Opinion

IN OUR OPINION Motorists vs. nonmotorists

The venom that occasionally surfaces between islanders regarding our roads and the various manner in which we travel them can be embarrassing, breathtaking and even entertaining.

There’s no doubt that traversing the hundreds of miles of roads on the rock can be tricky considering their narrow and hilly nature, a dearth of sidewalks and bike paths for those who traipse along whether they are pedaling or walking the dog, very little illumination at night and some people who have difficulty sharing their space.

Generally, islanders travel a little slower and with a little more care here than they do across the pondv. Yes, most do, but this is still America and being in a hurry to get where you want to go is practically inbred. It’s difficult sometimes for us to slow down and enjoy the journey.

About a third of the island’s adults spend about half of each weekday off the island, traveling island roads on a beeline to and from jobs. To put it nicely, sometimes people actually lose their driving or bicycling etiquette getting to and from the ferry or across the Agate Pass Bridge. It’s true, believe it or not.

A recent spate of letters to the editor indicate there might be some anger and animosity held by motorists and nonmotorists toward each other, perhaps even bad blood lurking just below the surface of the average islander’s usually calm facade. Words such as coward, vigilante and vengeance have been thrown around. Goodness gracious. There are bicyclists who have a “flagrant disregard for the welfare of other people” and motorists who are guilty of “ruthless driving every day on the island.”

Wow. It’s difficult to know whether this is an epidemic or just a vocal few, or somewhere in between, but this variation of Us Against Them being played out on the island is real to at least some degree. There seems to be a good number of people here who think that they are the only ones who are important. Please, get over yourselves.

This is all about slowing down, driving alertly and respectfully, and being aware at all times of the need to share the road. If you’re driving a vehicle, you’re the bully merely by the size of your transporter, so it’s important to give bicyclists and pedestrians a wide berth while making sure you don’t run into something down the road. Of course, this is a dangerous manuever if you’re driving fast. So, to be safe, whatever the speed limit is, go slower.

Why all this trepidation? It’s important that we all realize that many of the island’s narrow roads remain “rural” and idiosyncratic by nature, and now there are a multitude of contraptions using them at various speeds and sizes. They are really not built – nor have they been improved – for a population of 23,000 people. In fact, many of them are downright dangerous.

No doubt we all like to drive or bike or walk our roads because of that ruralness. It can be kind of exciting ripping around a curve or coasting down a hill at breakneck speed or running along the shoreline. But we need to act responsibly each and every time we use them. One stupid mistake and you could cause an accident that kills or maims someone, including yourself.

People like to think that something like that will never happen, and it won’t, until it does. So slow down.

Community Events, April 2014

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