Where I ride
Laval, QC, August 2009
About this photo: Every week, Thematic Photographic, our recurring photo participation challenge/activity, gets a new theme. I thought I'd launch this week's theme, perspective, with a bit of a backstory. Here goes...Perspective is a funny thing. Some of us choose to be somewhat empathetic in our dealings with others, doing our best to at least try to see things from an opposing position. Some of us, unfortunately, do not. We instead content ourselves by intensely focusing on our own two cents, convincing ourselves after relentless self-repetition that we're absolutely right, they're absolutely wrong, and it's ridiculous that they fail to appreciate the brilliance of our position.
The barbs have been flying fast and furious since Ontario's former Attorney General, Michael Bryant, got involved in a violent downtown Toronto exchange with Darcy Allan Sheppard, a 33-year-old bike courier. When it was all over, Mr. Sheppard was dead - apparently after being dragged beside Mr. Bryant's convertible - and Mr. Bryant was charged with criminal negligence causing death. As I alternately use motorized four-wheeled and pedal-powered two-wheeled vehicles to get around town, I find it interesting to see how polarizing the debate has become in the wake of this avoidable tragedy.*
In a nutshell, cyclists blame motorists, motorists blame cyclists and neither side seems willing to appreciate the perspective of the other. So the anarchy - along with the occasional senseless injury and death - continues. Here's where I sit:
- Everyone's capable of being an idiot. There are just as many stupid motorists as there are stupid cyclists, and there's no shortage of stupidity no matter how many wheels you're riding. For every cyclist who ignores stop signs and red lights, rides on the sidewalk, speeds down the wrong side of the road and dodges suicidally between stopped traffic, there's a motorist madly texting while driving, squeezing cyclists off the road just because, or throwing something at a two-wheeler, also just because. Many cyclists think they're above the law, while many motorists think cyclists don't belong on the road.
- Stereotypes aren't universal. I cringe every time someone says "all motorists are insane" and "every cyclist is a scofflaw." In reality, the roads are filled with all types of folks, and painting any one group with a broad brush does us no favors. Were motorists or cyclists definable ethnic groups, they'd call that racism. Either way, I've had the pleasure of encountering delightfully cyclist-friendly, attentive motorists as well as rule-following, hyper-responsible cyclists.
- Cars always win at the physics game. In the event of a close encounter, the consequences to cyclists are almost inevitably much worse than those for a motorist. Two tons of glass and steel vs. a 175-pound rider on a 30-pound bike pretty much guarantees the motorist will win every time. I've been on the receiving end of a car's grille, and miraculously walked away from the experience. Not fun. So even if the motorist is completely wrong and the cyclist is absolutely right, the right thing to do when you're on a bike is to let it go. If you're dead and right, you're still dead.
- The rules need to apply to everyone. Those cyclists who cruise sidewalks or blow red lights? Charge them. They're vehicles, after all. So why cops don't routinely haul these morons over and hand out big and fat tickets is beyond me. The additional revenue in city coffers would be a nice side benefit.
- Some people need to learn to share. Motorists need to accept the right of responsible cyclists to use the road. Unprompted honking, cutting off, yelling and harassment should result in tickets and charges. No exceptions.
- Urban design needs a re-think. Cities are built around cars, which makes the layout necessarily hostile to anyone not driving such a vehicle. Cyclists, pedestrians and everyone in between are all forced to dodge the almighty car. Motorists, even if they're inclined to look out for cyclists, often have difficulty doing because of the way roads are laid out. As an experiment, try this: Walk from your house to the nearest Wal-Mart or similar big box store. Try to remember the experience in detail, including what the roads were like, what it was like to traverse the massive pedestrian-unfriendly parking lot, the whole nine yards. I'll bet you won't try it again soon.
Your turn: Thematic Photographic is fairly simple and fun, and I hope you'll take part. All you have to do it take a picture reflective of this week's theme, then share it. In this case, perspective can be optically tangible, or it can be a little more topically abstract. The fun lies in how you choose to interpret it. Once you've got your pic, post it to your blog, then come back here and leave the link in a comment. If you're new to TP, read on...
- Every Wednesday evening, at precisely 7 o'clock Eastern, I post a new Thematic Photographic entry.
- Each entry has a unique theme. This week's is...perspective!
- You post a similarly themed image over on your blog.
- You paste a link to your entry in a comment here.
- If you've already posted something that fits (on a blog, Facebook, MySpace, wherever) simply post the link to the existing entry. Old or new, all photos are welcome.
- You may post as many photos or links as you wish. For the next week, I'll be supporting this theme with a related picture/posting each day. I encourage you to do the same. This is all about sharing, so feel free to share to your heart's content!
- Please share this link with friends, too, and encourage them to join in. The more, the merrier.
- And please accept my thanks for your enthusiasm. Your participation has made TP a true highlight for me each and every week.