On the road with the rest of the world

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I live near a city of about 100 thousand people that’s home to a big university. On any drive through the business district you encounter students out jogging, on skateboards or bicycles, staring at smartphones, their feet, or off into space. A friend of mine, born and raised in New York City, is often enraged by their alteration of the city-street landscape and by the need to make sure she doesn’t run into them.

It has to be said that university students can make driving more of a challenge, but I’m glad California has a pedestrian right-of-way law, because I know it forces me to pay closer attention and to be a better driver.The skateboarder who shot out in front of me the other day could just as easily have been the driver of another vehicle who wasn’t paying attention.

We all have moments where something on our minds becomes more riveting than what’s happening around us. I once drove through a red light after hearing the announcement of a foreign leader’s assassination (call me a world affairs nerd).

We also seem to have something in our DNA that dictates that whoever is the fastest and strongest has the right of way, no matter what, no matter where. To a lot of drivers—who are also on occasion pedestrians—anyone and anything moving more slowly than we are, including other cars, is a nuisance. Who are they to get in our way?

There are cyclists who wobble out of the bike lane, older people who don’t make it across the street as quickly as they once did, and parents juggling shopping bags, toddlers, perhaps a baby carriage and a leashed dog or two. Maybe we all needed to be someplace fifteen minutes ago. Maybe none of us will get through everything we’re supposed to accomplish today. But we all have a day to get through, we’re all in the same day together, and it’s a good idea to keep our eyes on our surroundings and fellow humans—however they’re getting around—making sure we don’t slam into each other.