel' type road-rage.
What that means is the culprit was probably somebody like your mum, sister, aunt, best friend. And if she had been a guy someone like your dad, brother, uncle or best friend. You going to get angry with her, be prepared to get angry with everyone including probably yourself.
Easy for me to say, I didn't get mowed down by some crazy bitch.

2. Whilst 'technically correct' is normally the best type of correct, it doesn't cut the mustard on the road.
In other more understandable words, people who gripe at cyclists that openly and cockily flaunt the road rules, it's because if we obeyed the road rules, we would have died out by now.
I feel this way because in my experience 'good driver' is a lot like 'middle-class' everybody is one/from it. This is despite colossal evidence to the contrary. For example, Janice (my mother dearest) calls herself a good driver, even though the past 3 times I've been in the passenger seat adjacent to her my most common interjection to conversation is 'red, red, red, red, RED, RED! RED!! RED!!!' I'm sure she is a good driver 90% of the time, it's just a shame she is a much more involved and conscientious conversationist/monologuer.
You see I freely admit, I am a terrible driver. I often refuse to drop people off on these grounds, I really can only hack driving on my on, and when I do I drive at cyclist speed, yes 40kph is plenty fast for me. I feel boxed in by the chassis and my vision severely impaired.
Picking someone up for me involves driving to their location then jumping into the passanger seat. As such as one of the only 'bad' drivers on the road, I feel I am one of the safest ones.
But 'good-driver' can be everything from 'someone who actually does mirror checks' to 'someone who drives by instinct alone' to 'someone who would be a good stunt-driver'.
That's why road rules don't count. It's not the cars, it's just people. It's mathematics. Everyone is a pedestrian, Most people are drivers and very few people are cyclists. Hence I would say every pedestrian is an irresponsible arsehole, many drivers are irresponsible arseholes, and very few cyclists are irresponsible arseholes.
Because it is mathematically true to say that 'on average, people are average' and thus they are average drivers.
I blame society, not cars as a mode of transport. Our society reinforces that its important for people to get to work on time, when plainly this isn't true. Sure if you are a doctor working in emergency or a fireman or something, if you are an accountant for Australia's third largest roof insulation manufacturer, the work can probably wait the 4 minutes you drop by not running stop signs.
Except it doesn't, morons the world over are obsessed with stressing how important what they do is, in spite of much research by psychologists that suggests most of the trappings of western society could easily be lived without.
But why get all monk on your arse. Fact for cyclists is, you enter a roundabout checking the traffic on the right, as you are legally a vehicle bound by the same laws, anyone entering the roundabout to your left is obliged to give you right of way. Right?
Wrong. I believe there should be a 'cycling on the road' rule book, that refers only to the laws of physics and perhaps Murphey's law. Because the road laws aren't laws of physics, there is no force of nature that holds cars in place and prevents drivers from doing the wrong thing. Thus the first rule of cycling on the road is D.T.A. or 'Don't Trust Anybody motherfucker' personally if I don't make eyecontact with a driver I assume he is going to plow right through me.
Case in point, riding home from visiting my somewhat roughed up friends place, I first gave a big 'what the fuck!' hand signal to a driver that cruised out onto the road behind princess park at a T-intersection where I had right of way, I noticed a Porsche driver near Lygon street having to scream to a halt because we were on a collision course (or would of been if I hadn't seen him first and hit the breaks to slow down to stop if I had to), then just after crossing Brunswick St, I would have taken a trip across a bonnet myself if I hadn't employed the exact same technique on a lady that decided to pull out of a gas station into the emergency lane while putting on her seatbelt.
They all look like nice decent douchebags, and apart from the Porsche driver that actually employed body language to indicate he was a douchebag you can bet I gave the other two a good glaring at.
But the fact is thanks to D.T.A. I don't even realise how many opportunities there are for people to hit me because I wasn't actually sensitive to it until my friend got hit.
I probably flip off 2-3 people in cars a week for 'almost' killing me, and that's largely because I do the majority of my riding on a bike trail not the roads.
But basically if you are a cyclist take from the road rules book the bit that says 'we drive on the left' and 'red means stop and green means go' and then append them with the prefix 'generally' and then throw out the rest of the book.
From there you have to D.T.A. motherfucker and I guess the second rule is to always 'look out for the black hydrogen motorcycle with the driver in black with no lights at night' this I feel is what makes me fairly safe even with headphones on on the road. Because I have never assumed I would hear a car coming.
The last bit of safety advice is 'be as predictable as possible' okay riding through a red light making your own traffic judgement actually isn't a violation of this rule, not indicating 30m before you turn, not riding in a straight line, riding on the right or on the pedestrian sidewalk are all violations of this rule.
So that's it, D.T.A., look out for a ninja attack and be as predictable as possible. Those are the real rules of cycling on the roads.
Actual road rules don't mean shit due to the asymmetrical punishment of violation, what that means is that a car can run a stop sign and kill a cyclist, a cyclist can run a stop sign and kill themselves. If you are in a car you just don't have the motivation to be as safe as cyclists need you to be, unfortunately it is the cyclists lot to pick up the slack.

With fixed gear bicycles becoming an unfortunate trendy accessory what must be 10 years after New York did, the incedence of douchebags hitting douchebags can only skyrocket.

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