Friday, June 12, 2015

An Admittedly Stereotypical Vehicle Danger Index for Cyclists

Yes, it is mentally lazy to generalize in general and to stereotype in particular. We classify at our peril and much harm can come from reducing people to a simple "type" based on single traits.

That said, I have observed first hand certain patterns of behavior from drivers of different types of vehicles. That is not to say that everyone who drives a certain vehicle is destined to behave in a certain way, but most, or least many do. Some stereotypes contain grains of truth, but many thinkers remind us that though they may be true, they are also incomplete.

I'll grant you that. So consider this index/rant with the knowledge that there will be exceptions to the rule, drivers who defy the types presented here. From those drivers I ask pardon.

Here, in ascending order of danger to cyclists are my rankings of what to expect from drivers of the following vehicles.

10.) Subarus. Drivers of Subies tend to be polite to excess. They slow down for cyclists, roll down windows, wave, smile, and will even offer money or rides to stranded cyclists. Drivers of Subarus also seem to be suckers for lost causes. They display bumper stickers asking that we "Save the 13 Striped Mud Puppy From Evil Pit/Mountain Removal Poison Mines."

9.) The Toyota Prius. This driver is a close second to the Suby driver, but is often too consumed with stories on NPR or distracted by thoughts of their treatise on the sex lives of banana slugs to wave or offer rides or money. They will, however, offer up an absent-minded smile as they pass. Even the women seem to have nicely trimmed gray beards.

8.) Overloaded semis hauling copper ingots from the local smelter. These drivers will politely follow you up a steep grade at eight miles per hour until they can safely pass, taking up the entire oncoming lane, with deafening acceleration to ten miles an hour. My guess is that they are paid by the hour.

7.) Vehicles driven by other cyclists. These are usually recognizable by stickers, bike racks, neurotically meticulous maintenance, and good stereo systems. Why they are a "7" is because they are a little too comfortable cutting it close and passing at speed. They too much like going fast, but will thumbs up as they recede rapidly to the horizon.

6.) Delivery vans that do not allow cell phones. Drivers of these vans seem wide awake, focused on driving, and alert to your presence, but they are so bored by the lack of digital distraction that they hate you and the entire project of having to live without a screen. They scowl as they give you the legal three feet.

5.) Any group of teen-aged revelers. These sixteen-year-olds are still trying to be good drivers, but are so suffocated by peer pressure that they sometimes forget that other people use the road. Their transgressions into the bike lane are usually more about neglect than malice.

4.) One sorority girl driving her mother's Acura coupe.

3.) Two or more sorority girls in their father's BMW SUV. These vehicles pose real dangers, especially at stop signs, cross walks, or bike lanes near any university. These are seen as unnecessary distractions from the next texted "OMG!"

2.) Monster SUVs. Usually sporting Christian fishes or bumper stickers telling all to get right with God, these Chevy Suburbans see cyclists as morally bereft, not fast enough, or certainly not Christian. They belch exhaust and contempt and moral high ground as they take up every inch of road. (Jesus would not have driven a Suburban, and, if he did, he would take it easy and share the road, I think.)

1.) Dodge Dually-Wheeled pick-up trucks.  These drivers seem to delight in buzzing cyclists, driving with one wheel in the bike lane, cutting it really close, sending clouds of black, stinking diesel smoke in our direction as they send us the flying bird.

So there you have it. We cyclists have to share the road with these drivers, their personalities and tastes, and world-views as expressed by their rides. Of course, we drive too. I drive  a Subaru or a pick-up truck depending on my degree of anger at my fellow human. I try to be good, but am one of "those motorists."

And I know that the nicest person on Earth is out there in a Dodge pickup bearing no malice to anyone while he flaunts the bumper sticker "If you can't Dodge 'em, Ram 'em."

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