Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Just what the Court ordered?

If you've spent any time in traffic court, or have acquaintances who have, you are probably aware that the vast majority of cases are settled by the driver accepting a sentence to Defensive Driving School, or some other form of Driver Education. They have to pay for the class, but usually get a break in their fine, and fewer points are deducted from their license. So the driver wins, and the community wins in that a bad driver is now being exposed to education (I say "bad driver" because they did something that warranted a ticket, so they can't be a perfect driver, right?). There's another entity that wins in this scenario also: The Driver Education company. They have a court-mandated steady supply of customers, they can charge pretty much whatever they want for the class, and they are able to educate drivers.

So why doesn't this happen with cyclists?

It does in a few places around the country. There's even a model here in California. Santa Cruz County, on the north shore of Monterrey Bay, has a cyclist education program that offending cyclists can be ordered to in lieu of paying a fine in traffic court.

There are so many benefits to a system like this, both obvious and subtle, that I probably can't even think of them all. First, the obvious, and already mentioned:

-Cyclists who need bicycle safety training are ordered to get it!

-The organization that gives the training has a steady supply of students.

And the not so obvious. . .

-The organization that gives the training will, indirectly, be training the police and the courts about proper and safe cycling!

-Cycling advocacy and education becomes a real and accepted entity within the city government. No longer working from the outside, but sitting at the table with decision makers.

-The groundwork is set for positive police/cyclist interaction. Police can pull over cyclists and know that they are actually helping them, rather than giving them a hugely expensive ticket for a seemingly minor infraction.

-Cycling is legitimized in the minds of police and courts (after all, there's a county/city supported education program).

There's probably more benefits that I can't think of or articulate right now. This is an idea worth pursuing. The infrastructure is there (police, education system, courts, etc). Now, how do we get them all on the same page? San Diego wouldn't be the first place to do this, so it can't be that hard!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Accepting Choice

I've been fairly negligent in keeping up with this blog. I think a large part of my hesitance to post is that I feel like it will take an hour to type what I want to say. So I'm going to try just posting small bits, rather than entire essays. I'm going to imagine that most of those small bits will turn into much longer pieces, but we'll see. So short and sweet.

Today's topic: Accepting Choice

I watch Suze Orman every Saturday night. She's a financial advisor on CNBC. I won't get into why I enjoy her show so much, but one of her guiding principles is that a person must first take responsibility for their choices before they will be able to overcome their current situation. She forces people to understand that their current financial situation is a result of choices that they made for themselves. Suze doesn't allow people to hide behind the curtain of victimization. She preaches that to overcome your problems you must accept responsibility for the problem. It's a simple message, but really presents a paradigm shift for a lot of her callers.

My belief is that Suze's principle carries over into every aspect of life. Until we accept responsibility for our daily choices we cannot understand or change, or understand how to change, our existence. And once we've accepted responsibility for our choices we become pushed to either change our behavior or be content with the outcome.

I usually ride my bicycle to work. In an average week I ride the 12 miles round trip 4 times. I usually drive once a week. I clearly understand, on that day I choose to drive, that driving is a choice that I have made, and the consequences are much less frustrating. I find that being stuck in traffic is not nearly as irritating as it used to be. After all, I knew that traffic was a probability, and I chose to participate. I may get annoyed at the lack of parking when I get to work, but then I remind myself that I chose to drive, and am getting some benefits from the decision, so I need to stop worrying about having to walk a block or two to the office.

The point is that when I view driving as a choice, the annoying things are a lot less annoying, and the bad things are trade offs I'm willing to accept. I take full responsibility for the emissions I expel on that day. I sit in traffic and enjoy the chance to listen to the radio. But mostly I regret having chosen to drive and wish I was on my bicycle.

If we all viewed our day-to-day as a series of choices, and we choose to be responsible for or content with the outcome of those decisions, imagine how our lives could change! Diet, finances, transportation, health, exercise, education, etc. We make choices every day that define our priorities and yet constantly try to push the blame off on some other entity (fast food industry, politicians, infrastructure, work, etc).

If you CHOOSE to drive your car, and it IS a choice, then don't complain about traffic, lack of parking, gas prices, etc. After all, your choices, and the choices of all your fellow Americans, are the cause.

See, that's the problem: I sit down to write a paragraph and I type 500 words.