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Day 4 (Thursday, March 6th)

“Get your stupid ass out the road!”


Ah yes, there it was. That perfectly predictable and breath-takingly ignorant comment I had been expecting all week, delivered with gusto by a truck driver during my bike commute home today. But I was in no mood to laugh it off like usual.

Just one mile earlier I passed a row of police cars outside the Downtown Oakland YMCA and was flagged down by a friend who noticed me riding by. A pedestrian had been struck by a driver in the uncontrolled crosswalk across Broadway, she told me, a known hazard location which I myself had reported to the city half a year ago but with no action yet taken. The pedestrian was rushed to the hospital and it was unknown if he would survive. 

This is the exact same location where, many times before while biking through, I had yielded after noticing a person trying to cross on foot. But despite my arm waving car after car still flew through in the next lane over, and it seemed as though nothing could get them to stop short of a brick wall. While it’s easy to think that each one of those people who failed to yield was just being selfish or even evil, in reality they are mostly normal people with normal morals who are simply reacting to an environment that is engineered for speed.

When people drive down a multi-lane arterial like this with wide lanes, no impediments, and a pretty, planted median to protect themselves from oncoming traffic, they go into freeway mode and sometimes forget that they are in a public space, sharing the environment with other human beings. This even happens to some folks I’ve encountered, zipping along precariously by bike, but doubly so for people encased in a physically, sonically, and hermetically sealed automobile. Even the bicycle shared-lane (“sharrow”) markings on this stretch of roadway seem to say “We care about bikes, but not enough to potentially slow down cars by dedicating any road space to their safe travel”.

The concept behind this type of street design is to simplify the environment so as to prevent collisions between drivers, but at the unintentional expense of other road users by making it easier to speed, and to “tune out”. Because of this the incidence of crashes between drivers might indeed go down while bike or pedestrian crashes become more common, and when they do occur they are much more serious due to the speeds involved.


These “sharrow” markings were also present on Webster Street, a one-lane, neighborhood route where I paused at a stop sign to check for crossing traffic before proceeding northward. As I struggled to get back up to speed a gentleman in a pickup truck saw fit to sidle up next to my bike, roll down his window, and advise me:

“Get your stupid ass out the road!”

My standard response to antagonism like this is to not react at all, as attempting to understand the mentality would just lead me down a rabbit hole into confused frustration. Considering the circumstances I’m proud to report that I continued along my way peacefully, resisting the urge to put a U-lock through his rear windshield.

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