Thursday, October 27, 2011

What's with all the hit-and-run drivers lately?

Is it a symptom of broader economic woes, a backlash against the expanding bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in the more forward-looking American cities (too often I see badly misinformed comments in newspaper articles that bicyclists and pedestrians "don't pay" for these facilities), or something else?

I had my first experience with a hit-and-run driver this summer, fortunately while I was driving my car to work rather than bike-commuting. I made a right turn on a green light and a driver to my left ran a red light, plowed into the side of my car, wobbled a bit as if deciding whether or not to pull over, and kept going. I believe he was doing about 40 mph when he hit me, and there were no signs that he attempted to brake beforehand.

Fortunately for me, the driver who'd been right behind Mr. Hit and Run saw the whole thing and returned to the scene as a witness by the time the police detective arrived to investigate. Unlike me, he also supplied a full license plate number (I only got the second half of it -- which was probably wrong -- from the rapidly receding car). I haven't heard yet if they caught the guy, but they should have enough information to do so if more important police investigations don't intervene.

My sincere condolences go out to those who have not been as fortunate as I was in my hit-and-run encounter (while my car was nearly totaled, I was unharmed). I will be very happy if some of the hit-and-run drivers who killed or injured people in the Seattle area this year get caught and prosecuted to the full extent of the law before the idiot who ran into me. But still, it would be nice if some of the drivers who're impaired, angry, or distracted enough to cause a collision get taken off the road before it's too late and they hurt someone far worse than they banged up my car.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A bus padiddle

My wife and I play padiddle sometimes. We used to play more often, when it was just the two of us before the kids came along. When either of us saw a vehicle without a working headlight, we would call out "padiddle!" and if we did it first, the other person had to give a kiss. We very rarely saw a bus padiddle. This week I may have figured out why.

On my return bike/bus commute, I arrived at the Tukwila Park & Ride a minute before my bus arrived to ferry me to downtown Seattle, but there was a maintenance truck parked in the bus pullout just ahead of where the bus would normally stop.

A man was standing there and told me "hang loose, I have to change a headlight".

"How long will that take?" I asked, wondering why he 'd told me that.

"A couple minutes," he replied.

Then the bus arrived with only one headlight working, and as the maintenance guy pulled down the bike rack, I realized why he'd asked me to hang loose … mounting my bike on the rack would put it partially in between him and the headlight he was replacing.

There wasn't very much light for him to work by, so I leaned my bike against the rack out of his way and took my bike headlight off my handlebar to illuminate his work area for him.

The bus driver came out after a minute. Maybe he was concerned about me standing close by the maintenance guy -- I understand that the biggest concern bus drivers have with their job is their safety with passengers they usually know nothing about, at least in some other parts of the world -- but neither of them said anything.

It only took him a couple minutes to unscrew the frame, replace the headlight, and put everything back the way it was, as advertised, and he wished me a good night.

Pretty cool to have a headlight changed while en route, I must say, and no wonder it's been so rare for me to see a bus padiddle.