Dear Tell All: For years I have been biking or walking to work from various residences around Madison — east side, west side, south side. I never cease to be amazed at the recklessness and inhumanity of local drivers.
As busy intersections I obey all the rules, staying in the crosswalks and waiting for the right of way. I’m always wearing a reflective safety vest, and in the evening I have a flashing light on my backpack or the bike I’m walking. It doesn’t matter. Cars on the opposite side will invariably make their right turns in spite of having a pedestrian in harm’s way; or they’ll run a red light coming from the other direction. I often have to stop short or even scurry backwards to avoid a car that hasn’t so much as slowed down before making its illegal move.
It’s bad enough that Madison drivers are so willing to endanger an adult pedestrian in a crosswalk. The worst is when they do it to kids. When I cross busy intersections holding my daughter’s hand, drivers subject us to the same life-threatening behavior. I scream at them and also fantasize about throwing rocks through their windows.
I’ve never seen the local police go after a driver who has flagrantly endangered a pedestrian. And I’ve never seen drivers modify their behavior, even after high-profile news reports of pedestrian injuries or deaths. Is there any hope that I’ll survive to an old age on Madison’s mean streets?
Dear Vulnerable: Madison isn’t the worst city in the U.S. for aggressive driving — that would be Phoenix. But, as you make clear, we could do better.
The answer is not to scream or to throw rocks, as satisfying as that might be in the short-term. Sowing more chaos on Madison streets will not make any of us safer.
How about taking positive action? When you see a driver breaking the law, get the license plate number and call the Madison police at 608-266-4622. Or lodge a complaint on the department’s “Report a Problem” webpage for traffic enforcement. You can also get involved with Safe Communities of Madison-Dane County, a group devoted to improving local safety.
Another option is to make internal adjustments. I hate to tell you, Vulnerable, but human idiocy will never be cured. Rather than stewing about crazy Madison drivers, try to adopt a more detached attitude. Expect that they will endanger your life — and take the proper precautions — rather than letting righteous indignation overwhelm you every time it happens. That way you’ll be safer and happier, and surviving to an old age will be vastly more pleasant.
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