Cars and Bikes and Jerks

I just did a Google search on why good people turn into jerks when they get behind the wheel of their car. It’s a phenomenon I’ve been observing up close for a few years now as a regular bicycle commuter.

I do drive. I love road trips. I drive to fish and camp and ski and get across town. I’m cognizant of the fact that occasionally I start driving like a jerk too. I follow too close. I get impatient with slower drivers. And like everyone else I tend to believe I’m the best driver on the road, and the idiot in front of me must have purchased one of those rare vehicles that didn’t come with turn signals, because by God I always use mine!

But try commuting by bicycle. Just for a few weeks, and see what you think of your fellow driving commuters. I don’t bike to feel superior, or to be a smug asshole. I’m not saving the planet or lessening my carbon footprint. I do it because somewhere deep inside me is a puritanical ethic that tells me it’s just wrong to drive to work when it’s only 2 ¼ miles away, and the bike ride will take me only a few minutes longer than the drive. Plus, there’s no parking at the office. And frankly, I need a little extra exercise. But besides all that, I like riding my bike, and really enjoy my morning commute.

Except for all the jerky drivers. And this brings me to my point. These are good people. This is a good town. People here support bike trails. They fund the local bus commuter system. Hell, nearly everyone in this town owns a bike. So why are all the car commuters on their phone while driving half way into the bike lane at 10 miles over the posted speed limit? The automobile brought to the average American a freedom unrivaled in history. But did it also turn him into a jerk?

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