My sympathies are normally with pedestrians because they are the slowest moving and largely defenseless, and cyclists largely because to stay up on a bike, a cyclist must keep moving.
My sympathies also go out to auto drivers who are involved in an accident that results the death of anyone -- pedestrian, auto driver, cyclist. Although such a situation more tragic for the person and family of the person killed, the auto driver will also have a psychic burden to bear the rest of his/her life.
This morning at about 8am after I had finished having a cup of coffee in Lexington Center, I was driving below the speed limit North on Meriam St. As I came to the intersection of the Minuteman Bike Path with Meriam Street, I saw to my right a cyclist riding West on the bike path at a speed that suggested that he was not going to stop at the stop sign on the bike path. And sure enough, instead of slowing down and stopping, he sped up and rode directly in front of me. It wasn't a near accident because I had slowed down anticipating that he was going to go through the stop sign: but if, for example, I wasn't familiar with the area and the potential for this sort of behavior by bicyclists, this morning could have been one of those tragedies I spoke of above.
I was really taken back by his blatant disregard for his own safety as well as the psychic burden my involvement in his death (or injury) might have had. So much so that I yelled out of my window at him once he was well past me, "Hey, you went through the stop sign". His response? He turned and gave me the middle finger.
Needless to say, my sympathies for the arguments that cyclists make about how we need to share the road with bicycles, have been reduced -- and in fact, I plan to take a more active role in making it impossible for cyclists to ignore the rules of the road. At this point, I believe that the bikeway (at least in Lexington) needs to be made a difficult place for cyclists to disregard the laws of the road (not to mention common sense).
Behavior changes of this sort will take a long time to establish, but I believe it is time to start. There are many things that need to change, including:
- Physical barriers that force cyclists and auto drivers to obey the law. This probably means raised bumps in both the road and bikeway where they intersect.
- Enforcement of the law for cyclists and auto drivers by the Lexington police so that the intersections of the bikeway and streets in Lexington become known as a places you cannot ignore the law.
- Civic monitoring of both the bikeway as well as roadways where people feel totally comfortable speaking with cyclists and auto drivers who are not obeying the law. If we are encouraged to "say something if we see something" regarding terrorism, then what about the same encouragement about something that has a higher probability happening to us: being involved in an accident between an automobile, pedestrian or cyclist. Granted, both are small probabilities, but the consequences of either happening are high.
I know that these ideas are extreme. I know that the half-life of my outrage is a day or week. But knowing how things happen in a civic situation, sometimes it takes the shock of such extreme proposals to cause even diluted positive results to happen.
I also know this message is likely to be viewed as an old fat guy ranting and raving about the behavior of younger, more agile guys he wished he could be. And it may be. I still ride my bike on the Minuteman Bikeway.
Earlier this week another cyclist was killed in Boston. This time, it was not a BU grad student, but rather an MIT researcher. These cyclists are no dummies or daredevil X-Game cyclists. These deaths are ironic given the media push for bicycle awareness that went on all last week.
I do not want to have the next cyclist killed in Lexington.
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