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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    A vicious cycle of bike-car enmity on Tucson roads

    The situation is rampant and irritating. You’re driving down the road at what you believe to be the Tucson standard of 40 miles an hour – a turtle’s pace compared to other cities – and all of the sudden you notice a bike rider straddling the side of the lane. He’s totally interrupting the flow of traffic, and the confused cars in front of you are all reacting differently: some are swerving out of the way, some hazardously switching lanes with not so much as a glance and some choosing to drive five miles an hour behind the bicyclist so you have to slam on your brakes and blurt out an obscenity.

    “”Damn bikes,”” you usually say, or something to that extent. Next you concentrate on some unrelated fault the bicyclist might be committing. Perhaps he’s not wearing a helmet during the daytime, or maybe he’s drinking a Coke while riding, which is totally unacceptable considering the demands of his position, you think while sipping your coffee, or maybe he just looks like an asshole. His scarf is ridiculous. Even if there’s nothing there to complain about, you’ll find something, because this guy is asking for it.

    This kind of scene probably happens to someone in Tucson every day, and it might be quirky enough to be featured in a neurotic sitcom like “”Seinfeld,”” if it wasn’t so horrendous.

    As we’ve seen from numerous articles, reports and firsthand stories, riding a bicycle in Tucson is dangerous. The Wildcat reported Friday that last year over 200 bicycle crashes were brought to the University Medical Center’s trauma center. In addition, several Tucson students were injured and even killed in bicycle accidents in the last week – unfortunate realities that probably could have been prevented.

    But it’s not just because there are lots of cracks in the road. Although some cities have put considerable effort into creating bike lanes and rider-friendly areas, they haven’t done anything until they’ve fixed the lack of roadway awareness.

    As it is, there’s a certain rivalry between bicyclists and drivers here, a rivalry fueled by ignorance. Until I purchased a bicycle to ride to school about two weeks ago, I was among the many drivers exasperated by the mere presence of bicyclists. You always knew but never admitted the fact that it must be tough riding a bike around, but whenever you were put in danger by a situation like the one above, you ignored the real root of the problem.

    Drivers need to keep in mind that it’s not really the bicyclists’ fault that they have to ride in the street. There’s nowhere else for them to go! And if the bicyclists look complacent, imagine how you would be if you did the same thing every single day. Because they’re exposed to danger repeatedly, they get numb to it. I noticed this riding down Speedway Boulevard for the first time last week: cars whizzing by you at unimaginable speeds, the ruthless wind shoving against your face, dozens of competing horns. Even when there is a bike lane, it’s terrifying. But the riders around me seemed used to it, and didn’t really flinch when massive trucks or speed demons almost clipped them.

    But the lack of understanding goes both ways. Bicyclists often seem resentful of drivers, factoring environmental danger in with the physical. And worse, many consider their smaller vehicle an excuse not to obey stop signs or to ride the wrong way down a street.

    Underneath the Wildcat’s article, there were several comments from bicyclists complaining about insensitive drivers. But there were just as many the other way around.

    These sentiments are typical of the real problem jeopardizing Tucson’s streets. Why don’t we just get along? As slow as the city is, it seems na’ve to think that the roads will be fixed any time soon. For now, we have to make do with what we’ve got.

    At the school level at least, ASUA should get involved in fostering a series of roundtable discussions about the reality of biking in Tucson. Perhaps we can disseminate information packets detailing the specific laws bicyclists and drivers need to follow so that everyone is on the same page. Maybe as a group we can pressure the city to at least start putting in some more bike lanes.

    But it’s not just their problem. The main change will come when both sides recognize the other as valid forms of transportation, and accept the fact that Tucson roads are as diverse as our classrooms. You wouldn’t curse out a student for raising their hand to ask a question, so why curse them out for signaling a turn?

    – Andi Berlin is a journalism senior.

    She can be reached at

    letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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