When one kind of delay is worse than another

When one kind of delay is worse than another


Delay. Stealing the life from our very being. We moan about being delayed all the time. “Sorry I was late – the traffic was horrendous!”

(It’s interesting to consider that delay while travelling is really only a motor-vehicle problem. If you are late and you got there by foot or by bike, it’s because you left too late. You simply don’t find yourself in situations where you delayed as you are stood behind someone for large chunks of time who has fallen asleep, or has to tend to a very complicated untied shoelace on the footpath, and not even if the footpath has been torn up for repair. Same with bikes. You just go around. Filter to the front. Or, worst case, become a pedestrian.)

Sitting in traffic, cars banked up, gridlock, construction, collisions, turning vehicles, parking vehicles, broken down vehicles. All of these test the patience of those in cars… but not nearly as much as having to pass a cyclist.

Which is really, really, really strange. All of that delay at the hands of other motorists, at the delay caused by repairing the damage that you and other motorists do to the roads, and yet having to slow down rather than stop to get around a cyclist is what sets so many people off?  You’re not even having to stop!

For some reason, delay at the hands of other motorists is considered to be normal. Not liked, but accepted. Is it because we don’t see a way of changing this that we accept it? That people have to drive everywhere all the time, it couldn’t possibly be otherwise, and so it’s not the fault of traffic but of some unspecified force? Is it because when we’re sat in stationary traffic we might think that we’re all in this together (we would get somewhat more upset if you were stuck in your lane while the next one proceeded by unimpeded)? That the delay is just part of a greater good?

We don’t take a stand against the number of cars on the roads, but when traffic-induced delay gets to a certain point we whinge about not having sufficient infrastructure to handle it. More lanes! More roads! Someone get the bulldozers!

Aside from the myopic view that the solution to more traffic is more roads rather than fewer cars, the other confounding point we prefer to miss is that if the problem to congestion is more roads, then the problem of having to deal with cyclists should really also be more cycling infrastructure. But, for that to sound like a logical statement, bicycles need to be considered legitimate forms of transportation. As it is, the default answer for too many people regarding how to accommodate cyclists is to simply get rid of them.

Yet, people on bikes are never held up by traffic (though the number of cyclists in some parts of the world is reaching saturation), and never (rarely?) cause traffic to come to a standstill. Still, people will put up with gridlock at the hands of other motorists, yet lose their minds about having to go around (ie, pass, ie, while still moving) cyclists.

Unlike being delayed by other vehicles, the temporary delay caused by passing a cyclist safely must surely be seen as unnatural. It is an outrage how cyclists are such an imposition on the real traffic. It’s simply not the natural order of things.

Why? Because cyclists don’t belong here. Cars do. End of. That’s what roads are for: cars, not people. I think that one reason that people get so upset at even the least amount of delay they experience at the hands of a cyclist might be that some people still harbour the idea that it’s still up for debate whether to allow cyclists on the roads. “If only they weren’t in the way, I would be there by now!” The conversation changes a little when people finally accept that bicycles are here to stay, and so the problem then is how best to accommodate them.

Until that happens, why can’t we at least comprehend that the delay from being stuck in stationary traffic, which we accept, is worse than having to turn your steering wheel a bit to proceed around a cyclist? Or, better yet, worse than providing a good connected system of bike routes so that there are fewer cars, and you don’t have to go around cyclists!

That is to say, you, motorist, have to deal with (real) delay all the time, so could you a) just chill out a bit about having to pass cyclists, and b) if you really don’t like it, suggest to your elected officials that you would really appreciate lots of lovely segregated cycling infrastructure everywhere so you don’t have to stress about it?!

That’d be great. Don’t delay.


Header image: source