On two feet, two wheels or four wheels, you take your life into your hands

September 2, 2007 

You get different perspectives on traffic if you're traveling on four wheels, on two wheels or on two feet.

Since school resumed last week for most students in our area, traffic and safety have been on my mind. At our house, we've resumed the daily ritual of rousting our son out of bed, out the door and into the car for the morning drive to Modesto High School.

Our route takes us down Coffee Road, where just a few days into the academic year the usual traffic patterns have re-established themselves.

Virtually every day, the same thing happens as we approach Downey High School. I'm in the left lane heading south and when I see the yellow school-zone flashers, I slow to the required 25 mph.

Then I look in my rearview mirror and see a Ford Ginormo pickup or Toyota Monstro SUV bearing down on my modest Saturn Ion, a car named for an atom and about as imposing. Without fail, the behemoth behind me comes snorting up to my bumper, then -- at 40 mph or more -- swerves quickly and indignantly to pass on the right.

The ride from home to downtown is less hectic on two wheels. For most of the summer, I've been riding my bike to work a day or two each week. I stick to shady secondary streets through the center of the city, where I encounter relatively few cars and trucks.

Those drivers I do encounter at four-way stops are usually polite and often wave me through the intersection ahead of them. I've heard from other bicyclists that motorists often hassle them, but that has not been my experience.

On two feet, though, I've had hassles aplenty.

The other night, my son and I stepped into a crosswalk on our way to the Stanislaus County Library. By the time we'd crossed the center line, a vicious little Honda hatchback came racing three blocks up I Street and blew right past us.

Even allowing for those who might want to do me in for something The Bee has published, I've had way too many close encounters with cars turning onto H Street as I leave our building.

And I can't count the number of times I've stopped my own car at crosswalks to let pedestrians cross, only to have drivers in the adjoining lane blast on through.

So with school back in session and the daylight hours diminishing, I suggest that all motorists ease off the gas pedal. Keep a sharp eye out for kids hustling to and from school. And if you see a middle-aged guy pedaling a red mountain bike on Sunrise Avenue, please yield.

Managing Editor Dan Day, a former grade school safety patrol officer, can be reached at dday@modbee.com or 578-2332. He blogs at http://thehive.modbee.com/editorsdesk.

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