I am relaxedly driving my pick-up truck in my own downtown neighborhood in Santa Cruz. A cyclist pedals right through the stop sign in front of me, coming from my right. I am tolerant of people on bicycles just slowing down at stop signs. It’s against the law but the law is probably wrong there. In many cases, it’s impractical to stop; it takes too much effort; it eliminates or almost eliminates the bicycle as an inexpensive and healthy method of transportation. I am guessing some solution is going to be found and the law changed, at some point. Perhaps there will be a new rule: “Yield to bicycles” within certain perimeters.
But, wait a minute: The man is riding a bike with the kind of extension that allows a small child to ride along, I mean behind. There is such a small child riding along. And then there are three more, older, children 7, 8, 10 following, each on his/her own bike. They all ride happily and speedily through the stop sign. They are following Dad closely. None looks sideways.
I will be damned, I think!
First things first. I, personally, am not much of a danger to anyone while at the wheel. My reflexes are not what they were say, in 1975, but they are good enough. I don’t drink and drive. I barely drink anyway. And I am relaxed, as I said. I drive slowly because I am seldom in a rush. I never jump a stop sign. (never, jamais, nunca). But I live downtown where people try to go shopping, pick up their laundry, eat and go back to work within their forty minute lunch break. There is no day when I don’t mouth an obscenity as some dangerous driving performance. I think most other drivers in my area seldom come to a full stop. Many roll through, a fair number drive right through without slowing down because, I suspect, the theory is that since they are only going at thirty miles/hr so, that’s good enough. I mean they are already slow; that’s the same as slowing slowing. By the way, there is a new sex-linked fad (the ignorant say “gender-linked”): Young women never seem to stop. ( “Girl” is the new “boy.”)
That’s the kind of area where I see what seems to be a father with his four children breeze through a stop sign on their bikes. I know what you think. No, they don’t seem poor. They are all dressed solid middle class; I know because I am a professional sociologist. All the bikes are at least good quality. Don’t ask me how I know that. I know from living in Santa Cruz, a Green middle-class college town where real poverty is not really allowed. I know a three hundred dollar bike from a forty dollar bike you might pick up it a garage sale in late June. This was not a processional of poverty by people who cannot afford to ride in a car who rode across the front end of my truck. This was not a scene out of Victor Hugo. (Remember Les Miserables?) Nor was it a happy merry tiny, local version of the Tour de France. There are plenty of beautiful, flat places in this town where you would choose to ride with your kids rather than near city hall if you just liked cycling. If they want to have family fun, why here? Why not near the beach, for example?
What I saw, I believe, was simply responsible transportation by an environmentally conscious middle-class family. I saw a green dad going to Whole Foods with his children in a ecologically responsible way. I understand the logic: If you take the trouble to buy overpriced organic, local, durable agriculture produce, you don’t want to have to explain to your own kind why you must burn a quart of gasoline to get it. Dad does not want to contribute to global warming. Even more importantly, he wants to do his best to raise his own children so they won’t. He is projecting his environmental consciousness forward in time. He is doing his small part to save the world, in the long run. His behavior is wholly ethical, by his lights even a little bit admirable, really.
Me, I would have liked to stop him under some pretext, I would have liked to distract his children’s attention and beat the man about the head and shoulders. The streets of most towns are quite dangerous. That’s a fact, not my wild, imagination talking. In our latitudes children older than five hardly ever die of anything, except accidents (accidents of all kinds, not just traffic).
I can’t help wonder what the dad’s display of social responsibility is going to cost in the end? One child, two children? Will he be able to rear only three of his kids instead of four, or maybe only two, in order to limit his family’s contribution to global warming? Isn’t it true that he had better be damned sure there actually exists:
A general global rise in average temperatures,
that is caused by human activity;
that requires urgent attention.
© Jacques Delacroix 2013
Today is a summer Sunday, a slow day for this blog. There have been hits from Brazil, the Philippines and Russia. There are always visits from overseas, from countries far from the US and Canada. I often wonder who these visitors are. I am pleased they come by. I hope they read what I write and follow the readers’comments. I wish sometimes, they would say “hi.” I wish they would manifest themselves and perhaps, even contribute.