Ryan Lee

Ryan Lee: A non-driver’s road rage

I don’t like the people that cars create. I subject myself to this judgment, remembering the 65 pounds I gained in the two years I owned an automobile in the early 2000s, when I could feel the laziness accumulating in my midsection as I folded myself into the driver’s seat.

Go ahead, give it a test: I’m willing to bet one of the worst versions of yourself is the one that holds a steering wheel. You’re likely more stressed, less patient, more entitled and aggressive, a bigger bully yet a perpetual victim.

And you might not be too bright, either, if you’re among the majority of drivers who constantly complain about gas prices and traffic, as if those aren’t two guaranteed burdens of car ownership. Some folks say Americans’ addiction to gasoline funds terrorism and destroys the planet, and all we care about is getting a few more gallons for fewer pennies.

Drivers seem enraged by every other car on the road, every pedestrian, every red light, every construction cone, every yield sign and everything else that interrupts their forward progress. As hopeless as Donald Trump’s election prospects are, he could win the White House by promising to equip every American’s automobile with a button that would unfurl a nuclear landscape that allows drivers to reach their destination without impediments (which is totally something Trump would instruct his Secretary of Transportation to implement for those who can afford it).

While drivers loathe the universe with which they are forced to share the road, most feel uniquely venomous toward bicycle riders, as has been previously discussed in these pages. Drivers’ main gripes against cyclists is that many biker riders run red lights, which is illegal.

However, it’s disingenuous for drivers to pretend they care about traffic violations. I’ve never had a driver scream, “Same rules, same road!” when I break the law by riding on the sidewalk during an extended uphill, so as to not delay the cars behind me.

Drivers only hate cyclists when they’re in the way, when the driver has to waste 5-20 seconds to pass the bike rider. Here’s a pro tip about life: you ain’t that busy, so calm down.

The bitterness drivers have toward cyclists is so irrational that many feel if a bike rider faces no punishment for running a red light, a driver should face no punishment for mowing a cyclist off the road. The same people who ignore the dozens of laws they break in their daily commute – from surpassing the speed limit and not yielding to pedestrians, to texting and being buzzed while driving – are ready to impose the death penalty on someone who pedaled past a stop sign.

Atlanta’s status as a car-centric city is evident in the soulless growth we’ve experienced over the past two decades. How many of Atlantans have never walked more than two blocks from their residence or the places they drive to regularly, whose primary interaction with this city is from a front door to their parking space?

The BeltLine promises to boost Atlanta’s pedestrian/street culture, but the trend in development is “urban campuses” such as Atlantic Station and Ponce City Market. These centralized hubs of “city life” that most people drive to (including the BeltLine itself) are chic, but they are far from the best version of Atlanta.