Monday, January 22, 2007

How to Support Alternative Transportation Even if You Drive

There are times when many of us drive cars, even those who are very dedicated to non-fossil fuel transportation. Our cities, schedules, lives are not set up to run at the pace in which all of society existed before fossil fuels. This makes it difficult to, say, get from a class on one end of town to an activity on the other end in 15 minutes.

And then there are those people who have no intent of getting around in any other way but a car, but are starting to become aware of fossil fuels issues. Climate change is becoming a heavily discussed topic, thanks in no small part to Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth. Meanwhile, many people who would like to walk or bicycle to work, or take their kids to school in this manner, do not feel that it is safe to do so.

So for all of us who may find themselves in a large, fuel-driven, fast-moving hunk of metal, here's some things you can do to still make your community pedestrian and bicycle friendly:

1. Stop at crosswalks for pedestrians. In my state at least, this is defined as any intersection, whether it has a marked crosswalk or not. Many drivers don't know this. However, even when standing with my kids, even at a marked crosswalk, even in a $#%! school crossing zone, at least 75% of the cars zoom on through the crosswalk without slowing down or stopping.

2. If a pedestrian is crossing the street, don't nudge your car forward on their heels. This feels intimidating and downright frightening to pedestrians, and really folks it's not going to get you to your meeting any quicker. Leave home earlier if time is such a big issue that the five nanoseconds you gain from putting a young child's life in danger is that important to you.

3. Give cyclists plenty of room. Many people say they would be more inclined to bicycle for transportation if they felt safer on the roads. Cars crowding cyclists is a recipe for disaster.

4. Remember that a cyclist in most places is entitled to take up a full lane of traffic. We don't often do that, prefering to be as courteous to drivers as we can. Please give us the same courtesy: if you have to wait behind us for a few seconds in a stretch of road where it's too narrow to get past safely, remember that you could be (legally) waiting behind us the entire time. It is our right to the road, same as yours.

Taking the time to be courteous and safe with pedestrians and cyclists encourages more people to make use of these transportation methods. Really, I wish everyone who could do so was required to walk or bike at least one trip a week. I think if they took the time to see the world from the perspective of a small body relative to large hurtling chunks of metal, they would be safer and more courteous drivers. If for some reason you can't walk or bike, make sure that the streets and sidewalks are safe for those who do.


Chris said...

You've been tagged! See Jenny's blog for details.

Wendy said...

Wow, you totally hit the nail on the head for me. I would LOVE to bicycle and be mostly car free. I have been looking lovingly at the pedicabs for some time now. We live two miles from the beach, parking is ALWAYS an issue, and during the summer it would be so cool to be able to bike downtown rather than drive. Unfortunately, biking around here is kind of scary. A fellow on a bike was, quite literally, run over by a tractor trailer a few years ago. I was near the scene of the accident, but had no idea what happened until I saw it on the news later. I'm still a little traumatized by the accident, and while I'm still eyeing those pedicabs, I'm also a little concerned about how safe it is to bike on the roads in my community.