“There’s A Better Side- It’s Coming.”

A couple of years ago I wrote a blogpost on my feelings following a terrible and completely senseless road fatality in Invercargill.

It was so great, then to read this story about a young man

who was lucky to survive one of those dreadful youth road fatalities and who is making the most of the new life that he was he was confronted with. I have the utmost respect for this young man, despite the fact that at some stage in 2010 I would probably have had the most profound feelings of condemnation for his irresponsible actions, and held little respect for him as a human being. Chaz, you are, in the words of the popular TV ad against drink-driving, “LEGEND!”. I wish you all the very best in life and commend your story to other youth who find themselves at a potential cross-roads. We need more of you to hold up as examples of what can be achieved.

What saddens me, though is that it took the death of a mate for this young man to turn his life around.

ROAD RAGE

There can be no excuse for the extremes of ‘road rage‘. Even though a driver may feel exasperated, inconvenienced or even somewhat threatened it can never be justification for violence against the driver (or rider, or walker) who has supposedly caused the issue.

If I am inconvenienced by another on the road I will swear a bit or call the ‘other’ names (with appropriate expletive deleteds!) but I fall back on the advice my father gave me years (many years!) ago when I was learning to drive. He said “always treat everyone else on the road as an idiot,” and it would be uncharitable to beat up someone who fits that mould, now, wouldn’t it?

Obviously the answer to motorist-on-motorist road rage is developing patience and respect for other road users. Nothing is so important that it had to happen five minutes ago, no place you’re going to visit isn’t going to be there five minutes after you impatiently aim to be there, no job you have to do is any more important to you than the job I have to do is to me, and nothing about you or your life makes you any more deserving of a place on Earth, or on this road, than anybody else. (Of course closer attention to what’s happening around you couldn’t hurt either- the prime task when driving is driving and not attending to gadgets, passengers or presentation so if you’re one who does any or all of the above you probably deserve anything but approbation!)

I DO, however think that many cyclists who find themselves the target of aggression from drivers of vehicles can take sensible steps (cyclists/steps? -sorry!) to avoid such confrontation. Obviously keep as far left on the sealed shoulder as possible (even though some apologies must be made to cyclists for the atrocious condition of said shoulders on many roads throughout the land!) Cyclists should be aware that even though they have the same rights and privileges on our roads as licensed motorists they need to understand and accept that the pace that they achieve on the road can be an inconvenience issue for faster 4 (or more) -wheeled users. Nowadays motorists can be issued with infringement notices for travelling too slowly and creating a problem for other motorists, (and I can guarantee their speeds would be in excess of what cyclists manage) so in the interests of equity and fairness bikelists must ensure they don’t appear as a sudden obstruction which could cause the driver to take dangerous (to other vehicles) evasive action [I’m thinking particularly here about situations with limited visibility such as winding and narrow roads]. Finally, even though our gregariousness may bubble to the surface bike riders need to get into the habit of shouting conversations rather than riding several abreast in the interests of enabling chat-fests.

Now THIS is how to deal with annoying incidents on our roads- a tweet by someone I follow… “I look upon cycling favourably, but Mr LycraCycleWarrior – even YOU need to GIVE WAY on a single lane bridge to me as I had the white arrow.”

FLASHERS BEWARE!!!

There’s an interesting message in this story about a motorist who was stopped by a traffic patrol for giving an on-coming motorist a warning flash of his headlights. The reason he, and thousands of other Kiwi drivers flash their headlights at on-coming cars is to warn them of an approaching hazard, or a hidden cop or camera car just down the road just in case the on-coming car is going a bit quick. According to the letter of the law the practice is illegal and is labelled along the lines of ‘excessive’ or ‘inappropriate’ use of headlights. In this case- ‘Excessive’? Clearly not- he flashed once. ‘Inappropriate’? Arguably not when the effect will be to slow the on-coming vehicle down if they are indeed exceeding the speed limit.

What is the purpose of patrol cars and speed cameras? Surely it is to discourage drivers from speeding. So the job done by flashing drivers is exactly the same as patrols and cameras! Of course the police won’t subscribe to this but instead urge drivers to report excessive speed and/or dangerous driving. Why? Surely it gets away from the general purpose of slowing our driving public down and comes to what practices they can gather revenue from? Ticketing patrols and speed cameras! (…and flashing headlights?)

So this is where the interesting message comes in- the public are expected to abide by the law but are not expected to be proactive in prevention of others breaking it, but to be whistle-blowers instead. The police want Kiwi drivers to be law-abiding but don’t want them to encourage other Kiwi drivers to similarly stay within the law.

I would have thought that any actions that cause other drivers to do so responsibly would be encouraged.