My name is Jason and this blog is about bikes and biking, plain and simple. I don't claim to be a gear head, a former pro, a hipster or an afficionado. I just like to ride my bicycle.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Personal Space

Let’s talk about a very touchy subject called:  personal space. Outside the scope of certain friends and intimate relations it is generally considered rude in American culture to 'get up in one's grill' in the parlance of our times, or otherwise invade one's personal space. Even without direct contact, the sheer presence of one averse to the fundamental understandings of proximal relationships can make an otherwise normal occurrence very uncomfortable. The close talker, the casual shoulder toucher, the close passer, hand grabber, awkward chest looker...these are all creepy intrusions into the private sphere of personal space. Unless you're standing on a crowded bus, elevator or playing rugby people generally respect boundaries and try not to engage in too much unsolicited bumping, grinding, touching or encroaching.

So with such a well understood concept governing our interactions with strangers walking down the street or pushing our carts at the store, why then do we struggle to apply such courtesies to the road; its a mystery to me. Let's play a little Rorschach style game and try and figure this mystery out if we can.

What do you see here?
Clearly it’s a sign that says “Bike Route”, but what could be meant by this? It might mean…that the designated roadway is--a route for bikes. This would then mean that bikes could be routed along it, which thusly could also mean that people could actually ride their bikes on this surface (and in fact are encouraged to do so.) So if you happen across such a bike propelled by such a person on such a surface designated with such signage, then you should perhaps do your best not to run them over and in missing them narrowly show your disgust at their very presence on the same plane of existance as you with your colorful hand gesturing.

So now, how about this one?
This is a trickier one, while both symbolic and declarative its not entirely specific. “Ahead” is a very vague term in the grander sense of the entire space time continuum. But unless you are Steven Hawking (or his clone), then this sign means that BIKES have a LANE...AHEAD....generally meaning right freakin' there. This would indeed be separate from the normal general use lanes of traffic commonly seen on either sides of the dashed yellow line.

As in this picture for example:
Now clearly the symbols and copious use of paint show us the exact distinction of spaces for use by bicycles (hint:  it’s the one with the picture painted on the ground) and the other general use traffic lane (hint:  the one without the picture of the bike on the ground). Now you might think that such a sophisticated species with unwritten social mores around personal space would appreciate the actual designation of separate physical spaces as outlined by these markings. And yet not everyone seems to get this. Take this example:
Clearly law is not enough if the business people of the law cannot seem to unravel and decipher its tangled intricacies. How can I expect the average Joe to know the difference? Clearly the half dozen or more Joe's on my ride home from work today really struggled with the concept about as much as the professional law enforcement types depicted above. Well I suppose that’s the crux of it. Taken as a whole, the Bike Route, Bike Lane, Bike Pictures and Solid White Painted Line SHOULD suffice it to say to the general motoring public: STAY OUT OF MY DAMNED PERSONAL SPACE and yet that seems to challenge some who see this congruence of pictures and paint and think: passing lane, turning lane, parking lane, u-turn lane, my lane. Well guess what, its actually MY LANE, so its my space when I’m occupying it. That means get your close talking, shoulder touching, close passing, hand grabbing, chest looking, bike lane driving ass out of it!

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