Friday, October 9, 2009

Pedicab vs. Taxicab

Video streaming from a NYC Fox News site, and found on LJ Bikepirates.

Which one of these seems like a disproportionate response to you? Throwing a cup of coffee at somebody's car? Or hitting somebody with your car?

The biggest danger of engaging a motorist is that—
  1. motorists have precious few avenues of communication, and
  2. a motorist's car is such an extension of his body that it may feel like hitting you with the car is not that different from hitting you with his fist.

In Tom Vanderbilt's Traffic, he says that there are several thing about driving itself that predisposes drivers to frustration and anger, the biggest of them being that it severely limits our abilities to communicate.

Humans are incredibly communicative creatures who rely heavily on nonverbal signals like facial expressions, body posturing, tone of voice and volume of voice. In a car, you are deprived of all of that. Instead, you are expected to use a car horn (often used too frequently) and a turn signal (often not used enough) to express yourself and convey depth and meaning.

Which is ridiculous when you think about it.

So this taxi driver obviously felt he could not adequately express his anger through any combination of sounding car horn and blinking turn signal. It's the torture of an artist, really. Having so much to share and not being able to articulate it satisfactorily.

But when an artist dramatically hurls a canvas painting across a room in frustration, people don't die like they do when a car hurls into people.

I myself had a "failure to communicate" moment the other day during my commute home.

A pickup truck and I were approaching a four-way stop from opposite directions. The truck didn't have its blinkers on, it was in the middle of the traffic lane, and its front tires were pointing straight ahead. So I logically assumed it was going straight.

Right up until it executed a right-hand turn directly across my path.

The truck had plenty of time to complete its turn. This wasn't any kind of a near miss, but I became frustrated at the lack of communication.

I raised my right hand in the air and starting doing that thing you do when you want to tell people to turn their lights on. Repeatedly closing my fist and then spreading my fingers wide. You know, that thing.

The truck then—in a surprise move—quickly pulled over to the side of the intersecting street and the driver hollered out his window, "What?"

Surprised to suddenly find myself in a conversation, I quickly blurted, "TURN SIGNAL!"

In answer to which he called back out, "Okay! Blobby flarggin blip bloop dada!"

Or something like that. I could only make out the "Okay!" before I was too far away to make out what he was saying.

He probably said something like, "Okay! And how about next you don't run the stop sign!"

Cause I did. I idahoed it.

Two sides to every story, right?

Like in the video above.

The pedicab driver ultimately chose to engage the taxicab by throwing his cup of coffee. And then he chose later to throw a friggin trash can at the driver.

I, on the other hand, did not pause or stop to throw anything at this pick-em-up truck. Because I knew I was a little bit wrong in this encounter, and that I would soundly lose an actual confrontation.

I, instead, was pedaling quickly away and discovering my "Donotgetintoafightwithatruck" mantra.

Point is folks, ultimately, go ahead and think twice before engaging the deaf, dumb, blind, raging bull-moose cars you share the road with everyday.

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