A driver charged with murder after he ploughed into cyclists in Kalamazoo is a reminder that drivers often treat cyclists with dangerous hostility
As someone who commutes by bicycle, I know all too well the ways some drivers wield their vehicles as weapons. Thats why I was not surprised when nine cyclists were struck by a truck this week as they were biking together in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Five of them died in the incident. The driver is charged with assassination. Sadly, Im not at all surprised.
During my daily commute, Im routinely flipped off and yelled at for minding my own business in the motorcycle lane, trying to get to work like everyone else. Drivers get angry when theyre at a standstill and I pass them in the bike lane, as though the traffic is my fault. On narrow roads, automobiles lurk behind me, honking, revving the engine.
Last week, I waited at an intersection with a cyclist who had two kids on a bike seat behind her. The kids waved at me, decked out in helmets with spaceships on them. When the light turned we proceeded up one of those narrow streets. I pinched as far right as possible to let a car pass. Devoted her load, the woman couldnt move over far enough and the car pulled to within inches of her kids. The woman turned and raised her palm at the guy, shrugging as though to say hey, what do you want from me ? urging him to back off. He laid on the cornet and began swearing at her, tailing her until the next intersection where she stopped to collect herself.
Being behind her on the road probably cost that human an extra 20 seconds. But I gamble the woman thought about that driver for the rest of the evening. Perhaps she considered whether it was safe to transport her kids that route. I ask myself that all the time I rarely have less faith in people than I do when Im on the road.
A couple years ago, my boyfriend was biking ahead of me and in front of a car that couldnt wait to get where it was going. The driver honked and swore and my boyfriend flipped him off as the driver turned away. Then we heard the whine of brakes as the car turned around and took off after my boyfriend, chasing him up a street and eventually getting out of the car, scream, what would you do if I had a gun? I was behind the car, madly stimulating plans to sneak up behind the driver and hit him with my u-lock if necessary. I recollect thinking that this was the night my boyfriend might succumb, and for what?
Two weeks ago I sat on a jury in a case involving a cyclist who had been chased for blocks by the driver of a Jeep a driver who had attempted a U-turn on a busy street and had nearly reached the cyclist. The cyclist hollered at him and the driver got angry, veering into the oncoming traffic lane to catch up with the biker. Eyewitnesses “ve called the” cops, scared. The driver cut the biker off at an intersection, got out of the car and approached him, fists created. When it was clear that backing away wasnt going to defuse the situation, the cyclist made the driver with his helmet in self-defense.
Cyclists can be awful I readily admit that. They can speed through red lights, cut off automobiles and pedestrians, ride without helmets and sunlights, and act as though no laws apply to them. I understand the irritation. But what I dont understand is why some drivers dont seem to realize that bikers are humen too. That theyre vulnerable out there on wheels and a steel frame, that theyre no match for a 4,000 -pound vehicle. The driver who gets somewhere a couple minutes later than planned will survive the cyclist who attains that driver angry may not.
I think about this every day as I bike through traffic. I think about what my mom said to me when I was learning to drive: Its not you I dont trust its everyone else on the road. I think about how nice it would be to not was of the view that route, to wave and exchange smiles with drivers, to feel that were on the same side on the side of humanity.
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