Monday, March 4, 2013

Safety in numbers?

Share the road?
Saturday afternoon, after finishing a whole bunch of stuff around the house, I got into my head the idea of tracing out a 50 mile ride around Los Alamos in order to write up a proposal for a BombTown Half Century Ride.  Since it was about 3:30, it was a little impractical to bike it, so I started up the motorcycle, which has been neglected the last few weeks.

Heading back home from mapping out the previous post and riding west on NM-4 at about 1645, the sun was low in the sky and right in my face. About a mile west of TA-49, I squinted and caught some motion up ahead and sure enough, Bambi was standing on the edge of the road watching me. I braked to slow down significantly, but Bambi decided to just stand there and I continued past him. I decided to downshift and drop 5-10 mph off my pace, figuring its better to get home slowly than be picking up the pieces. A little later I was passed by another motorcyclist who was obviously going a heck of a lot faster than I was, with the same sun in the eyes and the deer alongside the road. Go figure.

But it got me thinking about that Safety in Numbers bit.

Motorists hit deer all the time, since unlike bicyclists, they do exercise that "single witness suicide dash" across the roads. But when there are a lot of them around, especially at dawn, dusk, and at night, a "reasonable motorist" watches carefully for deer because you know they are out there and no motorist wants to hit one. But you don't watch for deer in Manhattan, you watch for them in Los Alamos or along NY-17 in the Catskills or Southern Tier of New York, places where it is reasonable to expect to find them.
Deer warrant?
County engineer Kyle Zimmerman doesn't paint crosswalks unless there is a warrant, i.e., a required frequency of use by pedestrians. Kyle wants motorists to be "thinking pedestrians" when approaching a crosswalk rather than getting into the habit of blowing through crosswalks without thinking a ped might be there. I want motorists to be "thinking" bicyclist in Los Alamos.

Safety in Numbers is most optimistically a statistical effect. It won't save you as an individual from your own folly, just as it won't save an individual deer from bolting in front of a truck. What it may do is get you on a motorists' radar. Its not a magic bullet. You still have to know what YOU are doing, and a motorist has to know what HE is doing and be paying attention, but you might be slightly more confident that someone else is thinking about you and that is an improvement. Statistically speaking.

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