Incidents #2 (Including the New Commuter Frustration)

Mission: To promote driving less so all may live more.

The New Commuter Frustration

In the previous Incidents #1, I led with a biking fatality. This time I’ll mend my ways and start out on a happier note, wrapping up with a pedestrian fatality. I’m sorry, but as a serious pedestrian (a luxury, I know, although I used to run 8 miles to work…so I’m not fully unqualified to speak)…ahem, as a serious pedestrian, I have a privileged point of view on how the tire and engine noise, size, and sheer mass of cars is disproportionate to the tiny beings they transport, insulating the beings from the true external effects of the vehicles. Ok, said that.

During the first covid19 surge last Spring, birds could be heard in cities, nature began to clap her hands, and self-propelled people breathed a sigh of relief. With this current surge, not so, at all. And, yes, the economy needs lots of people to commute to work and shop.

Happily, a new but different problem has arisen that belies a psychological demand, not an economic one. In a recent article in The Washington Post, we discover that,

Even when Shayne Swift works from home, the high school principal ends her day behind the wheel of her forest-green Jeep Liberty, chatting by phone with family and friends.
But Swift isn’t driving. Usually, she said, she sits parked in her driveway in Northwest Washington — the closest she often gets to something she has dearly missed during the pandemic: her commute.[1]

In the case of Shayne Swift, the psychological need for cars would be on my side. After all, cars are great as mini-houses that are probably safer than a huge home during a lightening storm. In addition, a few good speakers and a good stereo can sound better than much more expensive equipment in a big home.

The rest of the article details how some kind of distance (more temporal than spatial) is genuinely helpful to insulate people from feeling like captives either at home or at work. Walking from one’s bedroom to one’s study and back, along with the need to nurture children, just does not provide a break.

If sitting in one’s driveway is too conspicuous (to the family members), drive halfway around the block or to the neighborhood park. Want to use your cell phone in your car? This is the perfect way. Talk or text away. The American love affair with cars can be consummated safely, inexpensively, and with a small carbon footprint.

Another Obituary Item, Sorry to Report

The web site of the Denver television station KDVR reports that on January 19th, 2021, Chris Baker, 36, was crossing Federal near 70th when he was fatally hit by a car that promptly drove away. Fortunately for the wheels of justice, several people reported the driver’s identity to the police and he was later arrested.[2] The article continues, “The crash was the third hit-and-run on Federal Boulevard since the new year, and the second to turn deadly.”

The article goes on to quote Jill Locantore, who is with Denver Streets Partnership:

We know that this street is dangerous by design, and these deaths are going to continue to happen until we make changes to the street. . . . Every single traffic fatality, it’s not just a number, it’s a person, who had friends and family members who mourn that loss, and it just breaks my heart, because I know we can prevent that hurt from happening in our community.

The good news is that Denver Streets Partnership is a coalition looking out for the self-propelled. May they be blessed in their work.

Chris Baker
36-year old, Chris Baker

 

____Footnotes____

[1] Katherine Shaver, The Washington Post, PUBLISHED: Dec. 31, 2020: Months of pandemic teleworking have left some missing their commutes

[2] Victim identified in deadly Westminster hit-and-run

“Unsafe at Any Speed”—55th Anniversary

Mission: To promote driving less so all may live more.

In 1965, Ralph Nader published Unsafe at Any Speed, the book that tackled the unsafe practices of the auto industry and launched the modern consumer protection movement. This is a short post that recognizes the merits of Nader’s efforts.

Ralph-Nader-1975
Ralph Nader, 1975

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Who is Chris Boardman?

Mission: To promote driving less so all may live more.

For those who follow cycling, the answer is no doubt obvious, just as “Who is Frank Shorter?” would be for a runner.[1] But for me, Chris Boardman is a new-found national treasure, albeit one that belongs to Britain.

Chris Boardman
From the current home page of his web log: https://www.chrisboardman.com

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Incidents #1 (Boulder, Denver)

Mission: To promote driving less so all may live more.

The honeymoon is over: even a pandemic cannot clear the streets for long. I know, I know, it’s a sign that national economies are surviving. But, my, for those who spend most of their time on their feet or on their bikes, the quiet, clear streets were wonderful.

A couple of incidents have come to my attention lately: a bike fatality in Boulder and an apologetic driver in Denver.
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Man vs. Motorcycle

Mission: To promote driving less so all may live more.

Collision

My friend Charles visited Spain in 2016. On the evening of September 14th, he and his friend Robert were walking through Bilbao. They were in a densely packed area, crossing a cobblestone street. Robert was walking a few feet ahead. Suddenly, he saw a body come over his head and fall in front of him. It was Charles.
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The Most Dangerous Activity in which I Engage (guest post, Don Bushey)

Mission: To promote driving less so all may live more.

[Don Bushey, owner of Wilderness Exchange and, along those lines, quite active in rock climbing and skiing, wrote the following in an email.]

I honestly think that recreational road riding is the most dangerous activity I engage in—at least statistically this seems true. The main difference is that with the other dangerous things I do—rock climbing, backcountry skiing, and surfing—there are behaviors and actions that can minimize and reduce my risk. With road biking, it is entirely out of my control (except for wiping out), and getting hit by a car from behind is a purely objective danger. I should tell you sometime about my near death experience that I had on a road bike up Sunshine Canyon . . .

[So I asked for more, getting the account along with his theory of risk ~ Louis]
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Driving with a Distracted Mind

Mission: To promote driving less so all may live more.

Smart phone usage prompts this post. Nearly every driver knows the dangers, but not every driver feels the dangers. Hence the advantage of being a pedestrian. Frankly I’m surprised there are not more car-to-car, car-to-bike, and car-to-pedestrian collisions. The human body and mind are wonderfully made.

The underlying problem is of course distraction. Drivers were instructed to “keep your eyes on the road” long before the mobile phone. But somehow people like myself hone in on texting and map reading as the biggest threat.
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Best Cars to Get Hit By as a Pedestrian

Mission: To promote driving less so all may live more.

Today, we start with a quiz. What do these cars have in common?

  • Mazda CX-3
  • Volvo V40
  • Infiniti Q30
  • BMW Z4
  • Mazda MX-5

If you said they are the best cars for pedestrians to get hit by, you are fully woke.[1]
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Good News for Pedestrians and Bicyclists

Mission: To promote driving less so all may live more.

Below are some recent events that chip away at the disproportionate role of the automobile in Western society (and, technologically, almost all society is Western).

  • Everywhere: Protected bicycle lanes make even automobile drivers safer
  • Colorado: New legislation increases penalty for drivers who hit vulnerable individuals
  • Spain: People protest automobile pollution in Madrid

Protected Bike Lanes

As reported in “CU Denver Today” an extensive study recently concludes that adding protective bike lanes (i.e. lanes with a physical barrier, not just paint) to city streets not only makes the bicyclists safer but all the drivers safer.[1]

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