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  • 1.  Staying safe on the roads

    Posted 08-23-2022 10:10
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    I subscribe to the NYTimes newsletter, "The Morning,"  to keep myself relatively informed while still saving my sanity from the void of Bad, Worse, Even Tougher news cycle.  

    This morning's feature was on the recent surge of vehicle crashes. Crashes, overall, had been on the decline since the 1940s, but since 2015 they've been on the rise. The first increase correlated with the influx of smartphones, and this most recent (and more significant) increase has correlated with the pandemic. 

    As primarily a pedestrian and cyclist, I felt incredibly validated reading through this piece. I've felt like drivers (yes - I understand this is a generalization, but it's been my experience more often than not) are more aggressive and less understanding. Just this morning I was crossing a busy street in the crosswalk, and a driver did stop - yes - but stopped directly in the middle of the crosswalk, leaving me no choice but to walk in front of the car to cross. I made eye contact with the driver, shrugged my shoulders, and pointed to the crosswalk. Instead of apologizing, the driver screamed at me for the remainder of my crossing. 

    A few days ago my partner and I were walking her dog and came up to a stoplight at a busy, 4 lane road. We noted we only had the green (right of way) for about another 10 seconds, and didn't want to risk it, so we waited. We watched a car come to a pause at their red light, then continue as if the red was a mere suggestion. Had we decided to cross, we would have been hit. 

    These are just two RECENT examples. Turns out the thing I've been feeling (drivers have become more aggressive over the pandemic) is real: 

    "In the spring of 2020, as Covid was transforming daily life, vehicle crashes surged. By the start of this year, the death rate had jumped about 20 percent from prepandemic levels. It has been the sharpest increase since the 1940s... The most plausible remaining theories tend to involve the mental health
    problems caused by Covid's isolation and disruption. Alcohol and drug abuse have increased. Impulsive behavior, like running red lights and failing to wear
    seatbelts, also seems to have risen (as my colleague Simon Romero has reported). Many Americans have felt frustrated or unhappy, and it seems to have affected their driving."

    I understand that vehicles are necessary for some (maybe even most) people. I'm not suggesting that we need to get rid of all cars/vehicles (though I would argue that many folks default to "needing" a car for transportation without considering if they really do), nor do I believe that there's a world where risk doesn't exist. And yes - I know that it's not ALL drivers; some pedestrians/cyclists are aggressive, too. But they're not behind the wheel of a vehicle.

    I know there will always be some danger in navigating a city. and! I do think we can feel safer than we do right now. 

    So my question is: 

    Have you experienced an increase in aggression/entitlement among drivers? And, 
    How can we get to a place of safer roads? 

    (.pdf of the article from the newsletter attached)

    Stay awesome,


    Traffic_deaths.pdf   631 KB 1 version

  • 2.  RE: Staying safe on the roads

    Posted 08-24-2022 08:41
    @Quinn Drew this is super interesting. I'm a little surprised about the increase in accidents because it seems like there are overall less vehicles on the road than pre-pandemic. Personally, I drive maybe half as much because not only do I work remotely most of the time, but some of my after-work activities have migrated to Zoom, also.​

    I can't control how other people drive, but I have complete control over my own driving behaviors. I actually had a little epiphany last weekend. I was coming up to a green light where the driver in the opposite lane had their left turn signal on. It was one of those cases where I kept an eagle-eye on the left turner because if she decided to go in front of me I would need to tap my brakes. Instead, she patiently waited for me to go through the intersection and turned after I was clear.

    I had a brief moment of gratitude for this courteous and safe driver. Then I started noticing all the drivers around me who were driving sanely and safely--definitely the vast majority! I practiced being grateful for each and every one of them. And then when a random person changed lanes without a turn signal or cut me off, I was much less agitated because it was infrequent.

    I realized it was also forcing me to practice mindfulness while driving because I was busy noticing the behavior of each driver around me in that moment, instead of my mind wandering off in its usual banal chatter. I'm sure this makes me a safer driver, and definitely saner. 

    I don't ride a bike in traffic because I am a nervous wreck that I'll get hit. Props to you, Quinn, for making the better and braver choice!​

    Maria Liccardo

  • 3.  RE: Staying safe on the roads

    Posted 08-24-2022 10:06
    I'm an insurance agent and know that frequency of accidents is down but that severity is up. I'm located in Wrigleyville neighborhood so we have a constant stream of distracted drivers coming in and out for baseball games and other entertainment. There are frequent accidents between vehicles and pedestrians/bicyclists, many resulting in head injuries. From a financial point of view, there's often not enough insurance coverage for serious injuries unless you purchase an umbrella policy, and make sure the policy extends to uninsured/underinsured motorist liability. This is not a sales pitch, but if you would like to read up on umbrella coverage or get an insurance quote, you should do that right away after you finish reading this post.

    John Kent

  • 4.  RE: Staying safe on the roads

    Posted 08-31-2022 14:35
    I appreciate this perspective @John Kent.

    I recognize that I have responsibility in this situation, too. First and foremost to be safe and act responsibly when I'm out in the world (whether as a pedestrian, cyclist, or driver), and secondly to be sure that I have planned for "the worst case scenario." So yep - I have insurance, and I wear a RoadID with my emergency contact info, and I let people know when I'm going to be out/when I'm safe.

    That said, I wish more folx paid more attention/took responsibility for their actions as well. On my 4 mile run this morning, I watched two different cars in two different intersections run red lights as I was in the crosswalk. While I know I've done all I can to be covered if I get hit, I don't exactly look forward to putting those plans in action. 

    @Maria Liccardo - I love your gratitude for drivers who are doin' it right! I'm gonna start giving a thumbs up when I see it!​​

    Stay awesome,

  • 5.  RE: Staying safe on the roads

    Posted 09-01-2022 16:49
    I have found that whatever activity I am engaged in, I am inclined to see bad, overaggressive behavior in the other camp. I cycle a fair amount, but I also drive a fair amount.
    When I used to ride my e-bike 10 miles to the train every morning pre-pandemic, I lost count of how many times a car turning right (or sometimes left) violated my right of way across busy intersections. It's like some people don't even see you (or care). 
    I also live near a subdivision where there is a busy thru street with several pedestrian cross walks. I've also lost count of the number of times I have seen cars barrel on by oblivious that there is a dog walker about to enter the cross walk with the right of way.
    But I have also witnessed plenty of cyclist ignore traffic signals, cross against a light, ride three abreast when it is clearly  posted only two abreast, and other potentially reckless behavior.
    I think we are always inclined to more clearly see the error in the other's ways.
    I have committed my share of offenses both on a bike and in a car. Most have been careless distraction. I've done it enough times to know I better have grace for those I see doing it. 
    Lately, I've tried to practice excessive caution and deference to others, always on the look out that an approaching car may not stop, or yielding right of way even when I don't have to, and the like. If someone does block my crosswalk, or turn right causing me to aggressively brake on my bike, I bite back the urge to yell my displeasure at them or otherwise expose their error, but quietly apply grace and let it go.
    I figure I can't control their behavior, but I can mine. And if I can avoid escalating a situation, so much the better. If nothing else, it keeps my blood pressure down.

    Arnie Grahl

  • 6.  RE: Staying safe on the roads

    Posted 09-02-2022 10:15
    Thanks for sharing this perspective @Arnie Grahl. I agree - it's easy/easier to see the aggressive behaviors in others than it is to recognize it in what we're doing. For the record, I'm just as upset/angry with cyclists who run reds, don't stop at stop signs, or are otherwise too aggressive with their riding style. Mostly when I see this I think, "you're giving _all cyclists_ a bad name when you do that."


    Stay awesome,