Why I see drivers as the bad guys #5482

Photo of parked cars completely blocking footpathPhoto of parked cars completely blocking footpathThe people who parked here, completely blocking the footpath, did not think they did anything wrong. After all, there’s nowhere else to park, or maybe there is but you’d then have to walk far (more than five metres) to get to your destination. Either way, convenience or need was considered greater than the law.

Maybe it sounds melodramatic, but the fact is that the rights of pedestrians were considered and deemed to be secondary in importance to the desire of the driver. More likely, these rights didn’t even occur to the driver – they are that unimportant. When you behave this way, when you think this way, you send a clear message to pedestrians: they are, in your eyes, second class.

As long as drivers unthinkingly, and no doubt in most cases unintentionally send this message, people will rather choose to drive than walk. That makes drivers the bad guys: their behaviour encourages ever more driving, ever dirtier air, streets ever more clogged with traffic.

Drivers need to be held accountable when they do this sort of thing, which is unbelievable common where I live. Unfortunately, the reality is that as with so many bad guys in the movies, drivers are in practice above the law.


Why I see drivers as the bad guys #5481

If someone urged you to break a law, what would you do? In Ireland, you’re expected to be delighted. Today I learned that if you’re not delighted and compliant, you are punished.

About twenty minutes ago, our dog Adam and I waited for the pedestrian signal at the busy crossing coming out of our local park. A waiting driver hooted. I looked over, and he motioned that I should cross the road – against the red pedestrian light. I shook my head to show I was not going to do that, and at that moment, the pedestrian signal turned green. As we always do since Adam almost got run over by a driver jumping a red light, I even then checked carefully that there were no cars coming before starting to cross the road. I shook my head at the driver before crossing: really, people should not try to intimidate others into breaking the law. So far, not exactly pleasant but not harmful.

Except that the driver was not satisfied with me not obeying his command. As I walked, he started moving his car forward into the double white lines that mark the pedestrian crossing. So much so that I had to veer away so as not to be bumped into. By the time I was on the other side, and looked back, he had moved his car right over the pedestrian lines.

I often wonder if it sounds exaggerated when I say that the situation on Irish (and many other countries’) roads is a classic powerful/power-poor model. Members of the stronger group use bullying behaviour, then blame the victims when they get called on it. This is true for men/women, able-bodied/disabled, white/black. Much can be said about the fascinating and complicated consequences and effects, but in our situation, the bullying, entitled behaviour of driver/non-driver dynamics means people choose not to walk or cycle. It makes perfect sense: why on earth would you willingly choose to join the weaker group?

We ideally need completely segregated cycle infrastructure, but this is at best decades if not a century or more away. In the meantime, even when cycle lanes are available, even when they’re segregated, motorists’ attitude of owning the road and merely tolerating non-drivers is literally and figuratively toxic. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve seen cars and vans parked even in lanes that are separated by kerbs or poles. If I had to photograph every car that parks on footpaths every day just within, say, a kilometre of my house, it would be a considerable task. If the council were to actually fine these people, they’d have more than enough money to fund the cycle infrastructure development we need to make cycling in Dundalk truly viable, ie. separate from traffic.

But motorists continue to act like gods because they are treated that way. People are often nonplussed or condescending if you don’t just bow your head and drag your bicycle around, or step into the road and walk around their precious car squatting in the cycle lane or on the footpath.  In Ireland, “But there is nowhere else to park” is considered a legitimate excuse for ignoring laws. I’m waiting for the day when someone gets stabbed, and the murderer claims they had nowhere else to put their knife, so everyone just kind of looks elsewhere and starts talking about the weather, while the dead body is discreetly pushed out of the way.

This morning’s driver is not the first I’ve encountered who does this thing, of moving their car forward as you cross the road at a pedestrian crossing. It happens a lot. This is the first time, though, that the aggression was so blatant that had I not moved, the car would have physically bumped into me. It’s usually more psychological intimidation than actual possible harm.

I considered taking a photo of the offender, but I was too scared. This was an older white man, and a driver who displayed open aggression to me. The chances were very good that he’d have done something more serious, because pitted against him, I’m not only a woman vs a man, and a pedestrian vs a driver, but also likely an immigrant vs a local. What would the point be, anyway? Drivers are above the law in Ireland, and I’ve given up on trying to act as if they aren’t. I now rather behave in such a way that I stay safe, and make plans to move elsewhere, with my degree and my earning (and tax paying) potential, to a country where I don’t have to be nervous and on guard every time I go out my front door.

