In most cyclo-centric blogerature the issue of motorists’ dehumanization of other road users due to the inherent anonymity of the windshield comes up from time to time. I’m not here to refute the phenomenon. I believe we as motorists become desensitized to the humanity all around us on the roads because we don’t see human forms; we see large rolling boxes of glass and steel/plastic traveling erratically at high rates of speed.
I think I recognized this phenomenon when I was still a teenager. I remember writing in my journal that I found myself hating cars that represented certain people based on the way they were driven. I can remember the event and the location where I began pondering this concept. A fellow student at ole PCHS almost ran me out of the road near my house. In my journal I wrote that I knew I didn’t hate the person, but I felt an extreme amount of hatred when I saw their car. The combination of human and machine spawned anger and ill will. But seeing the same person in the hallowed halls of learning the next day didn’t elicit the same response.
Behind the wheel we become dehumanized zombies ourselves. We stop seeing life and see only asphalt, steel, and paint. We chase after it slack-jawed with mindless focus on some dubious destination beyond the horizon which we stay in contact with via our cellular implants.
What I’d like to iterate—as observed on my drive in this morning—is that even the zombie moto-fascists out there are human. Even the crazed soccer mom screaming simultaneously at you, the cyclist, and whomever is on the other end of her cell-phone umbilical is a human life worth preserving. Really.
There have been times when someone has almost clipped me on my bike with their car only to come to a complete and casual stop at the next stop sign. Of course I wanted to drag them out of the car and repeatedly slam their head into the curb. The reason I didn’t is because I remembered that they were a human being and not some alien slug that had taken on the form of a car and was piloting it around my town while hunting for food to take back to Stavromula-Beta.
In the Car Vs. Bike diatribe it is imperative to remember that there is no “Us” Vs. “Them.” It’s all just us, humanity, trying to get around and go about our daily lives. Cyclists can act reasonably (if sometimes mysteriously) and refrain from intentionally pissing off their fellow travelers, and motorists can stop acting all self-righteous and entitled and give way.
C’mon, you’re able to travel 50 freakin’ miles in less than an hour and carry all your junk around with you! Give the slower moving travelers a break and slow down, take a deep breath, and remember that even though you act like it you’re not a mindless zombie.
And so, if we were to look beyond the non-polarized glass between us we might just see something resembling a reflection of ourselves; not some hideous, flesh rotting walking corpse intent on eating our brains. I wish I had a photo to go along with that imagery.