What Happened on the Way to School: What YOU Thought

Friends, I can’t thank you enough for your feedback on that post about how I was nearly hit near CJ’s school. I love that we can have this conversation as a community, and hope that those of you who prefer not to comment publicly will feel free to email me at tulip(dot)lane(at)outlook(dot)com.

Now, what you said. I pulled these both from the comments section and my personal Facebook page.

First of all, it’s clear that this type of experience is NOT unique to me. One of my thoughts in the middle of this experience was about why all this weird stuff always happened to ME. What am I doing wrong? Why doesn’t this happen to anybody else? Well. Let’s see what you said:

In the most intensive year of my life as a pedestrian (Chicago, 2011-2012) I was actually hit by a car once while running (minor thing, thank goodness) and had a car clip the front of [my son’s] stroller once. Yes. When you walk more, there’s more chance to experience this kind of crazy.

I’ll have to tell you about the time I was walking my kids to school and hit the trunk of a car with my hand while in the crosswalk because they didn’t give us the right-of-way…

I too have done something like that! Also, one of my friends said her normally calm husband finally walked out to the front of their house one day and yelled at the drivers going too fast to “SLOW DOWN” because there were kids around! Sometimes we just HAVE to speak up!

My takeaway is that when we get out of our cars, we frequently experience the public realm as a a hostile place. We don’t typically seek out confrontation, but when we travel by foot or on bike it seems to become unavoidable. That’s clearly a problem.

I think the fact that the driver had been confronted and punched in the face before is a huge red flag! She obviously drives in an aggressive manner and either isn’t aware or doesn’t care to change. I think you were right to confront her.

I think you did the right thing because when no one calls someone out for improper behavior, it is as if we are encouraging said behavior to continue…

I believe that pedestrians and bicyclists, by extension feel vulnerable and exposed. I applaud you for trying to strike up a dialogue. We need to do that more often and not feel like we were in the wrong even when it’s not our fault. We are quick to blame cyclists and walkers for pushing the boundaries when we do it often in our cars and don’t seem to notice that. (Emphasis mine.)

I thought it was interesting that everyone who commented thought that confronting her was an appropriate response, because I really questioned myself on this point. After I read that last comment above, I figured out why: In my gut, I felt like I was on the wrong because I had been crossing the street. This floors me. I, of all people, have so thoroughly internalized the message our surroundings give that I feel like I’m breaking a rule by crossing the freaking road? What the heck?

The question that remains is the most important one, though – was this conversation effective? And this is where I think Shelly absolutely nailed it:

…learning the genuine art of non-violent communication with these aggressive people is helpful, and can also teach others how to handle their unruliness and regain some humanity.

I don’t think our conversation was completely successful. It led to surface reconciliation, but I’m not convinced that she thought she had done anything wrong or processed that her actions had put me in danger. In fact, I think she may have still felt wronged by me because I acted like I didn’t think she was going to stop. (Gah. That still frustrates me, a week later.) The communication aspect is another post entirely, but I do think it’s key to the conversation. There’s a solid summary of the technique here.

I’m going to end with something Michael said – a reminder and challenge to both myself and all of you.

The more we walk and ride our bikes, the more considerate we will be around other pedestrians and cyclist. Keep up the dialogue.

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2 thoughts on “What Happened on the Way to School: What YOU Thought”

  1. great post, Meika! I hope you can receive your validation from your many supporters, that you were in no way at fault here for acting firmly defensive, regardless of what that driver may think. I think people who are aggressive drivers have a psychological profile that does not enable them to ever perceive faults in themselves. It’s an unfortunate profile. I have read many articles about women in NYC who have tried biking in the city themselves, and with their child/children, and have admittedly given it up because of story after story of danger. They are women who want the freedom to commute the way they wish, but also women who are quite naturally fiercely protective of their children, and themselves. Your defensiveness is natural, and admirable, and permitted, even if she was ‘planning’ to stop. She might have thanked you for helping to remind her. Hang tough.

    1. Thank you, Shelly! This aggressive driving, and the acceptability of it, is one of the top things we need to change. Yes.

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