Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Thematic Photographic 65 - Perspective

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.
They may not like each other all that much, but motorists and cyclists need to learn to get along. The alternative - namely more senseless deaths like Mr. Sheppard's - isn't acceptable. Neither is the status quo on our roads. By adopting a somewhat more evolved perspective toward the needs of others, we may yet manage to improve matters. Needless to say, I won't be holding my breath that either side will learn from this experience. So the stupidity continues.

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.
*We'll debate the specifics of the Bryant-Sheppard case another time. There's enough lionizing and demonizing of both parties happening in both conventional and social media circles now that I'd rather just stay out of it entirely. The courts will figure it out eventually, but in the interim we'll all still have to get along on the roads. Hence my attempt to share some perspective here.


smarmoofus said...

I love that point! "Cars always win at the physics game." That's why I can't be a cyclist, as much as I appreciate the ecological arguments in support of it. I lost much of my sense of balance about a decade ago to a (benign) brain tumor, so I do not ride. But I am hyper-vigilant when anybody smaller than me is around while I'm driving. I don't think I could live with the knowledge that I caused someone serious injury.

My "perspective" photo is up...

Canadian Mark said...

Wonderful analysis of the situation "Everyone's capable of being an idiot." I love it, and I couldn't agree more.

I also enjoy the different levels in which your photo ties in. I'm going to have to think a bit before posting this weeks TP. I see much potential with this one.

I'll be back.

Anonymous said...

Everyone is indeed capable of being an idiot. And it may be your right-of-way, but if it isn't given to you, it isn't yours... esp. if it is a pedestrian or bicyclist vs. a motor vehicle. *sigh*

Mine is up:

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

I posted tonight about today's bike ride.

For the record, Idaho or Iowa has passed this nifty law -- since the law of the road was written for cars and not bikes -- where a stop sign is to be treated (by cyclists) as a yield and a red light as a stop sign. When there's no cars around, that's what I hold to around here -- it's too hilly to do otherwise.

And yes, I wear my Road ID. Just in case.

Canadian Mark said...

Okay, done. Here's mine.

Mojo said...

Easier said than done Carmi. Handing out big fat tickets to cyclists who blow off traffic laws is a a nice plan in theory. But while cars always win at the physics game, cycles always win at the agility game. Meaning "you have to catch them first" and as easily as they disappear by accident, disappearing with intent isn't a great leap. Further, since cycles aren't -- in most jurisdictions in the US at least -- licensed or registered and require no driver's license it's not as simple as pulling over a car and running a plate to find out who you're ticketing. Additionally, a significant percentage of cyclists are those either too young for a driver's license or who have had theirs revoked or suspended. so while ticketing scofflaw cyclists is a great idea, it's practically unenforceable.

And since we're on the topic, the argument that cyclists have just as much right to the road as motorists is at least slightly flawed -- at least in most jurisdictions in the States. Motorists pay registration fees and vehicle taxes, and in some cases road use taxes and even fuel taxes in order to help maintain the road system. And as we've just discussed, the same laws don't apply equally to both groups.

In short, we cannot achieve equality between the two, but it may be possible to achieve some sort of equity if both groups are reasonable enough. There aren't many of them, but there are a few bike lanes in my town. All posted as No Parking zones during certain hours (mainly hours when the schoolkids would be using them for their commutes). Given sufficient space and some white paint, more of these can be marked off, but even then cycles don't easily mesh into the traffic pattern. That is, a cycle legally in the bike lane gets creamed because he's in the blind spot of a car making a legal right hand turn across the bike lane. Who's at fault here? Better question, who's maimed or dead here?

But I've already considered your experiment when I contemplated converting to pedal power to get to work. And realized very quickly that my life expectancy would plummet if I made that move.

Unfortunately I don't have an answer that will satisfy both groups and be cost effective enough to actually implement. But I do have a photo. (You knew I would didn't you?) Though I went with something a bit more literal and a lot less dramatic.

Thematic Photographic 65: "Perspective" v.1.0 - Just Like They Taught Us In Drafting Class

Photo By Manka, Sweden said...

Great view.

Mine perpective is upp.

amanda said...

I am up here, hope you enjoy!

amanda@moorebloglife said...

WOW what a theme and what a story, a very sad one too Carmi. It always angers me how pedestrians are treated by car users but then again pedestrians can be a pain in the butt too especially in Tenterden our nearest town we have two crossings and no one uses them!

Here is My Perspective

Anonymous said...

My favorite line was "Everyone's capable of being and idiot" So true. :) Mine's up HERE said...

I did a version 2 on a review of a festival I just got back from.

Here is My Perspective of Greenbelt Festival

Elisabeth said...

Carmi, thank you for sharing this information. Food for thought.

I took the painter's route as used in still life photography. Here is mine:

Melli said...

Ohhhh and you didn't even add motorcycles into the bucket! You know... it really all boils down to PEOPLE just need to RESPECT other people. No matter what your driving, riding, or the color of skin, or what language you speak... just follow the Golden Rule! Do unto others as you would have done unto you. *nods*

Mine's UP! It's silly this week!

hapzydeco said...

Urban design needs to re-think. Wonder if the architects of Citi Field envisioned young fans watching a different game than the one of the diamond.

Julie said...

Riding my bike as often as I do I watch traffic carefully and follow the same rules as I would with a car. But I don't see many of the car drivers doing the same. Love bike paths, safer for us all. My shot is up.

Marie said...

I can imagine you crawling there to get this super shot on perspective. Like it a lot!

Vita Stunder said...

Love your point Carmi and your shot!

My first version is up.
Have a great friday :)


Artlover said...

What depth it is in the picture. Great view. I like that. I love wide angle.
Mine is up now

me said...

My 4 year old is learning to ride a bike now. Carmi whip "them" into shape so I don't have to worry about him will ya?

Mine's up:

Nej said...

I didn't think I had anything to submit for these weeks' theme....but it occurred to me, today, that I did.

Unknown said...

That's a tragic story. I doubt Mr. Sheppard thought it might be his last day on earth when he got on his bike that morning. Angry people in cars are dangerous. People on bikes - angry or not - are very fragile.

I live near Seattle, which for the most part is a very pedestrian and bicycle friendly city. This very topic is a frequent subject on NPR .... always trying to figure out how to make it a better co-existence.

The points you make are excellent.

momemts in time said...

Finally... here are my perspective images.

Heather said...

I have a really late entry this week, but I took some photos on Labor Day and had one that I really wanted to enter :)

Boat Perspective