Saturday, October 4, 2008

Cars Make Strangers Hate Each Other

In case you didn't notice, driving (especially in So Cal?) turns the nicest people into aggressive bullies. It's one thing when you experience this from inside another steel cage, but when you are on the outside, as a pedestrian or bicyclist, it really hits home. Each intersection is another landscape of people pushing forward, menacing you, itching to get from parking garage A to parking garage B.
We borrowed a friend's car the other day to move some stuff from my mom's garage (thanks Mom!) to our new apartment in LA. We'd traveled around 80 miles, with a long stopover in Irvine so I could go to class, and we'd just unloaded the car and gassed it up. It was ready to hand back over, and what a relief! Driving on the 5, 55, 405, and 101 in one day is exhausting, not to mention the hell of parking and making left turns and all that crap you drivers do constantly. Ugh.
Anyway, we were driving over to give the car back when we inadvertently got involved in a bike-car crash. We stopped to turn right into an alley, blinker on, when a bicyclist who'd been closely following us passed on the left and got hit by a car passing in the opposite direction. Much confusion ensued, including the driver of the other car reversing unnecessarily and crushing the bicycle wheel more and hurting her own leg. Fortunately the bicyclist was not squished! She came through okay, with some bruises and a lot of adrenaline.
In the end, it seemed what happened is that the bicyclist and the driver both saw each other and both pushed forward aggressively. The bicyclist thought she had enough space to pass between the cars, and, finding that she did not, stopped when the car got too close. The driver, however, did not stop, and squeezed the bike between her car and our borrowed one.
While I would not pass between two cars the way that this bicyclist did, and ultimately it seemed like the blame for the crash fell on her shoulders, I was disappointed to find that the driver of that oncoming car did not stop when she saw the vulnerable bicyclist. She treated that person like another car, an opponent to be intimidated by her oncoming velocity. In LA we need help; we need to learn that human beings on foot and on bicycles are not just other cars.
Yo no soy otro carro, yo soy un ser humano.