Trailnet, MoDOT, and Metro held a great Road Safety press conference on May 3. It was a sparkling clear day and we had an impressive turn out. It being a slow news morning meant lots of media attention. At the end, I had a good sized pack of cyclists who joined me to ride from the Missouri History Museum to the Downtown Bicycle Station. There were enough of us to “take the lane” the whole ride. John Nations also had a crowd join him as he walked from the museum to the Forest Park Metro stop.
A recurring theme of the press conference was personal responsibility. I echo that. Do whatever you can, no matter how you’re traveling, to protect yourself and others.
We are all Road Safety Ambassadors. It is up to each of us to demonstrate respect, lawfulness, common sense, and self-control.
What I’m about to talk about is the elephant in the room.
Distractions are taking lives on our roads. Completely avoidable distractions.
Cell phones. One of the reasons using our cell phone while driving is so seductive is that when we social beings are alone in our cars, we become bored and lonely. Just recognizing and reminding ourselves that our “need” to use a cell phone as we drive is really just finding a way to fill a social void may be enough motivation to break the habit. It will help if you put the phone where you can’t reach it – or even hear it (the trunk). If you are expecting an urgent call, drive a route that makes it possible for you to pull over when your phone rings. And I hope it goes without saying that texting when you’re the driver is inexcusable. You are an accident, potentially fatal to others, waiting to happen.
Driving under the influence. Again, we are social beings. When we hang out together it’s fairly routine to drink together. Driving carefully and alertly, watching for pedestrians, cyclists, children, obstructions, and debris under the best of circumstances is a challenge. Those challenges are extremely heightened after drinking. Pledge to never drive under the influence.
When you’re a passenger. Understand that social pressures exist that keep us from confronting our friends even when we know their actions may be dangerous. Ask yourself: What would it take for me to insist the driver of a car in which I’m traveling ignore a call or text or pull over safely? Maybe before you get into another person’s car, you simply let them know you can’t and won’t tolerate unsafe driving. You could be saving a life.
Use the same rigor with alcohol. What are we doing letting others climb into cars under the influence? What would it take for us to take responsibility – to not only refuse a ride, but to grab the keys if necessary?
Speeding is equally dangerous, irresponsible, and avoidable. We speed for many nonsensical reasons. We’re running late: speeding usually does nothing to get us to our destination any faster. We’re bored: recognize it and be ruthless about slowing down. We’re stressed: know that driving IS stressful. Slowing down not only makes our trip safer, it makes it more bearable. We can: just because you’re not getting caught doesn’t make it right.
I know asking you to really look at and possibly change your driving behaviors is a tough sell. You really have to be in it to make these changes. But until we fully commit to safe roads, we are a big part of the problem. And that’s indefensible.
Join us on May 16 for the Ride and Walk of Silence and talk with family members and friends who have lost loved ones on our roads. Bring their messages back to your home and workplace and commit to being an ambassador for Safe Roads for All.
Stay tuned for a blog on how you as a cyclist can make the roads safer.