Net Speed Limits

There’s a funny thing about cyclists I know: over time we all seem to become amateur traffic engineers.

I’m no exception.

This is probably because we spend so much time outside of the bubble looking in. Also, for me, it’s a survival mechanism. I want to know what the motorists are thinking so I can react accordingly.

One thing I have noticed, and I hope the real engineers for give my ignorance, but there seems to be a huge divergence between several speeds on the road.

There’s the posted speed limit which nobody listens to. There’s the speed that most drivers feel safe at which is what they try to drive; I call this the top speed. Then there’s the net speed of traffic.

I estimate that my top speed, on my bicycle, on flat ground it about 20 miles per hour. In the city, I’m doing a lot of starting and stopping so I’m doing less than that.

What amuses me is how, often, automobiles will come extremely close to me to pass me in the city.

Overall, I don’t mind being passed, in fact I like it because it means that I’m not hindering anyone; I’m not a burden on society.

However, it’s annoying when they do so for no benefit at all which is often what happens while riding in the city. In fact, things get really crazy when there’s even a little bit of traffic on a street such as El Cajon because I can keep up with traffic!

How crazy is that? What’s worse is that streets like this are wide enough to encourage highway driving that is flooring it. But then a light appears and everyone jams on their brakes.

At this point, I catch up to traffic. I don’t want the light to ruin my rhythm so I slow down ahead of time and coast, usually past a little traffic, until the light turns green, and I’m starting up again.

Here’s where the second thing that upsets me occurs. The same people that squeezed past me, at great peril to my life and limb, now sit motionless while the light continues to shine it’s emerald invitation. Only after a few seconds, the few seconds that were saved by passing, do they floor it again. Until the next light.

I estimate that autos can get to 50 MPH on El Cajon while I am riding a mere 20 on a good day. Yet we are getting to the same place at the same time.

Here’s my proposal. I feel that we should be more realistic at what speed an automobile can actually go and adjust accordingly.

People jay walk all the time across El Cajon because the street is highly inconvenient otherwise; jay walking is necessary. But motorists are creating a huge risk. Hitting someone at 50 MPH is much worse than 20.

Also, we need to think of fuel issues. How much oil is burned each day so some motorist can get his rocks off while deluding himself that flooring it is actually getting him somewhere faster?

So there’s the risk and the waste. I don’t see any downside to getting people to drive a little slower.

Finally, I feel that the urge to speed is harmful to their tranquility and disturbs their lives. This is most important. I wonder how many arguments erupted and marriages collapsed because tempers were all ready high due to motor fuel speed intoxication? Perhaps narrower roads and lower speeds are the key to saving marriage in America?

As an amateur, I have more questions than answers so I will eagerly listen to what the knowledge that the experts have to impart.


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