Tag Archives: drivers

[OPINION] Drivers, Bikers, Joggers, Strollers: Be Careful!

Peter Blau is a marketing consultant. He grew up in Westport, lives in Weston, and bikes often. He writes:

I’ve been out cycling a lot recently. So have lots of other people. And way more pedestrians too, than before COVID.

Trouble is, traffic is back with a vengeance now that retail and recreation is reopening. It’s only a matter of time before someone gets killed or seriously hurt. Here are some of the most dangerous things I see:

Drivers approach a biker, pedestrian or even a pedestrian/stroller duo, and swerve across the yellow line without slowing down. Sometimes they’re actually accelerating to “make it” before the oncoming car passes. I have seen near misses, and fear that someday one of these drivers will swerve back into his lane and kill whoever is walking or cycling by.

Pedestrians who walk well into the roadway, with their back to car and cycle traffic, sometimes while distracted by operating their mobile device. Or pedestrians who use the road when there’s a sidewalk available.

That was the case in a near-miss between my bike and a jogger in the road on Hillspoint just north of the beach. The guy yelled at me to “watch out!”” even though I could not swerve away from him, because a car was passing. My only choice was to brake, but he could have easily moved onto the sidewalk, or the grassy verge in between.

Group cyclists riding 2 or more abreast so they can converse more easily. This prompts unnecessarily wide swerving by cars. When there’s lots of oncoming traffic, it forces drivers to move at a snail’s pace, sometimes provoking angry motorists into an aggressive driving maneuver.

Now that COVID is less of a worry around here, we all need to focus on sharing the road safely. Remember: Let’s be careful out there!

Driving Teens Crazy

Don’t drive while texting.  Don’t drive while shuffling your iPod.  Don’t drive while eating dinner.

Duh.

That don’t-kill-yourself-or-others advice is plastered throughout Staples  this month, on eye-catching posters created by the school’s energetic and effective Teen Awareness Group.

Raising awareness of good driving habits is great — who could be against it?  But TAG is missing another important audience:  their parents.

Chatting on cell phones; putting on makeup; roaring through already-red lights; weaving in and out of traffic; cutting off drivers entering your lane — teenagers don’t invent these things.

They’ve got to be carefully taught.

And as much as we like to preach good driving habits, it’s our practices that youngsters follow.

Kids learn how to drive long before they’re 16.  They learn when they’re 12, 10, even 5.  They learn from the passenger seat, the back seat — even the booster seat.

Thanks, TAG, for all you do to keep young drivers safe.  If you’ve got time, start working on us old folks.

Teen Awareness group poster - Staples HS

Walking The Walk

Two days ago, an “06880” reader suggested lowering the driving age to 14.

Here’s another thought:  Make ’em walk.

It’s not my idea.  I stole it from the New York Times, which reported on a town in Italy that eliminated most school buses and parent drivers.  Instead, paid staff members and parent volunteers lead lines of walking students to school — “Pied Piper-style, stopping here and there as their flock expands.”

The town’s “piedibuses” (the Italian sounds better  than “foot buses”) have saved more than 100,000 miles of car travel, and prevented tons of greenhouses gases from entering the air.

Here in the U.S. a few places — Marin County and Boulder, go figure — have introduced modest “walking-bus programs,” but the concept is foreign to most of us.

Westport — home of the first plastic bag ordinance east of the Mississippi — would seem to be a perfect place to try.  We could save gas, help the environment, unjam roads, amortize our sidewalks, promote fitness, give students more time to socialize, give parents more time to themselves, and (the big one) cut some buses out of our education budget.

Walking to school might lighten backpacks too.  Kids today haul all their earthly possessions everywhere — more academic, less migratory versions of the Joad family.

The downside?  Drivers still on the road — those hustling to work, or their workout appointments — would be freed up to speed up.  Our streets are already riskier than Baghdad’s; adding hundreds of potential targets  might not be the smartest idea to come down the pike.

On the other hand, it’s worth a try.  Perhaps we can use the stimulus package to put Pied Pipers to work, leading ever-expanding flocks up and down North Avenue.

Driving Down The Age

The telephone.  The airplane.  TV dinners.

Given enough time, man can dream up anything.  But it takes a creative Westporter to think of this idea:

Lower the driving age to 14.

A middle-aged neighbor — who asked to remain nameless — has devised a new way to meld environmentalism and puberty.

“Everyone says kids are not responsible,” he explains.  “I think we need to give them more responsibility.”

At a time when our entire nation needs to be more responsible — particularly if we want future generations to do things like drive and live — this Westporter suggests handing car keys to boys and girls a year after their bar or bat mitzvahs.  Here’s the catch:  They could not drive high-speed vehicles.

“America needs to produce new types of cars,” he says.  “But manufacturers don’t think there’s a market for them.  If we allow 14- and 15-year-olds to drive — but not let them on highways, or in cars that go over 45 miles an hour — we’ll expand the market.  There’ll be a new sector for efficient, low-cost, locally driven cars.”  One more buzzkill for young drivers:  Their cars would be small enough to carry only one or two passengers.

The Westporter has a 14-year-old daughter.  Would he actually let her get behind the wheel?

“Sure!” he says cheerfully.  “She’d be a better driver than me tomorrow!”

He is a brave man indeed.  Just not brave enough to allow his name to be printed publicly.