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Bicycle-friendly streets? For the most part
A couple of months ago, I was visiting with a friend who said the tone of many of my blogs portrayed the streets of Lawrence as unfriendly to cyclists.I told him I didn’t have much to which to compare, but I felt pretty safe on two wheels. Of course I’ve had conflicts. I’ve had things thrown at me, been cursed at, had cars swerve at me and try to force me into the curb. I’ve been bullied, badgered and harangued.And that was before I got hit.But as I told my friend, such incidents are rare. I estimated that less than 1 percent of my interactions had any sort of intentional hostility aimed in my direction. It was a number I pulled completely out of my, um, saddle bag.So, for a couple of weeks, I decided to put a number on it.For almost a month I kept track of events I simplified simply to “Nice” and “Mean.”Intent was a big — and subjective — part of it, obviously.For instance, the day I started keeping track, I just about got plowed by a woman who tried to piggyback on the car ahead of her at a four-way stop sign. Though it was my turn and she was entirely in the wrong, she didn’t make the Mean list because she didn’t intend to almost clobber me. She was just a bad driver.And the guy who angrily waved me through a four-way stop out of turn? He didn’t make my Nice list because, well, I never could figure out why somebody would try to allow me to go out of turn, repeatedly, and be so angry about it. At the end of close to a month, I had eight Nice entries and one Mean one. Seven of the eight on the Nice side of the ledger were drivers letting me go out of turn at an intersection. The eighth was a man letting me turn in front of him out of a private drive.The Mean entry? The idiot who approached me from behind as I neared a left turn. I signaled well in advance. He continued to approach. I moved to the center of the lane to make it plain I was turning left (that and the outstretched left hand). He moved over and continued to close the gap. I moved into the left tire track. He moved over past the center lane and accelerated. Had I tried to turn, legally, I have no doubt I would have been creamed. I’m convinced it wasn’t bad driving but just meanness.Now, there’s no way of knowing how many interactions with cars I had over that span, but surely it numbers in the thousands. If I meet 15 cars each leg of my commute and commute two legs twice a day, five days a week, that’s 300 a week. I figure each of those numbers is way low, but let’s say there were 1,000 encounters with autos.One meanie in 1,000 interactions works out not to 1 percent, as I’d guessed, but one-tenth of a percent — and a whole bunch of neutral encounters that were neither mean nor nice but simply operators of two vehicles coexisting peacefully.And in the interest of fairness, I also tallied my own Mean-Nice stats. I actually came out worse than the drivers I encountered, with only a half-dozen on the Nice side but no Mean moves. I let five drivers go out of turn at intersections and let another turn out of a private drive in front of me.Of course, I knew I was counting, too, so maybe I was on my best behavior.