Give me a brake.
Here it is – 6 in the morning and I am driving along 111th Avenue. Out of the corner of my eye I see several dark figures on the street. If I keep going at my proper (legal) speed, I'll have several bodies as hood ornaments.
So I slow down and lean on the horn. They are crossing against the light on their way to their jobs at the Royal Alexandra Hospital. They don't pick up their pace, just keep on sashaying along, some turning to look at me with blank faces.
Words I should not say streak through my mind.
It's not only pedestrians. The 111th Avenue corridor is a main thoroughfare for emergency vehicles. Sirens screaming, lights flashing, horns blaring, they roar down the road. Lives could well be at stake. Yet there will be that driver who is three sandwiches short of a picnic basket who refuses to pull over to the right and get out of the rescuers' way.
I turn down an inner city residential road on my way to Fort Road. I lighten my foot on the gas pedal. There's only room for one car to drive along the road and I keep my eyes peeled for wild hares.
Out of nowhere, a young orange cat streaks out from under a parked car. I brake. I honk long and hard. Not at the cat. My rage is at the "owner" who puts their pet out the door instead of keeping it safely inside. That cat is at the mercy of cars, poison (antifreeze, bait put out for mice), sadists who delight in torturing animals, being picked up by animal control . . . and on it goes.
Now comes the cyclist. He meanders through the stop sign, not even giving me a glance. Dressed in dark clothing, nary a light or reflective strip on him or his bike, he does not look back as I push my brake pedal down – again.
But why should he care? Edmonton has no law requiring cyclists to licence their bikes.
Heck, the city even wants to pave the natural trails through Buena Vista Park in the river valley for the speeding cyclist. Never mind the rest of us. The meandering strollers. The families with wee ones. Stressed out Edmontonians seeking peace, walking their dogs. The wild creatures who call the valley home.
Many a time I see bikes streaking through the crosswalk on 111th Avenue just before 121st Street. They don't even turn on the overhead flashing lights.
Yes, there are superb bike riders who dismount, walk their bike across, don't run reds, mount headlights, rear lights and bells on their bikes, and give clear hand signals. They share the valley trails, sound the bell when they are coming by. Thank you. You are responsible, I watch out for you and it is a pleasure to share the roads with you.
We both have to be aware of the pedestrian who steps out, hopefully in a crosswalk, without looking left or right, confident they are in the right and by some miracle you are going to stop for them. They don't hear the traffic, or the fellow pedestrian calling out "Watch out!" They are plugged into their iPod, tuned out from the world.
Once in a while, a small child will be standing by the lost-in-space walker. The little one will put out their arm to signal they want to cross. Then they look left and right. At what age does it become uncool to not follow such a simple safety habit?
Am I a perfect driver? Of course not. But I try. Readers are probably thinking I'm careful because I was in an accident. You are right. I was rear ended 10 years ago and still bear the after-effects. The other driver was from out of province, did not know the roadways and was genuinely sorry he crashed into me.
Bottom line? Let's be careful out there.
(Lasha Morningstar firstname.lastname@example.org)