Technology Shouldn't Be Used To Enable Bad Drivers

If you can't see a pedestrian without radar help, stop driving.

Mar 28 2013, 7:30pm

Confoundingly enough, the sort of bike-related road rage you hear most about is not that sort induced by the constant threat of obliteration in an endless number of ways that cyclists face every time they enter a roadway shared with cars, trucks, buses, and other things hundreds of times their weight.

It does not have to do with a large percentage of those drivers being distracted, careless, under the influence, and/or just plain assholes, or being honked at, cut off, doored, and/or having shit thrown at them from windows. No, road rage as it pertains to cyclists is the feeling that motorists endure upon being presented by a cyclist on their road, particularly if that cyclist is perceived by the rage-haver to have been "naughty," e.g. not following traffic laws as they apply to motorists. In short, it's a strain of barfy, anti-cyclist indignation.

I actually caught it in an unfortunate (and since-removed) headline yesterday at Technology Review, "How To Reduce Cyclist-Induced Road Rage." It was not about encouraging empathy among drivers and cyclists or pushing for more traffic-separated improvements like bike lanes and pathways. It was about a pedestrian and cyclist detection device Volvo is unveiling this year.

Because, you see, "Driving the same streets [as cyclists] in a car, meanwhile, involves keeping one eye peeled for cyclists who run red lights, weave through traffic, and generally seem hell-bent on injuring themselves. A clever new system from Volvo could perhaps help thaw relations between these natural roadway foes."

I might just be being dense, but I'm not sure how a radar system cures "cyclist-induced road rage" unless we were to take "cyclist-induced road rage" as strictly concern trolling and, if drivers have to worry less about the safety of cyclists, then that rage will diminish.

It won't of course, because cyclist-induced road rage is about a whole bunch of other stuff that an on-board radar would have nothing to do with, much of it having to do with a false equivalency between a 200 pound package of flesh and aluminum and 3,000 pounds (for a small city car) of metal and glass.

In any case, the detection system, in this context, gets on my nerves. I don't think it's a reach to say that if a driver unaided cannot maintain the situational awareness required to drive around cyclists (and pedestrians, other traffic, dogs, etc.) they should not be driving a car at all. Systems like this serve to enable bad drivers simply by allowing them to pay less attention to what's around them. Hey, here's a neat thing that does your careful driving for you!

You know who does need radar? Pilots. Pilots need radar because they're traveling in unmarked vector 3-space at 400 miles-per-hour (more or less), not 35 on a two-dimensional roadway. If I got right-hooked by a 777, I think I'd be much more forgiving. You on the other hand, driving the Volvo, have no excuse.


Image: Richard Masoner/Creative Commons