Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Please don't hit me

There are good drivers and stupid drivers. There are good pedestrians and stupid pedestrians. There are good cyclists and stupid cyclists.

For the record, I do have a car, but I spend most of my time as a pedestrian. When traveling in the city I generally only drive under the following circumstances, otherwise I walk and/or take public transportation.

1. When I'm going to the supermarket to some other store where I will be making many purchases, where having a trunk is much more convenient than having to schlep tons of stuff on the bus or train or paying for a cab.

2. When I know that parking will be easy and free (or very cheap) wherever I'm going. This occurs infrequently.

3. I drive my boyfriend two and from work on Saturdays just to ensure my car gets one good ride a week.

I'm more of a pedestrian in this city than I am a driver. As a pedestrian I'm always annoyed at idiot drivers, and there are a lot of them in this city. Particularly vexing to me are the people who turn left on red even though they weren't in the intersection when the light turned yellow, and people talking on cell phones. I have noticed that most of the idiot drivers who have almost hit me, either while I was walking or driving, were on their cell phones at the time. At times like those I really wish there was a police officer nearby since these people clearly don't think that the law against using cell phones without hands free sets or speakers doesn't apply to them.

Lately, though, it's not the idiot drivers who are pissing off my pedestrian self. It's the idiot cyclists. Twice in three days I have almost been mowed over by someone on a bicycle who was riding recklessly.

The first time was Monday night, at about 9:30 when leaving the L station near my apartment. There is a crosswalk directly outside of this station, even though there is no street there. That particular traffic signal is for the crosswalk only, though there are actual intersections about 100 feet in either direction. This is a pretty busy crosswalk as it connects a busy transit station with a university campus. Anyway, my boyfriend and I were walking out of the station just as we get the walk sign for the crosswalk. We leave the station with the intention of going across the sidewalk, crossing the street at the crosswalk, and continuing down the street. The station has several glass doors, and I didn't seen any pedestrians walking down the sidewalk we had to cross, so we just walked out the station and made our way to the crosswalk. All of a sudden, from out of nowhere, a middle aged woman on a bicycle nearly hit us. She had to slam on her brakes, and it made the same screeching noise that car brakes make if you stop too quickly. That's how fast she was going. Did I mention she was on the sidewalk? Yeah. She was riding her bike that quickly down the sidewalk where she was to pass a busy transit station, a bus stop for several routes, as well as two restaurants loaded with college kids. After crossing the street I noticed she had slowed down and was riding closer to the street instead of the middle of the sidewalk. The fact remains, though, that she shouldn't have been riding her bike on the sidewalk at all.

The second incident was earlier today. Same crosswalk, only this time I was crossing from the opposite direction. The light turned red for the cars, and the crowd of us waiting to cross the street were about to go when we all had to stop because this dude flew through the crosswalk on his bike. He made no attempt to stop or even slow down for the pedestrians who had the right of way. In fact, I find this to be a very common occurrence. While there are many responsible cyclists out there, there seem to be more than a few who think that traffic signals only apply to them when there are no cars there to hit them. Who cares if there are pedestrians in the crosswalk? When I have a walk sign I shouldn't have to think about whether I should cross the street more slowly or whether I should run because the cyclist who is coming toward the crosswalk clearly isn't going to stop for me, and if I continue at my pace I'll be mowed down.

Oh yeah, that happened a couple of weeks ago. This was at an intersection where there was actually a cross street, but no cars were coming. I had the walk sign and was in a the crosswalk when a dude on a bike approached. He actually made eye contact with me. It was a like a game of chicken. If I kept up at the pace I was going and he kept up at the pace he was going we would have hit each other. But I could tell he wasn't going to stop, so I slowed down so he could go though the crosswalk. You know, I shouldn't have done that. He should have stopped for me.

I have no beef with responsible cyclists. I actually sort of feel bad for them. Chicago isn't the most bike friendly city on earth, and navigating its streets on two wheels must be difficult and sometimes downright scary. I try to do my part by leaving plenty of room for cyclists, and I always check to make sure someone on a bicycle isn't coming before opening my car door. Every time. As I said at the start of this post, no matter how one gets around the city, there are responsible people and there are idiots. And the idiots are really starting to get on my nerves.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Bill V said...

Nice post. I drive, walk and bike. There are some terrible drivers (cell phones), walkers (ipods) and bikers (just think none of the rules apply to them). I'm pretty defensive on all three, well at least most of the time. I'm even surprised that more folks aren't hurt in this city with all of the close calls.

4:07 PM  

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