Actually, we do own the roads

I saw a tweet yesterday about a discussion on Radio 4 that smacks of desperation to please gods manage to struggle into controversy somehow and sup on the sweet nectar of fleeting attention. Listening to the drivel was more than I could bear, so I just read a report. Basically, some poor soul called Angela Epstein cast doubt on my understanding of the word “journalist” by trotting out tired cliches about how cyclists are all evil law-haters covered in lycra:

…cyclists are unaccountable in law and shouldn’t ride on the roads because one red light jumper could have “catastrophic” consequences…

Then I remembered that there is a difference between journalist as in folks like Glenn Greenwald, and journalist as in folks like Katie Hopkins. The former are people who pursue the truth and report it because they have real talent and a real calling. The latter swim the sewers in search of a funny-shaped turd they can hold up in triumph, screaming at everyone to look because they’ve found the holy grail.

The turd in question here is a problem entirely constructed out of thin air: if dear Angela is so keen to see possible red light jumpers banned from the roads because their possible red light jumping can have catastrophic consequences, she should start with the red light jumpers in control of two-tonne+ killing machines, where the consequences of their stupidity is usually borne by others.

The report also features a hero, in the form of Ned Boulting.

The Tour de France presenter also took issue with Epstein’s claim cyclists have a sense of entitlement.AdTech Ad

He said: “Of course they are, because they’re entitled to use the roads.”

And that’s the clincher, isn’t it?

All of the ridiculous spittle-flying nonsense that’s so often flung at cyclists is more applicable to motorists by miles. We don’t even have to go farther than the end of the same article for evidence. I’ll take a moment here to just finish another unbelieving laugh before sharing this with you. As far as I can tell, the caller quoted is not a comedian taking the piss, but wouldn’t it be a great joke if it was?

One Surrey resident referred to a rapid growth in cycling “overtaking” the roads on Sundays, with driving very difficult.

Are you shitting me right now, dear Surrey Resident? Have you ever tried to cycle on, say, ANY ROAD ANYWHERE IN BRITAIN OR IRELAND? Probably not. If you had, you might have noticed that cars have “overtaken” the roads, sometimes making cycling very difficult. Really, I promise this is true. Trot over to the nearest road and count how many cars and trucks pass by in the course of a day, and how many bicycles. Who’s “overtaking” the roads again, you say?

He said some residents are too scared to drive on Sundays because the roads are so packed with people on bikes.

Yes. The people in two-tonne+ padded metal boxes, insulated from outside sounds, on comfortable, soft seats, with airbags and seat belts – they’re terrified of the maybe 80kg cyclist on the 10kg bicycle. What monsters we cyclists are. We are of course responsible for most road deaths… oh, no, wait, that’s cars. They’re the top killers of their own drivers as well as the top cause of death for pedestrians and cyclists. Winners of the prize of #1 killer among young adults overall, too. But hey, let’s add a scary cyclist to the Halloween House of Horrors, because they’re sooooo terrifying.

Resident Martin Williams told the programme only a few cyclists were causing problems, such as littering, using hedges as toilets, using bright lights and acting aggressively, but most were well-behaved.

Yes, Martin, but guess what: not only a few drivers cause problems, at least where I live. Many of them do. I see a thousand cars parked on footpaths and cycle lanes for every cyclist I see doing some stupid idiot thing, and if we add stuff like jumping red lights and other traffic infringements, that ratio rockets probably towards 10,000 drivers I see doing stupid shit for every cyclist I see joining their ranks in idiocy.*

But you know what, overall the bottom line is screw you, anyone who grumbles that cyclists act like they own the roads. It’s paid for out of our taxes – all of our taxes: mine, and yours. The penalty you pay in the form of motor tax for your car’s spewing of carbon into the atmoshpere is the least you can do to compensate for filthing up the air we all have to breathe. So we do own the roads, and it’s time you copped on and stopped acting as if we don’t.

*Numbers given are not based on controlled observation and may suffer from slight exaggeration caused by aggravation. In all seriousness, though, I will not be surprised if they are close to accurate.

Pedals of Doom

I’m on the Dundalk Institute of Technology campus, and there’s a huge Road Safety Authority truck outside. They have a cool machine that allows you to sit in a car which they then rotate to show people a slowed-down version of what it feels like when a car rolls, to emphasise the necessity of seat belts.

