Friday, February 19, 2010

Share the Road Rage

I'm no fan of motorcycles, but this story at SignOnSanDiego today gave me pause:
A message appearing on electronic freeway signs around the county in the past week wasn’t supposed to cause road rage.
To the state agencies that posted the message, its suggestion “Share the road. Look twice for motorcyclists” seemed helpful, especially with spring weather bringing out more bikers.
Some drivers apparently saw red.
“None of the calls we’ve gotten have been positive,” said Edward Cartagena, spokesman for the San Diego Caltrans office. “One call was a 20-minute rant.”
Since the electronic message was posted statewide Feb. 11, Caltrans has received about 800 phone calls, mostly positive....  “Except for here [my emphasis]. I don’t know why,” Cartagena said.
In the bicycling community, we've experienced much the same reaction to "share the road" messages. The prevailing assumption here seems to be that if you're not traveling by car, or traveling exactly the way a car would travel, you must be getting special treatment, or be some sort of ruffian, or are risking everyone's life -- and the list of outrages goes on.
The "special treatment" argument in particular is the most interesting to me. If someone chooses a different mode of travel from the dominant vehicle (and its inherent limitations), they become part of a pariah community that must, in some way, be setting itself "against" the mainstream and its values. Emphasis gets placed on what they're doing differently (traveling by a different sort of vehicle) rather than what they are doing the same (just trying to get where they're going without dying or getting maimed). The really troubling thing is that so many people rarely consider being "different" to be a good thing. They get hung up on the "different" part, and never even get to the "same" part.
Holy crap, I think I just solved every global conflict. Well, you're welcome.