Friday, May 22, 2009

Buzzing Angrily, Threatening to Sting

Warm weather seems to affect motorists the way it affects hornets: they move faster, more aggressively. They threaten anyone who invades their territory.

Today was the local Bike to Work Day. I saw no one else riding when and where I did. The motorists acted as if the event was meant to concentrate more targets for their inconsiderate or defensive behavior.

The automobile did more than any other factor to advance selfishness. Within decades of the start of the automobile era it was becoming a vital tool for everyone's transportation, not just a luxury for the carriage trade. It not only put a powerful machine in the hands of growing numbers of adults, it sealed them in metal and glass capsules, separate from each other, competing for space both in transit and when trying to park. In subtle and unsubtle ways, other road users became opponents. As racing advanced automotive technology, consumers' cars grew faster and more maneuverable and drivers' expectations rose. Everyone wants to be able to travel as fast as their machine is capable of going, or at least as fast as they feel like going, at all times.

Spring is the season of bloodstained roads. Every day brings new corpses and blood puddles to my route. I've also gotten to witness the actual moment of death several times when I hooked back to rescue a turtle or snake that had ventured into the lane, only to see a car smash it as I approached. The most recent was today when I spotted a newly-hatched snapping turtle smaller than a silver dollar as I rode to the bank. The car that snuffed it just smashed its head. I don't blame the driver for not seeing it. The operators of sensory deprivation tanks have enough trouble seeing cyclists and pedestrians, let alone tiny reptiles almost the color of pavement. Every driver has an excuse for peening an animal. Creatures come out in dusk or darkness. Many have colors that conceal them, or defensive habits unsuited to the hazards we bring to them. Porcupine spines or land crab claws don't repel a ton of steel moving at 60 miles per hour. Skunk stink presents an inconvenience at best. Our senses dulled behind the glass, we can't react quickly enough to the unpredictable darting of squirrels and hopping of frogs, or the unidentifiable lumps of reptiles.

The riding is beautiful. The weather improves daily. Even the setbacks to colder, wetter conditions set us less far back each time. The scent of flowers and the sound of birds define the character of the season as life reaches out in all directions. That part is great. Just watch out for the swarms of hard-shelled aggressors.

3 comments:

Ham said...

Well said, and on an oblique point you may find this interesting http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~fajans/pub/pdffiles/StopSignsAccess.pdf

cafiend said...

That is interesting.

Rantwick said...

Good link, Ham. I may refer others to it when discussing stop signs!

Cafiend - good post. I've long found it saddening that the vehicle with which I'm least likely to kill anything brings me closest to the grizzly symptoms of other, more insulated and desensitizing ways of getting around.