Let’s Get Buzzed

I have been riding in the bus a little more lately due to an injury of my princess as well as general comfort reasons. Yes, I actually see riding the bus as a “luxury item” and motoring even more so. For some, though, one has to be absurdly affluent to bicycle, which I think is a positive image and ought to be encouraged.

Anyway, as a bus passenger, I saw a bus passing a bicyclist a little bit closer than I would have. The cyclist looked very vulnerable. I feel that one would have to have the heart of Charles Manson to put someone’s life at risk for so little gain. If I were driving, I’d give them much more room, at least three feet which is becoming the standard in many states. I’d also slow down, but not too much. Plus, I’d make no indication of recognizing the cyclist at all. Not a little encouraging beep nor a thumbs up as these things are all incredibly confusing and irritating to cyclists.

But no, the bus just buzzed the cyclist–who was hugging the side of the road as it was–then moved on.

As a cyclist, I have been buzzed many, many times.

I often wonder why motorists do it.

Are there really that many cruel and heartless humans in this world?

I think not.

My main understanding is that it’s a form of alienation that occurs due to the nature of motoring with its windscreen that looks like a computer monitor. The controls make it look like a game. And the ease at one travels soon turns to boredom which actually can make people irritable and impatient. Finally, there’s a total lack of empathy for the cyclist due to the lack of legitimacy that the media creates around cycling even though it’s actually a totally legal and respectable way to get around.

When we rode in the country, the farmers in pickup trucks always gave us an entire lane. We felt that this was true because they often rode in slow vehicles (farm equipment) and thus had empathy for others even those who were slightly different.

Conversely, once when I was a car passenger, a friend of mine came an inch away from hitting another car in order to move around it. Once I saw this, it dawned on me that motorists are always getting really close to one another at high speeds. But they don’t think of “buzzing” one another. It’s just an acceptable risk to take. Despite the fact that in comparison with activities that are seen as suicidally dangerous, motoring is several orders of magnitude MORE dangerous.

For example, 111 US citizens died in Mexico in a year which made the US State Dept put out a travel advisory. At the same time, 3000 Californians died in motor vehicle accidents. Making motoring at least 30 times more deadly than going to Mexico.

So often, one is buzzed by a motorist who thinks nothing of it.

Contrast that to how careful a motorist is when there’s a ditch. I have seen motorists go over ten miles over the speed limit in a one way street, narrowly hit a few people who were crossing then come to a screeching halt so that the bottom of their vehicle didn’t get scraped.

Again, they are not really selfish, hostile, nor callous, but I think that the situation, the mental framework that they are stuck in–a caste system where the most dangerous vehicle gets the right of way–is what causes their behavior. A few different environmental cues such as bicycle lanes and leaders who support cycling, and you will see people behaving much differently.

No matter how special people like to believe that they are, we have the same DNA, the same general wants and fears.


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