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road use ranting

Today was the first snow-biking day of the season, though without any accumulation to provide difficulty it was pure winter-preview fun. I also took the first post-time change evening trip out in full dark, and that was less fun. I always feel, biking at night, that drivers are wondering why on earth I'm even out there, and thinking that, while of course they're very careful around me, it'd sort of be my fault if I got hit. Just like the feeling I get when I'm walking on one of our many sidewalk-less roads, or through a parking lot, especially with the dog or the kids. I don't belong there, in the domain of the cars! Why am I endangering myself and my dependents?! It's just not safe.

Here's the thing guys: they're cars, not bears or dragons or something. And you're driving them.

By which I mean to say, while I understand the drivers' perspective—cyclists or pedestrians are unexpected, and it may make them nervous to consider the potential danger—the responsibility should belong to the people using high-speed vehicles weighing thousands of pounds to make sure they don't run into anyone, and if they can't manage that they shouldn't be driving. In fact, I should be able to just walk into the middle of a major street and have traffic stop. Of course I'd be a jerk if I tried it—why should my convenience trump that of dozens of drivers—but we shouldn't assume that a mom whose kid gets killed by a car crossing the road is guilty of manslaughter in his death. That's just sickening.

I know that my position is a little unrealistic. Drivers just can't pay that much attention: they have to keep their eyes on other cars, listen to the radio, talk on the phone, pick up something they dropped on the floor... that kind of thing. But from my point of view, accusing a pedestrian or cyclist of foolishly putting himself in danger is a lot like blaming rape victims based on how they're dressed. Just like men have to be responsible for not, you know, violently sexually assaulting every alluring looking female in sight, drivers need to be in charge of not killing people around them with their automobiles. I'm not sure how we arrived at the point where that's a bold statement.

I'm not opposed to cars. We drive places too, as the situation requires. But when I'm driving I make sure to stay alert and give more vulnerable road users plenty of room. That shouldn't be too much to ask, and our public roads should be safe for anyone who wants to use them.

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