Saturday, February 16, 2013

Stayin' Alive?

I love my city. But its drivers are trying to kill me. And its cyclists are trying to get me to kill them. No, I'm not talking about the sidewalk that broke my jaw. I mean, it'd be good if Portlanders would fix their tree-ravaged sidewalks, but that is costly and difficult for old folks, and I've adopted a "let the runner/walker/jogger beware" acceptance of the hazards of old Portland sidewalks. And I'm not talking about the driver I had to crash my bike and break my arm in two places to avoid hitting, who to this day probably doesn't know it happened. I'm willing to believe it may have been me who shouldn't have been in that intersection and he or she who should have; I've been known to be at fault in accidents, and I'll never really know for sure about that one. I'm talking about the cars that zoomed right past the pedestrian (uh, me) who was standing--very visibly--in the crosswalk as if to say, "I'd like to exercise my legal right to cross the street, please, sir?" It is as if that rule had been taken out of the Drivers' Manual, for the City of Portland only, and I am the only one who didn't get the email. Car, after car, after car, after car coming the other direction, after ALL cars coming the other direction, zipped on by me on North Lombard, despite plenty of light and bright colors on me. It's not hard to forgive the occasional infraction, having committed quite a few myself, but this is not so occasional around here. Probably spending the last 25 years in Dallas, Oregon, where drivers go around looking for pedestrians, far down the sidewalk, whom they might be permitted the privilege of stopping for, spoiled me. But they knew something Portland drivers don't seem to: That is The Law. Pedestrians in crosswalks must be stopped for. Our city likes to be thought of as a walk-friendly city. We need to drive like one. And the bicyclists. God bless 'em. My eyes are constantly sweeping for them. I don't--I don't think ever--turn right without checking the side-view mirror so as not to cut one off (another thing lots of drivers don't seem to bother with, based on my own experience on two wheels). But, fellow cyclists, help me out. If you are riding at night dressed in black and hoping that a little strobe light on your tail or your handlebars will take care of you, you are simply a cockeyed optimist. Sure, it's still my job not to hit you, and I'm trying to do my job, but would it break the bank for you to buy a white jacket or a reflective vest? If I hit you, God forbid, I may be the one at fault, for what satisfaction that may give, but you'll be injured or worse, and neither of our lives will never be the same. Being virtuous doesn't make you visible. Please, invest in those head lamps, reflective wheels, white clothing, and--did I say this already?--reflective vests. Work with me. Please. Oh, and by the way, Blogger has apparently disabled my ability to separate the five paragraphs above. If any of you know how to get around this, let me know. I'd switch to Tumblr, but I forgot my password again.