Permission to Die by Car

September 18th, 2009 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »

waving handWhat are the seemingly accommodating drivers thinking? Waving a cyclist or driver into onrushing traffic is the oddest generosity of all — kindness that can kill.

For example, I have experienced this once or twice a week as I bike from the West Roxbury Y to the new alpine digs in Hyde Park.

Turning left from Quinn Way at the stop sign depends on timing for safety. When cars are racing or just rolling north and south simultaneously on Centre Street (see inset from Google Maps), I wait for an obvious clear shot.

Quinn Way map

Sometimes I get the oblivious wave that seems at once thoughtful and thoughtless. A driver stops in the nearest lane and dismissively waves me to cross three lanes to head south. I’d like to roll up to the driver’s window and ask what the hell the thought process is.

Invariably, the waver does not seem to notice cars and trucks to the left which would be visible in the driver’s side mirror, as well as more motor vehicles barreling down the hill for anyone looking ahead. Those other drivers would not be able to see me on a bike suddenly claiming a lane in front of them. Smash-o, crunch-o, ouch-o.

The body language of the waver suggests arrogance and noblesse oblige. My interpretation is, “I’m feeling generous and in control of the space around me. I shall deign to let you advance, non-driving peasant.”

That may be putting too find a point on it. Instead and in the least, that driver needs more RAM. Processing the visuals would make it clear that safety and generosity require passing so that the cyclist and on-coming traffic in both directions can see each other. Minimal intelligence would conclude that waving a bicycle into three lanes of moving traffic is, shall we say, unwise.

When I’m safe and in a chair, I have mused on what such drivers are thinking and feeling. I suspect at heart it related to another of my raps, how very few of us are capable of multitasking, yet nearly all of us are sure we are. (See one example of my take here.) If you don’t realize you are not gathering enough information to make a good decision, any check and balance has to come from others.

Too many drivers look only right in front of their cars’ hoods. Simultaneously scanning visual cues in plain sight is the rarity. That way can lead to death or maiming for the pedestrian or cyclist waved into traffic.

Yet almost invariably when I smile but drop my cleated shoe to the pavement instead of following the flicking fingers’ direction, the driver is obviously irritated. I rejected the controlling generosity.

I’ll take the scowl rather than the ambulance ride.

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