A non-driver’s road rage

GA Voice - - Outspoken -

I don’t like the peo­ple that cars cre­ate. I sub­ject my­self to this judg­ment, re­mem­ber­ing the 65 pounds I gained in the two years I owned an au­to­mo­bile in the early 2000s, when I could feel the lazi­ness ac­cu­mu­lat­ing in my mid­sec­tion as I folded my­self into the driver’s seat.

Go ahead, give it a test: I’m will­ing to bet one of the worst ver­sions of your­self is the one that holds a steer­ing wheel. You’re likely more stressed, less pa­tient, more en­ti­tled and ag­gres­sive, a big­ger bully yet a per­pet­ual vic­tim.

And you might not be too bright, ei­ther, if you’re among the ma­jor­ity of driv­ers who con­stantly com­plain about gas prices and traf­fic, as if those aren’t two guar­an­teed bur­dens of car own­er­ship. Some folks say Amer­i­cans’ ad­dic­tion to gaso­line funds ter­ror­ism and de­stroys the planet, and all we care about is get­ting a few more gal­lons for fewer pen­nies.

Driv­ers seem en­raged by ev­ery other car on the road, ev­ery pedes­trian, ev­ery red light, ev­ery con­struc­tion cone, ev­ery yield sign and ev­ery­thing else that in­ter­rupts their for­ward progress. As hope­less as Don­ald Trump’s elec­tion prospects are, he could win the White House by promis­ing to equip ev­ery Amer­i­can’s au­to­mo­bile with a but­ton that would un­furl a nu­clear land­scape that al­lows driv­ers to reach their des­ti­na­tion with­out im­ped­i­ments (which is to­tally some­thing Trump would in­struct his Sec­re­tary of Trans­porta­tion to im­ple­ment for those who can af­ford it).

While driv­ers loathe the uni­verse with which they are forced to share the road, most feel uniquely ven­omous to­ward bi­cy­cle rid­ers, as has been pre­vi­ously dis­cussed in th­ese pages. Driv­ers’ main gripes against cy­clists is that many bike rid­ers run red lights, which is il­le­gal.

How­ever, it’s disin­gen­u­ous for driv­ers to pre­tend they care about traf­fic vi­o­la­tions. I’ve never had a driver scream, “Same rules, same road!” when I break the law by rid­ing on the side­walk dur­ing an ex­tended up­hill, so as to not de­lay the cars be­hind me.

Driv­ers only hate cy­clists when they’re in the way, when the driver has to waste 5-20 sec­onds to pass the bike rider. Here’s a pro tip about life: you ain’t that busy, so calm down.

The bit­ter­ness driv­ers have to­ward cy­clists is so ir­ra­tional that many feel if a bike rider faces no pun­ish­ment for run­ning a red light, a driver should face no pun­ish­ment for mow­ing a cy­clist off the road. The same peo­ple who ig­nore the dozens of laws they break in their daily commute – from sur­pass­ing the speed limit and not yield­ing to pedes­tri­ans, to tex­ting and be­ing buzzed while driv­ing – are ready to im­pose the death penalty on some­one who ped­aled past a stop sign.

At­lanta’s sta­tus as a car-cen­tric city is ev­i­dent in the soul­less growth we’ve ex­pe­ri­enced over the past two decades. How many At­lantans have never walked more than two blocks from their res­i­dence or the places they drive to reg­u­larly, whose pri­mary in­ter­ac­tion with this city is from a front door to their park­ing space?

The BeltLine prom­ises to boost At­lanta’s pedes­trian/street cul­ture, but the trend in de­vel­op­ment is “ur­ban cam­puses” such as At­lantic Sta­tion and Ponce City Mar­ket. Th­ese cen­tral­ized hubs of “city life” that most peo­ple drive to (in­clud­ing the BeltLine it­self ) are chic, but they are far from the best ver­sion of At­lanta. Ryan Lee is an At­lanta writer.

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