Stupid human traffic tricks
Sept. 22, 2005 12:00 AM
This past Wednesday around 8 o'clock, a shrill screech broke the morning silence. It's the kind of sound a car makes when drivers are day dreaming one moment and regain consciousness the next, whereupon they slam on their brakes to avoid certain catastrophe. This time it was too little too late.
The all-too-familiar squeal was followed by the sound of a crumpled bicycle slamming to the ground. Then came the quiet thud of the bicyclist as he smashed onto the pavement (after a brief moment of impromptu flight courtesy of the driver's front bumper). You could tell it hurt when he hit.
Still, the fellow on the ground was lucky. His helmet-free head missed the asphalt. He sat up, stood up and wobbled to the curb where he sat back down. His bike was bent and so was he. advertisement
The driver did what she could to help, which was next to nothing. After consoling the injured man (an Arizona State University student), she handed him a slip of paper, presumably containing her name and telephone number, and drove away.
After she left, the Fire Department and Southwest Ambulance arrived. Proximity had a lot to do with the quick response of each. The accident had occurred two blocks south of Tempe's downtown fire station and three blocks north of St. Luke's emergency room. If you're going to get run over by a car, this is the place to do it.
Who was at fault? In this particular case, although no ticket was issued (since there was no one around to issue one) it appeared to be the driver. Stop signs at 10th Street and Ash Avenue favored the guy on the bicycle. That said, my sympathies also extend to the driver, who, like so many other drivers, is forced to navigate the maze of bicyclists who routinely converge on ASU.
They break every traffic law imaginable. Some run stop signs and traffic lights. Others ride on the wrong side of the street. The rest jay-bike, regardless of risk.
The closer you get to the ASU campus the more out of control the situation becomes. Irresponsible drivers are traveling at speeds too high for the crowded conditions on the ground. Last week, another bicyclist got creamed at College Avenue and Broadway Road, a place where they're routinely flattened like pancakes.
Frankly, given the magnitude of the mess, it's surprising so few bike riders are killed or permanently paralyzed, regardless of who's at fault.
Meanwhile, problem pedestrians also persist. It's amazing how many people not only stand on the edge of the curb, but stand in the actual street, be it in the gutter or a bike lane, waiting for a light to change green so they can cross.
How often have you, as a driver, made a legal right-hand turn and come within inches of clipping one of these road hazards?
The prospect of running one over, while unfortunate for them, isn't my primary concern. It's the inconvenience it will cause me.
Let's say you accidentally slam into one of them. Obviously, you've got to stop and render aid. That will take time. Then once they show up with sirens blaring, you're going to have to explain to all manner of officialdom why some hapless fool is wedged under your right front tire. There will be forms to complete and accusations to refute. Again, more time wasted (and you did nothing wrong).
Worse, if someone ends up dead, you'll need to hire an attorney, because innocence is an expensive proposition to prove. After all, it was the driver's fault, don't ya know?
As someone who drives in and around Tiny Town's downtown several times each day, allow me to assert that the arterial and neighborhood streets surrounding ASU are comparatively dangerous and becoming more so.
For the benefit of the overly sensitive professionals who design such things, that fact has nothing to do with how the bulk of these streets were either engineered or built. To paraphrase late-night comedian David Letterman, the best design can't compensate for stupid human traffic tricks.
Nope. The real root of the problem is too many thoughtless people (drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians) in too big a hurry in too small a space. It's a recipe for continued injury and death. Who will be next?
Dan Durrenberger is a 32-year resident of the East Valley who lives in Tempe and works in Mesa. He can be reached at