Monday, January 16, 2012

What I Want for My Birthday

I was talking with someone the other day about one of the causes of the problems that cyclists here in southwest Florida have with cars. It all came down to a lack of predictability.

"They have no idea what we're going to do," my friend said. "They see racers run red lights and stop signs. They see guys on beater bikes on their way home from work at 8 pm with no lights, getting on and off the sidewalk. They see retirees on beach cruisers going to the coffee shop, pedaling against traffic as if they were out for a walk."

"To people in cars, we're just idiots on bicycles, and we're unpredictable."

This is even more true here during the tourist season. Friday was a great example. I was on my bike, noodling around and running some errands. I came to a four-way stop where there were already cars waiting to my left and right. They all stopped and looked at me as if I might roll through without stopping, so I made a point of being a good citizen. I came to a full stop, and even put a foot down. The car on my right then went through, which is how four-way stops are supposed to work.

At this point, I had the right of way to go through the intersection. But, rather than stick to the rules, the car on my left went, followed immediately by the car behind him. He wasn't going to wait for anybody. Then, the second car on my right started inching forward, so I just jumped on the pedals to roll through and around everybody.

If I hadn't, I might still be there. But, in doing that, I probably left a couple of drivers shaking their heads saying, "Stupid bikes. Can't follow the law. Grumble. Grumble."

A couple of blocks further, I came to another four-way stop. Again, I stopped completely. There was a car coming up to the stop on my left. I assumed that he was going to obey the sign and stop, so I started up. He did a "California rolling stop" through the intersection and just missed me, and then he honked at me as he sped away.

It was then that I got a brilliant idea for what I want this year for my birthday: A hologram projector.

Now, my birthday is still a couple of weeks away, so you've got some time. I couldn't find one on Amazon, but I've seen them in lots of computer games and in Star Wars. You may have to invent it, but how hard could that be?

All I know is that I want one.

It's got to run on DC power -- preferably with "AA" batteries, since I need to mount it on the bike. And I would like to be able to switch between about half a dozen projected images. When turned on, it would cloak me and my bicycle, making us look like something else.

When noodling through neighborhoods, I want to switch on the hologram projector so I look like this:

People expect these to be moving slowly ... maybe stopping at each mailbox. They wait to pass until it's safe. They behave nicely, because that may be their postal person at the controls, and if they are mean to their postal person then they may suddenly stop getting those Victoria's Secret catalogs.

Here's another one that would work nicely:

Again, frequent stops. When cars pass these, they give lots of room. Folks also don't tend to tailgate them, since these trucks don't tend to leave a pleasant aroma in their wake.

When riding out in the back country, I would use this one:

Most country folk are patriotic, so they might just pull over and salute. Others would be worried that I was a scouting group from the Feds investigating that recent massive purchase of nitrate-based fertilizer. Hopefully, they would then lay low, since I can't put up much resistance to an armed response from my bicycle. Best I can do is Shock and Ouch.

For most of my riding, however, I would use this one:

You think anybody's going to pass this bad boy too closely on Vanderbilt Beach Road? You think anybody's going to pass this bad boy at all on Vanderbilt Beach Road?

1 comment:

  1. I've noticed more and more drivers of combustion-engine powered vehicles don't respect other combustion-engine powered vehicles, nor do they respect the driving laws, nor even their own safety needs.

    Sometimes it is even worse when a car decides to be super-polite-and-helpful. E.g., a couple months ago, I had to cross US-158 to leave the penultimate control (on MikeD's Kerr Lake Loop permanent -- you know, THAT MikeD, the one "from" Raleigh), there was no traffic coming from the left, one car coming from the right, then a long empty space before the next couple cars. I decided to do what we all do, on bikes or in cars -- time my start so I'd pass behind the car coming from the right. Suddenly, the car stopped in the highway, waving me through, apparently oblivious to the fact that there were essentially two lanes of traffic from his direction (merging at that point, but ...). Once he stopped, the traffic that was well behind him was closing rapidly, slowing, and eventually had to stop, but creeping forward, clearly confused. I refused to pass in front of half-a-dozen two-ton vehicles. It took some serious waving to get the first car to proceed, so the others could then proceed. I pleaded to the open sky (heard on this Earth only by the other cyclists that were with me), please just follow the rules of the road.

    But absolutely agree that people on bikes disregarding virtually all laws and / or safety procedures makes it hard for those that do try.