2008-07-10

us versus them

I always find it interesting how eager people are to set themselves up against other people.

There's been a bunch of hubbub in the Portland media about a drunk bicyclist who attacked a driver with his bike, after the bicyclist had run a red light and the driver pointed it out to him (I think at the next light).

Let me just start by saying, the whole situation is stupid. The biker should never have run a red light. The driver probably should have just let it go. The biker certainly shouldn't have attacked anyone.

That being said, there's a lot of stuff going back and forth like "all bicyclists are stupid and none of them obey traffic laws and they should all be run off the roads." as well as retorts of a similar nature from bicyclists to drivers. The media as well is taking great effort to make it a cyclist versus driver scenario, to make a dramatic story about how cyclists and drivers are always at each others' throats and never get along and all that.

The fact is, the issue here has nothing to do with bicyclists or drivers. There are a lot of bicyclists who don't obey all the traffic laws (stop signs being a major one) - however, I would venture to say that there are quite a few drivers who also don't have much regard for stop signs, red lights, etc.

When I'm driving, I'm often frustrated by bikes not stopping at stop signs and just flying through intersections or weaving in between cars.

As a biker or pedestrian, I'm often frustrated by drivers who will go through a red light even though it turned red three cars ahead of them, or by drivers who don't look before turning or changing lanes and nearly hit me.

As a bicyclist or driver, I'm often frustrated by pedestrians who rush out into traffic without looking, who just mill around on a corner and you're not sure what they're doing, etc.

There are people who are more prone than average to do stupid things, be angry, conniving, malicious, etc scattered throughout any possible categorization of humanity, and they will always pop up and make whatever category they have been placed in look bad. You can't assume that because a single cyclist was drunk and attacked someone, that all cyclists are drunken assholes. You also can't assume that because a driver intentionally ran down a bicyclist that all drivers are out to get bikers. This applies to all areas of life - it's dangerous and unfair to take one example (or even a few) from a given group of people, and use that example to label all of them.

Another good thing to think about, is the fact that people do these kinds of things. People sometimes don't follow rules, they are sometimes inconsiderate, they often think of themselves before anyone else. That includes me, and it includes you. So, before we go grouping people and deriding the whole bunch of them, please stop and remember that. What someone else does may be to a certain degree worse that what you do, or it may be a more socially unacceptable issue, but the plain fact is, you and me are both selfish and arrogant and inconsiderate an awful lot as well. So let's not be too quick to make everyone else look like the evil ones.

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