[tabi] "Pedestrians, bicyclists deserve to live" article in Democrat

  • From: ericamccaul@xxxxxxxxxxxx
  • To: tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 18 Aug 2010 09:52:11 -0400

This appeared in the Democrat on Saturday, August 14, 2010:

Pedestrians, bicyclists deserve to live 

Pop quiz time for you drivers.
You’re headed south on Bronough Street, near the library. Ahead are two yellow 
pedestrian signs and a striped crossing in the middle of the block. A librarian 
with a bag of books steps into the crosswalk as you’re building up a good head 
of steam from the light at Call Street.
What do you do?
(a .) Wonder what that thump was and pause from texting long enough to make a 
note in your iPhone to get the alignment checked. (b.) Lean on the horn, raise 
your middle finger and let the librarian know what you think about pedestrians 
and overdue fines.
(c.) Come to a complete stop in mid-block and allow her to cross the street.
Astoundingly, according to Florida Statute 316.130 (7b), the correct choice is 
"c." But trust me, no librarian is going to bet her life that you know that.
This was a bad week to be out on the streets of Tallahassee. Not in your car, 
mind you, but getting around in any way that doesn’t include being wrapped in 
two tons of steel.
Jill Caputo died Tuesday when she and her wheelchair were hit by an SUV on West 
Jefferson Street, and the same day, a bicyclist was hit and injured at Bronough 
and Carolina — one block from where a ghost bike now sits, marking the spot 
where another cyclist was killed in May. It’s too early to place blame in the 
most recent accidents. But it’s not too early to state the obvious: Walking or 
biking just about anywhere in Tallahassee is literally worth your life.
A former reporter here was walking to lunch when he wound up on the hood of a 
car whose driver apparently thought a crosswalk at Mahan and Magnolia was some 
sort of visual aid to help draw a bead on pedestrians. I’ve seen tourists with 
panic in their eyes as they consider crossing North Monroe near LongHorn 
When I’m out jogging, nine of 10 drivers will give me plenty of room (I smile 
and wave a thank you). But to that 1 in 10, I’m as inconsequential as a bit of 
litter in the road, and I can feel the breeze from the wide-view mirror as the 
truck roars by. An online bicycle group called Tal-Rides has stories. "The 
flyway? I think that’d be nuts"; "agitated drivers getting steamed behind me, 
cars switching lanes in a wild fashion once I get up on the road. A little 
spooky"; "A few (drivers) did the minimum — they moved over enough not to clip 
me, but not enough to meet the legal minimum (that’s 3 feet) or to give a 
cyclist a fair break. … I may have worn out my mirror, looking at it so hard."
Zing!s and online comments (including, no doubt, comments that will be added to 
this column) make it clear: Many Tallahassee drivers have no time for 
pedestrians or bicyclists. The attitude is, "Get the heck off my road."
I have two theories on this.
The first is that people have poor time management. Think: Why do you have to 
be on the phone for those 10 minutes when you’re driving to work? Why are you 
so angry when a pedestrian makes you slow down or when a bicyclist causes you 
miss a light? Why are you so angry, period?
(Near the courthouse the other day, a driver beeped another who was just 
sitting at a green light. The driver in front honked back furiously and shook 
his fist before speeding off.) If you’re in a hurry, leave five minutes 
earlier. You can skip the phone call, enjoy the scenery and maybe even see the 
pedestrian or the wheelchair at the corner. My second theory is that modern 
cars have made us forget how hard driving really is. Great sound systems, 
leather seats, quiet air conditioning, computers that shift our gears and 
literally watch our backs. Why not grab the laptop and get a little work done 
in this mobile living room?
I read a great book this summer, "Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What 
It Says About Us)" by Tom Vanderbilt. He examines the incredible work the human 
brain — which did not evolve to function at more than 15 or 20 mph — has to do 
when we’re behind the wheel.
Driving isn’t some video game in which the only goal is to stay on the road or 
sidewalk, with extra points for picking off pedestrians. We constantly make 
calculations involving our position and those of other divers, not to mention 
the proverbial kid chasing a ball into the road.
Or a bicyclist. Or a person in a wheelchair.
Read the book and you’ll be amazed we can get safely to the end of the block. 
The margin for error is so small, there’s no room for anger or resentment or 
even a cell phone. So leave early. Share the road. Calm down. Pay attention. A 
librarian and pedestrians all over town will thank you. 
Contact Mark Hohmeister at mhohmeister@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx or (850) 599-2330.

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