When did it become so difficult for people to just stop? Everyone is always in a rush to cram more doing into his/her day, and as a result society is growing increasingly impatient. This has long been affecting how people conduct themselves behind the wheel, and that has in turn made it increasingly difficult (and dangerous) to be a cyclist or pedestrian.
More often than not, I ride my bicycle. It saves me the aggravations (delays, crowds, smells, et cetera) of public transportation and the hope-crushing experiences of sitting in my car in standstill traffic or circling endlessly for a parking spot. However, for me at least, cycling in New York City is mostly an exercise in fear management. And most of my fears would be greatly lessened if drivers would just stop.
Stop texting and driving. Seriously. Keep your eyes on the road while your massive momentum machine is moving. Given all the j-walkers (many pushing strollers) one encounters on a regular basis, why would you assume the road ahead is and will remain clear? Are you texting and cycling? You’re an even bigger idiot, because the greater damage done will probably be done to you if there’s an accident.
Stop not stopping and not yielding (which, by the way, means stopping for whomever has the right of way). It seems stop signs have effectively become yields, and yield signs now seem to mean, “You yield, because I’m not willing to even if I’m supposed to.”
Apparently, no one wants to brake anymore. Most would rather honk their horn than allow any obstacle in the road to slow them down—even if what’s in the way is a person. Remember, just because you have the right of way, doesn’t mean you have the right to hit someone.
Just yesterday I saw a cyclist almost hit a pedestrian who’d carelessly walked into the bike lane without looking. Yes, the pedestrian should have been more considerate or careful, but the cyclist was also wrong. The pedestrian hadn’t sprung into the bike lane without warning. There was time for the cyclist to stop politely. But he simply felt so entitled to his right of way that he wasn’t willing to stop, even if it meant coming thisclose to hitting someone. I see cars do a similar thing all the time; they use their horns when they should be using their brakes.
Stop inching through the crosswalk when you’re supposed to be stopped at a red light. Why? Because that’s the space saved for the safety of pedestrians. And even if there are no pedestrians in sight, your car is still supposed to be behind the stop line. (Sigh.)
Now this assumes that the driver stops at the red light to begin with, because an increasing number of motorists are ignoring red lights altogether. It is as though their feet are becoming paralyzed while pressing the gas pedal. It’s no longer that drivers take their chances and run red lights because they are hoping for the blessed long yellow. I am now seeing drivers approach and defiantly drive through red lights as if they aren’t there or as if (and worse) they are green.
Stop honking at the car(s) in front of you as soon as the light turns green. Because chances are the driver ahead of you did not have his/her reflexes wirelessly linked with the network of traffic lights so that the very instant a light turns green he/she is able to not just start to push, but already be pushing the gas pedal. Perhaps you are one of the lucky few who has received this green-light-go-now-right-now implant, but most are not. It takes a few seconds (and since when did a few seconds become an unendurable eternity?) to see the light turn green, lift one’s foot up off the brake, and put it down on the gas to gradually build up speed. It takes a few seconds, okay!?
Now, I don’t want you to think I lack compassion. I know stopping is hard—especially in a fast-paced city like New York. Stopping takes patience and consideration, and those are waning commodities now. This stopaphobia epidemic has gotten so bad that in some acute cases drivers are unable to pull over for emergency vehicles and honk when traffic officers are superseding the traffic lights.
Now, to be fair, there are a few for whom stopping isn’t a problem. Some drivers stop all the time. Unfortunately, they’re not always rational, thoughtful, or safe with regards to where and how they stop. They stop wherever they want—never mind if it means obstructing a traffic or bicycle lane. Never mind the fact that all too often there is an open space not far away that they could pull into and thereby not interrupt the flow of traffic.
The worst offenders are cab drivers. Why? It’s the hypocrisy of it. Cabs wait for no one. Try and make a cab stop behind you, and you’ll hear them compose a symphony on their horn. But as unwilling as a cab driver is to be stopped unexpectedly, he or she has no scruples when it comes to inflicting such delays upon others. They will stop in a bike lane. They will stop in the middle of a one-way street, making the road completely impassable until they’ve moved on. If it means getting another passenger, they will cross two lanes of traffic and stop practically perpendicular to the curb.
Sometimes I wish I could be an undercover traffic officer. Sometimes I wish that there were something like a citizen’s citation (think citizen’s arrest for parking/moving violations). I’d love to give a ticket to one of those careless jerks who can’t stop texting while driving or stop driving for a red light or stop sign. I’d love to see to it that drivers who bully bicycles are penalized.
So please, on behalf of all us cyclists and pedestrians who would like to cycle/walk through the city without being in constant fear of being hit, just stop. Stop doing what you shouldn’t be doing while you’re also driving your car. You’re not the distracted driving exception. And stop—literally. Stop for red lights and stop signs, and stay stopped until you have a green light or the right of way. And if you have the right of way but someone is in your way, have a bit of patience, keep your temper in check, and just stop. Are you really willing to risk hurting someone (or yourself) just to prove a point? Is putting yourself and others in danger worth the few seconds you’ll save? The answer is no, it isn’t. Just stop.