Good and bad driving all in your mind
A letter to the editor the other day questioning the recent bicycling event around Lake Tahoe made me wonder what the writer’s initials ” H.H. ” stand for. Hard-hearted, heavy-handed, Her Highness?
I have to admire her use of hyperbole to make a point, and she made a profound one when she asked, “If we are not responsible, who is?”
Hardly happy Horatio Hornblower I presume. Tahoe is no place for a motorist, bicyclist or pedestrian to be unhappy. I assume that H.H. was just a witness to the kind of driving she described, not an active participant.
I saw some vehicle code violations by motorists and cyclists that weekend, but did not witness near head-on collisions “every second,” clogged roadways and “havoc” like H.H. did, and I drove from the Truckee Airport to Ski Run Boulevard in South Lake Tahoe and back along the West Shore. There were thousands of bicyclists and a Renaissance Fair.
Why hurry? I had a wonderful time. It was an enjoyable challenge and test of my mental driving skills. The weather was perfect. I loved seeing so many p
eople out enjoying life.
Bicyclists have always had the legal right to use the roadway. Motorists should respect that right. This is America. We have, in this country, what true patriots call freedom of movement.
Dig it. It is one of our most treasured freedoms. Too many have given up theirs totally by dying for mine, so I take my freedom of movement quite seriously. But I am perfectly willing to give it up, temporarily, for the safety of my fellow man.
Show cyclists some love. Show yourself some love. Control your mind when you drive. The rule of the road when you encounter a bicyclist is that you must slow down and remain behind the cyclist until it is safe to pass, even if you have to go the same speed as the cyclist.
Besides being the law, this is just common sense, especially on winding mountain roads. There is no such thing as “accidentally colliding with an on-coming car while trying to avoid a cyclist.”
Driver negligence is a deliberate choice. If you are “forced” to cross the double yellow line then you did not see the bicyclist, failed to evaluate the circumstances intelligently, were following too close, driving too fast or all of the above.
If a motorist has to cross the double yellow line within close proximity of an approaching vehicle (especially if it’s a cement truck) to avoid hitting a cyclist, there is obviously something dreadfully wrong going on in the mind of that very bad driver.
Therein lies the crux of this entire free wheelin’ problem. Bad thinking makes bad drivers. Their minds are caught up with where they are going, not where they are. The wheels of their brain are spinning in neutral with no transmission to reality.
Bicyclists are not blameless. Few ever stop at stop signs along the bike path even when their own safety demands it. They fly through intersections as if there’s no chance someone else could be as stupid, like a lumber truck running a red light, obliterating their magical protection. This, of course, is suicidal. I see it all the time.
Every driver and bicyclist must assume responsibility to drive smart at all times. Highway safety is even more incumbent on motorists simply because of the size and speed of their vehicle compared to a bicycle.
Patience, caution, restraint and common courtesy are not only vital for motorists and cyclists, they are the only sensible choice for humanoids who want to live and be happy.
Summer is here. Traffic is going to test your thinking. It’s your mind. Enjoy it.
Watch, now that I’ve opened my big mouth I’ll probably get in a wreck tomorrow.
Bob Sweigert is a Sierra Sun columnist, published poet, experienced ski instructor and commercial driver. He’s lived on the North Shore of Tahoe for 25 years.