QOTD: Feeling Conflicted?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
qotd feeling conflicted

“Peace is not absence of conflict,” Ronald Reagan once said, “it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.”

And so it goes on the world’s roadways, highways, and, depending on your relationship with the neighbors, driveways. After the engineers are done gauging line of sight, measuring stopping distances, and calculating the necessary roadway width and angle for safe passage of a vehicle travelling the speed limit, we’re left to battle it out on the infrastructure laid out for us by city planners.

It’s a lot of responsibility. Maybe one day, perhaps sooner than we think, we’ll look back on such times and wonder how our betters at city hall or the legislature allowed us the ability to fend for ourselves on the road. Men and women, children and youth. Each depending on the closest person in their vicinity to not kill them.

Inevitably, conflict arises. And, increasingly (or so it seems) we’re facing conflict between motorists and a new breed of traveller: the disruptor.

Let’s be clear that roadways have never been relegated to just one vehicle type. People on horseback once had to pass slower moving wagons and carriages. Pulling around to pass, they might have encountered a man or woman ambling up the road, coming the other way. Good visibility on a horse, though. Then the French felt it was necessary to invent the bicycle, thus adding a new contraption travelling at a different speed, behaving in a different manner than all other road-going vehicles. In cities, plodding, horse-drawn omnibuses rapidly gave way to quicker electric streetcars fueled by an overhead wire, running on a dedicated track.

At least you knew a streetcar wasn’t about to dart left or right, looking for a hole in traffic. But they do make a better door than a window.

Today, green sensibilities have placed more cyclists on our roads than ever before. In many cities, these people sometimes represent a very vocal lobby that’s out of proportion to their numbers, capable of squeezing infrastructure — perhaps much-needed infrastructure — out of penny-pinching bureaucrats. No, I’m not about to go full Keith Crain here.

Urban cyclists and the much more disruptive (in every sense of the word) tide of electric scooter users brings vulnerable people into closer proximity with drivers now forced to share their lane with smaller, slower-moving vehicles. It’s a recipe for conflict, and it’s no wonder activists and engineers would prefer that these two modes of transportation remain segregated, either by distance or by obstacle. Still, it’s possible to co-exist peacefully, so long as you’re willing to accept some risk, open your eyes, and keep your anger on a short leash.

If you’ve ever been sermonized by a law-breaking cyclist, you know just how difficult it is to keep your temper under wraps. Same goes for that dude on the Bird. But in a civil society you must, just like you need to hold back from tailing that guy who cut you off. We haven’t really risen that far above the animals — we just wear nicer clothes.

I can’t profess to any innocence in this regard. I’ve done things behind the wheel in a moment of anger I later regretted, though never were punches thrown. Never was anyone’s hair mussed.

While scooter riders are a menace anywhere, my love/hate relationship with cyclists is something truly difficult to come to grips with. The two sides battle back and forth in my brain. On the one hand, I’m totally on board with the freedom — low-cost freedom, too — that bicycles provide. A nearly completely unregulated machine propelled by the user, with no fuel or insurance costs, that, if properly equipped and maintained, can go just about anywhere and last forever. It’s all so libertarian.

On the other hand, that annoying subset of cyclists, a group I’ll call the self-righteous scofflaw set, continually endangers themselves while claiming everyone else is the problem. The “You’re not supposed to hit me (as I cruise through this four-way stop at 20 mph)” identitarian type. Never mind rules, sharing the road, etc.; they’re on a bike and you’re in a car so you’re bad and they can never be wrong. If Karl Benz hadn’t patented the Motorwagen in 1886, you wouldn’t be a danger to me right now.

Well yes, and if my mother was a fish, I’d have once been a tadpole. Benz built his car 132 years ago and here we are, so take some responsibility for protecting your own life. Do your part.

The question we’re leading to is this: is there a type of non-car roadgoing transport you enjoy, one feel a kinship with, that the motorist half of your brain rebels against? Bikes, skateboards, scooters, motorcycles, buses, trams, you name it. All fair game.How do you keep the two sides settled?

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2 of 78 comments
  • JaySeis JaySeis on Oct 02, 2018

    I ride on the nearest state highway that happens to be a beach.

  • Don1967 Don1967 on Oct 03, 2018

    There are two logical "lanes"... motorized and non-motorized. They only reason cyclists aren't put on the sidewalk where they belong is that doing so would force them to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians, something which they are loathe to do. They want the right-of-way for themselves, no matter how disruptive it is to the 99%.

  • ToolGuy CXXVIII comments?!?
  • ToolGuy I did truck things with my truck this past week, twenty-odd miles from home (farther than usual). Recall that the interior bed space of my (modified) truck is 98" x 74". On the ride home yesterday the bed carried a 20 foot extension ladder (10 feet long, flagged 14 inches past the rear bumper), two other ladders, a smallish air compressor, a largish shop vac, three large bins, some materials, some scrap, and a slew of tool cases/bags. It was pretty full, is what I'm saying.The range of the Cybertruck would have been just fine. Nothing I carried had any substantial weight to it, in truck terms. The frunk would have been extremely useful (lock the tool cases there, out of the way of the Bed Stuff, away from prying eyes and grasping fingers -- you say I can charge my cordless tools there? bonus). Stainless steel plus no paint is a plus.Apparently the Cybertruck bed will be 78" long (but over 96" with the tailgate folded down) and 60-65" wide. And then Tesla promises "100 cubic feet of exterior, lockable storage — including the under-bed, frunk and sail pillars." Underbed storage requires the bed to be clear of other stuff, but bottom line everything would have fit, especially when we consider the second row of seats (tools and some materials out of the weather).Some days I was hauling mostly air on one leg of the trip. There were several store runs involved, some for 8-foot stock. One day I bummed a ride in a Roush Mustang. Three separate times other drivers tried to run into my truck (stainless steel panels, yes please). The fuel savings would be large enough for me to notice and to care.TL;DR: This truck would work for me, as a truck. Sample size = 1.
  • Art Vandelay Dodge should bring this back. They could sell it as the classic classic classic model
  • Surferjoe Still have a 2013 RDX, naturally aspirated V6, just can't get behind a 4 banger turbo.Also gloriously absent, ESS, lane departure warnings, etc.
  • ToolGuy Is it a genuine Top Hand? Oh, I forgot, I don't care. 🙂