MODESTO -- While driving on West Orangeburg a little past dusk, and approaching the Virginia Corridor crosswalk, I was horrified to see an oncoming automobile about to hit a crossing bicyclist. It was happening right in front of me in spite of the bright warning lights on the pavement and at the curb. The driver was not slowing, nor was the cyclist looking at the oncoming car.
They missed each other by only about three inches. The cyclist stopped by pulling his front wheel up, while the driver slowed down just enough to barely avoid contact, then hurried on. As you might expect, the biker had spewed a string of epithets when the offending driver passed him. I felt like doing it, too.
Traffic had been heavy in both directions and at first I blamed the driver, but later realized the bike rider had not bothered to look as he crossed the street. Both were at fault.
The Virginia Corridor is a lovely path well-used by pedestrians. I drive past it nearly every day and see lots of people walking or riding on it, but it remains risky at rush hour for those wishing to try crossing at Orangeburg or Roseburg avenues when there is heavy traffic. (It is comforting to see that a stop sign has just been installed at Roseburg.)
Nearby at Modesto Junior College, there are several more of these special crosswalks, which are heavily used by students. It is amazing to see that lots of these kids never look to verify that vehicles have actually stopped before they step too confidently onto the busy street. It is a perilous thing to take for granted that all drivers are going to stop for them. Distractions and mistakes do happen.
Further, it is troubling to see many drivers lacking the courtesy and good sense to yield to others on our streets and parking lots. Nearly every time I am backing out of a parking space in a business park, a thoughtless driver will fail to give way when my vehicle is already in motion. Often when I have parked on a street like McHenry and returned to the car, it is almost impossible to open my door safely as a vehicle whizzes past.
Sometimes the problem is not just a lack of courtesy. How many of us eat and drink as we are on the road? Long lines of cars at some Starbucks suggest drivers will be continuing on their way with one hand holding the cup while sipping the drink. Most fast food places have drive-through windows, creating more eating distractions. Worse yet, many people still talk on the phone while driving.
So, this is just a reminder that when driving, it is not a good idea to multitask.
Kopf is an opinionated Modesto homemaker and avid gardener. Send questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.