They also have a poster there aimed at putting everyone but the brave off cycling    promoting the idea that if cyclists get hurt, it must be their fault because if you dress like a clown and wear a ridiculous hat it will magically make the 87% of cyclist deaths that are solely caused by motorists disappear promoting safe cycling.

I am not shitting you, this is the poster they are using:

ridiculous scaremongering cycling poster

The caption for that might as well be


Stupid idiots.

Update: Fixed it for them!


What’s happening, Britain?

Yesterday morning, I caught a snippet of Sky News’ breakfast barfing, specifically where a few people for some reason deemed to be worth listening to, spewed their opinions on the day’s news. They were musing the news that net migration had reached record numbers in the UK. One of the revered commenters talked of the cost of various options for handling the situation. In his conclusion, delivered in a kind of indignant tone, he used the phrase:

…to get rid of them!

On the same day, another phenomenon in Britain was discussed: the fact that a few thousand people in receipt of benefits died within a year of being declared fit for work and therefore no longer eligible for benefits. A personal story gives insight into how this works: you’re declared fit for work, pointed to a spectacularly difficult process for appealing this decision, then blamed if you can’t manage it.

There are two possible reasons for this: either those who designed this system are so far removed from reality that they cannot grasp that those vulnerable enough to need the support will be those least likely to be equipped to handle difficult demands, or the system was specifically designed to accomplish what is happening. When you look at other cases of sanctions for job seekers’ benefit claimants, this second possibility starts sounding less and less far-fetched.

Combine this intentional culling of the poor, with the fact that it’s clearly acceptable on mainstream television in the UK to talk about human beings the same way you would talk about cockroaches, and you have circumstances that tick some of the boxes that were ticked in the runup to some of the most infamous genocides in history. Add to that the desire of Britain to shed the shackles of human rights standards accepted and striven for by most of the civilised world, and you have reason to be extremely concerned.

The Donald solution

From where I’m sitting, one of the best things that can happen to the USA is for Donald Trump to become the Conservative candidate for the presidency. There could be no better way to really force the GOP to rethink their identity, which is anti-poor, anti-black, anti-woman. I generally like the Democrats, but they’re not perfect by a long shot, and with absolute power comes absolute corruption. They need competition.

I wish even more fervently that the USA would weaken to the point where we can disinfest the world of its toxic infiltration (and here). Until we can give a polite “Hmm,” in response to their political shenanigans and move on to the next news item, though, what they do, who governs them etc. is relevant even to those who strive to avoid them as much as is humanly possible while continuing a normal, modern life.

Roll on, Donald. You may be just what America needs. And in the highly unlikely event that your face as face of the GOP leads to your face being the face of the USA, maybe that will horrify the world enough to accelerate the move away from the US being self-appointed international policeman, while setting an example of more or less everything every citizen of the world should hope their country does not become.

Go away, we don’t want your money

There’s a stationer’s shop up the road that must be inundated with students at certain times of the year, printing out their single businesscard, their single letterhead, and single compliments slip for their Multimedia Tools & Techniques projects. It must be frustrating, dealing with these small little jobs that net you as little as 15c. So they did something logical. They instituted a minimum charge of a euro. This is fair enough, so I continue to take my business there and we all live happily ever after.

Actually, they didn’t. They informed me, the last time I went there, that any print job to the value of less than 3 euro incurs a euro handling fee. In other words, instead of the customer saying: “Fair enough, you charge a minimum of two euro,” the customer says: “Oh, really? You’ve instituted a punishment for those daring to spend less than 3 euro on a print job?” Because that handling fee means a print job of 2.95 will cost you 3.95, but a job worth 5c more will cost you 95c less. It genuinely comes down to a fine for needing a print job worth less than 3 euro.

We’re talking piddling amounts here, and I really can understand why they need to charge a minimum fee. I can even understand why they might want to scare away those one-page-please students, who clog the little shop with queues at finals time and probably cause inconvenience for higher paying customers. But give me twenty seconds, and I can think of three better ways to handle the situation, better ways to phrase the minimum charge so it doesn’t come across as a snotty punishment for small spenders. The impression they’ve now created – that they are turning their noses up at small-job-customers rather than just instituting a fair minimum fee, that they are effectively fining those who dare to ask them to print only a few pages – means when I had a bigger job yesterday, I took it to a different printer.

If you don’t want my business, don’t worry. I’ll take it elsewhere.