Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Easier in a car

I recently listened in on several SCAD students debating the practicality of living without a car in downtown Savannah. Bicycle ridership is probably higher among college students than any other demographic group in the country. Getting a new bicycle for the first year on campus, then having it promptly stolen, is a rite of passage for American students. They may put more miles on their bikes during college than they will for the rest of their lives.

Still, some college students cling steadfastly to their cars even in an environment in which automobiles can be a liability.

One student asked an avid cyclist how he transported himself to the malls, both of which are located on Abercorn Extension, Savannah's main corridor of commercial sprawl. His response was classic: "Malls are everything I hate all in one place, so they are easy to avoid." Another asked a car-free peer how she planned to get to Kroger for groceries when it was raining. Would she still be riding her bike then? Her response was right on target. "Probably," she said. "But I might just put on my raincoat, grab my umbrella and walk."

Still, the car cartel wouldn't be swayed. They might concede that life without a car was possible, but some things, they argued, are just easier in a car.

Later in the week I was walking near the intersection of Gwinnett and Lincoln streets. Lincoln is a one-way street at this location, with a single lane available to automobile traffic. There's a bicycle lane on the west side of the street and parking on the east.

I observed a woman leaning up against a sedan chatting with the occupants. Soon, the person in the driver's seat said,"Well, I'll see how far I can make it." Her friend stepped onto the sidewalk and the car lurched into traffic and headed north at about 2 miles per hour. I noticed that the car's right rear tire was flat. Because I was walking in the same direction and moving at almost precisely the same speed as the car, I had an ideal vantage point from which to observe the drama as it began to unfold.

Pretty soon half a dozen other cars were stacked up behind the slow-moving automobile. The operators of these vehicles telegraphed their displeasure by honking their horns and trying to pass in the bike lane. The woman in the wounded car responded by leaning out of her window, turning her head and torso toward the trailing cars and enthusiastically screaming an impressive repertoire of obscenities. Some of the other motorists responded in kind.

I'm not sure who exactly who was driving the woman's car during her exchange with her fellow motorists, because her top half was totally outside the car. She was using both hands to vigorously emphasize the words she was shouting. I suppose the young child in the front seat might have taken the wheel. Eventually, the car turned onto the side street and the disgruntled motorists angrily accelerated to reclaim the 45 seconds that had been stolen from them.

I sometimes see similar behavior in motorists, who are irritated by having to wait to pass me. However, I couldn't create anything close to the Parade of Vehicular Hostility described above, even if I rode my bike in the middle of the street. After all, some things are just easier in a car.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow. Nicely done. The last line is wonderful.