Pedalmaniac

Friday, February 03, 2006

Respect

This post probably won't be written the same way as I have been thinking about it since riding home from work yesterday.

I had had a frustrating day at work, it wasn't raining out, so I decided to take the long way home and ride around Stanley Park. This meant that I went through downtown, something that I really don't like. There is a lot of traffic and everyone is in a hurry.

Getting to downtown was nice, through some old neighbourhoods, along bike routes. Past BC Place was tricky, lots of construction, there were bike lanes closed and there was lots of desbris. As I was crossing Burrard it happened. A motorist looked me in the eye and then made a right turn into my lane -- or more precisely into me. I was able to brake in time, I had words for him. I was then accused of going through a red light and was threatened with physical violence.

Wow, that wrecked the mood.

It seems that all too often cyclists and pedestrians are treated as though they are some sort of second, or third, or fourth class citizen. For the rest of my ride I had to think about why someone would essentially ignore my presence. And then it all came clear, respect. In our society people have no respect for others anymore. Drivers have no respect for cyclists or pedestrians or for that matter other drivers. Now it is not just drivers it seems to be a general trend in business and in life. Everyone wants to get a head at the expense of not only the "little guy" but at the expense of everybody. "Get out of my way, I'm more important than you" is the attitude of our society.

This seems to be a common thread amongst cyclists and pedestrians. Vehicle drivers that are so focused on themselves that respect for anyone else is absent. Many of my friends commute to work by bike or at least ride a lot. When I think of the respect that they all demand and fetch in their work lives I wonder how someone in a car can not respect them while on a bike. I have friends that are CEO's and owners of multi-national companies, I have friends that are VP's of large investment houses. I have friends that are doctors. I have friends that are watchmakers. I have friends that are therapists. All of these people have respect of their peers and others in their professional lives, as soon as they are off their bikes. When they are on their bikes they are just like you and me, a cyclist, and all respect for them is lost.

As I neared the end of my ride yesterday I decided to test this respect theory. As I crossed Lion's Gate bridge I realised that one side of the bridge has been closed to cyclists and pedestrians for almost a year now. The cars in the lanes next to me have not been inconvenienced at all. The path that I was on was shared for two way traffic, and between bikes and pedestrians, when would this happen in the car world? The path I was on had blind spots and bumps and pipes hindering my progress, none such obstructions for the cars next to me. Obviously there is no respect for cyclists and pedestrians -- only for the almighty car.

My experiment continued as I returned to the road. On a narrow section of road one car stayed behind me and let me ride safely, I could hear the honks behind him though, I thanked him for his patients with a wave as he finally passed-- he respected me. The next car raced to pass me before a stop sign, and passed me with only inches to spare -- obviously no respect for me. There were many times when cars would race past with only inches to spare - I actually lost count of how many times this happened. I watched pedestrians fight to cross the streets, other cyclists fight to ride to their destinations, automobile drivers with no respect.

So how do we change this? I'm not sure. I'm going to try and teach my kids respect. I'm sure my friends will do the same with their kids as well. I think this is a start -- although it might be a bit long term. For the short term I'm beginning to believe that bike lanes might be the answer -- if someone would respect us enough to give us something just for cyclists. More on this later.

Let's try to repsect one another. Slow down, life is the ride.

Respect.

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