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Advocacy & Safety Cyclists should expect and demand safe accommodation on every public road, just as do all other users. Discuss your bicycle advocacy and safety concerns here.

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Old 04-21-06, 01:08 PM   #1
ignominious
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Too little to do.

Coming from the UK to North America I've been able to witness a hugely different automotive culture with an external perspective and I think I can see one of the directions where its going wrong.

It seems to me that drivers just don't have enough to keep them safe. It sounds like an odd statement but I think it may be true that too much is done for drivers and too little is required of them to keep focused on the task in hand, namely conducting a couple of tonnes of metal in a safe and orderly fashion.

Consider these differences:

Gears. Over here the vast majority of drivers have automatic cars, in Europe the opposite is the case. Even younger drivers for whom the advantage of technology could be readily available shun the notion of having an automated system control the gearing of their vehicle.

Street furniture: Practically every junction that I cross, over here, is controlled in some way. Either by lights or a stop sign, including the ridiculous contruct that is the All Way Stop Sign. Nowhere does there seem to be a requirement for an act of judgement. Conversely in the UK, such entities as Give Way signs, roundabouts or even junctions devoid of any paint or signs at all. Then there are the speed limit signs. It seems that just about every road here (at least in the city) has a posted speed limit. In Europe you would expect, as a road user, only to see a sign when there is a change in designation. Occasionally, where it might be beneficial reiterations are posted.

Street design: Sure in the UK there are lanes that require the road users to exit the current road or take a specific course of action. However, the prevalance of exit lanes and signs stating you can only turn from a specific lane actually astounds me. I'm just not used to it. Traffic control measures seem to be rather unimaginative, uniform and boring. No creativity seems to be employed.

So there you are, driving along, not questioning how the car is working and what you want to make it do up ahead. One pedal to go, one pedal to stop. You're told what to do, how and where to do it and rarely, if ever, are you asked to think about what would be the best course of action to achieve your objective/destination. No one ponders if they are in the best gear for the speed and obstacles ahead. No one queries where the best place for them in the road is. Driving becomes homogenised, dull and routinely stripped of any character at all. It comes as no surprise to me then that drivers seek out distractions and imagine they can carry out phone conversations, eating, comsmetics and any number of other tasks that more of their European counterparts would leave until outside of managing a potentially deadly machine.

I won't claim that motorists in Europe are perfect and all attentive, but they are far more influenced to be so and I think that, as a model, driving there is safer for cyclists than it is here.
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Old 04-21-06, 01:16 PM   #2
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Americans are obsessed with productivity. We want the most things done in as little time as possible. Thats why it is deemed necessary for every action to be predetermined so that our focus can be elsewhere. Too much to do to actually THINK about driving. I agree that a cyclist would be safer in an environment that makes driving more flexible to a given situation.

We need a more intuitive transportation system.

edit - as a motorist until a year ago, I have to admit that I could almost drive to work in my sleep. And I almost did from time to time.
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Old 04-21-06, 02:17 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Braighs
Americans are obsessed with productivity. We want the most things done in as little time as possible. Thats why it is deemed necessary for every action to be predetermined so that our focus can be elsewhere.
And causes more problems than solved. Sending an e-mail, and demanding a response 10 minutes later "Did you get my e-mail?" doesn't give the recipient any time to construct a response with any thought. Sometimes it seems we spend more energy "doing stuff" and spinning our wheels than the result of that stuff produces.

Somewhat related is a phrase I hate "They have too much time on their hands". As if there's anything wrong with down time, wasted time, or time doing something dumb that you think is fun. Same with kids, way to overscheduled, not enough time to learn and enjoy life.

Another reason I bike! And yes I have a job and wake up at 6 every day to be productive.
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Old 04-21-06, 02:44 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ignominious
So there you are, driving along, not questioning how the car is working and what you want to make it do up ahead. One pedal to go, one pedal to stop. You're told what to do, how and where to do it and rarely, if ever, are you asked to think about what would be the best course of action to achieve your objective/destination. No one ponders if they are in the best gear for the speed and obstacles ahead. No one queries where the best place for them in the road is.
Hey that's pretty interesting what you posted. And the above quote kind of describes what it's like to ride a bicycle or drive a motorcycle, the difference between those two actions and driving a car.

As for the automatic transmission issue--if you don't have one and you encounter frequent stop-&-go traffic you end up with a huge left calf from the constant clutch action. It can really hurt after a while, if you get stuck for a long time in it.

Also, I think people like automatics because you can hold your girlfriend's hand while you drive.
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Old 04-21-06, 02:55 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by sbhikes
As for the automatic transmission issue--if you don't have one and you encounter frequent stop-&-go traffic you end up with a huge left calf from the constant clutch action. It can really hurt after a while, if you get stuck for a long time in it.

Clutches on modern cars aren't very heavy. I think the traffic is Europe's cities is probably more stop & go due to the fact that the street layout goes back to medieval times.
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Old 04-21-06, 03:04 PM   #6
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As for the automatic transmission issue--if you don't have one and you encounter frequent stop-&-go traffic you end up with a huge left calf from the constant clutch action. It can really hurt after a while, if you get stuck for a long time in it.
]

Perhaps you wouldn't get stuck in traffic if everyone had the potential of getting that sore left calf.
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Old 04-21-06, 03:59 PM   #7
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Nice perspective. I'd also note that those who do operate their vehicle in a more European fashion in this country tend to attract the attention of law enforcement.
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Old 04-21-06, 04:04 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ignominious
It seems to me that drivers just don't have enough to keep them safe. It sounds like an odd statement but I think it may be true that too much is done for drivers and too little is required of them to keep focused on the task in hand, namely conducting a couple of tonnes of metal in a safe and orderly fashion.
It is an interesting statement, but I think I agree. About 10 miles each way of my commute is on a busy undivided highway (speed limit 55, cars go about 65). The road curves and has many entrances/exits. Visibility is not great and I have seen many accidents. The year before last, I just happened to be nearby when a camaro collided head on with a truck. Pieces of the vehicles were flying all over the place and I had to dodge the axle of the truck (camaro driver killed and truck driver injured, btw).

Ironically, I feel safer on that road than I do on some rural highways and it is because I believe the drivers are paying attention. Between the curves, speed, and exiting/entering traffic, they have to. If you're wondering why there are so many accidents if they're paying attention, most of the time it's because people are trying to turn left when there isn't enough room.
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Old 04-21-06, 04:30 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by banerjek
It is an interesting statement, but I think I agree. About 10 miles each way of my commute is on a busy undivided highway (speed limit 55, cars go about 65). The road curves and has many entrances/exits. Visibility is not great and I have seen many accidents. The year before last, I just happened to be nearby when a camaro collided head on with a truck. Pieces of the vehicles were flying all over the place and I had to dodge the axle of the truck (camaro driver killed and truck driver injured, btw).

Ironically, I feel safer on that road than I do on some rural highways and it is because I believe the drivers are paying attention. Between the curves, speed, and exiting/entering traffic, they have to. If you're wondering why there are so many accidents if they're paying attention, most of the time it's because people are trying to turn left when there isn't enough room.
Interesting. Where is this, just out of curiosity?
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Old 04-21-06, 06:18 PM   #10
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Truth. I much prefer driving stick. My car is a five speed, my wife's truck is auto. I feel like a sack of potatos driving the truck. Nothing to do! With the stick shift, I'm totally in control, but after 16 years of driving stick shift, it is very much second nature at this point and dosen't require even minimal thought. My body goes through the motions all by itself most of the time. I think that, in itself, is the problem with driving. Everyone is on auto-pilot.
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