Monday, November 2, 2015

Share The Road!

I reside in a small-big town in the Midwest. Small enough to run into people you know at the grocery store or walking down the street. But large enough to boast at least 4 McDonald's and a few places you can blend in and disappear to when you want some quiet anonymity.

Recently my small-big town added bike lanes to its streets. They are highly confusing things believe me.

Sometimes there is a line with a symbol beside it.

At first I mistakenly thought the lane "lined off" was the bike lane. Silly me. Here I am riding along merrily in my own little world, protected from those mean old cars ... until I nearly ran into a parked car. Oops.

Point of Order: Why do you need a line if the symbol already indicates that a bike should be riding on the right hand side of the road. Don't bikers ALWAYS ride on the right hand side anyway and don't bikers know to avoid parked cars?

Other times there are two  lines with a slightly different symbol inside it. In these instances, I now understand a bike is to be ridden within the confines of those two parallel lines. And now a once two lane road is classified as a one lane car road and one lane bike road.

Point of Order: If there is no bike in that lane, can a car drive in it? Can I pass on the right? And what happens when I need to turn? Do I turn from the outer lane? Isn't that a no no?

Hence ... the confusion.

Along with the paint job came numerous signs warning bikers to stay off the sidewalks in the downtown area. They site the City Code. Isn't that friendly? But I get it. I understand the "why." Some busy shopper is walking out of a store and a bike slams into them, the rider oblivious with earbuds blaring music from their iPhone into their heads. Perhaps some innocent diner with a carry-out box gets lambasted by a racing bike. Ouch! Or someone scrolling through their contact list to send a text and not paying attention is greeted by screeching bike wheels.

I understand the why ... it just all seems extreme and unnecessary and government getting involved in what SHOULD be common sense.

Yeah, I said it. "Should."

Sigh.

Bikes and Cars have ridden on streets together for years. We have somehow managed to share the road. Oh there are instances of accidents. People can be careless. People can make mistakes. People can make bad decisions. But, we survived without the lines.

People and bikers have navigated sidewalks together too. Bikes have ridden down sidewalks to avoid the traffic and the drivers backing out of parking spaces. Drivers chatting on cell phones or just not looking behind them very well. I mean, backing out of parking spaces is hazardous enough without tossing a bike into the mix ...

But that's what we've done now. The bike lane downtown resides right behind those parked cars ,,,

My small-big town has invested quite a bit of cash into these painted white lines, symbols and signs. I honor and respect the leaders of this small-big town. I consider more than one of these leaders to be a good friend of mine. And I truly believe these leaders get up each day and work for the betterment of my small-big town. I believe and honor their efforts and good intentions.

But bike lanes and signs make me sad. They tell me that signs were needed because people don't know how to share ... how to pay attention and look out for others ... how to look beyond their dashboard -- or bike helmet -- and SEE.

For some, the lessons of Sharing taught in Kindergarten didn't stick. As drivers and bikers need special lanes and signs, other people need expensive and often ugly signs by the side of the road to tell them DO NOT LITTER. (Obviously the people who litter can't read since there is a lot of litter by the side of the road.)  There are even people who make special rules to not use the main staircase or instruct the people using their space to take a back entrance (to feel control maybe?) and maintain the integrity of a facility they manage. They need to separate instead of integrate. For some reason, power and separation have meaning to them.

I wonder how these people did on the playground ... did they share the sandbox? Or did they divide and make rules to put others in a different place.

I am sorry we need painted bike lanes, signs and special rules to tell people to be considerate of others. I am sorry people feel a need to separate or hold themselves higher than others and thus make people around them feel small. I'm sorry we can't all play in the same sandbox and appreciate the uniqueness of each other ... and honor and celebrate the fact that we aren't all the same. I'm sorry that we didn't all learn the value and joy of true sharing.

Too bad there are people out there who didn't read Robert Fulgrum's All I Needed To Know I Learned in Kindergarten. It's not too late ...

Because if they did ... and they truly understood and embraced the message in that poem, we could spend our small-big town money on park care or improvement or road repairs or other welcoming, friendly small-big town stuff. We could enjoy the main staircase and have fun together instead of feeling misunderstood or hostile or frustrated. We could play in the sandbox together and just enjoy the toys.

But we have bike lanes ... Just what does that say?                                                                                                                                                                                 -- Jenni