We have a mailing list for my neighborhood. And we have a problem with cars in my neighborhood. See, we've got a grade school near the park.. and the park has a crossing guard. And so a few months ago the crossing guard was hit and injured by a car while trying to ensure that things were safe. And then a month or two later, a six year old got buzzed by a speeding car. And there's a bunch of complaining on the neighborhood mailing list.
I've biked by there once or twice when the crossing guard was on duty. And I've tried to not troll the mailing list, because it's a small local school that services students maybe a mile or two at most away, but it seems to me like a lot of parents are driving a half-mile to school and creating a tremendous traffic jam every morning while they line up to drop their kids off. So I kinda suspect that the drivers are dropping their kids off to school because it's not safe to walk or bike them there... and it's not safe to walk or bike them there because everybody's dropping their kids off.
But I'm probably not right about that. After all, you can cut through our neighborhood if you know the right streets to take and avoid other streets. But whenever I've been bothered by a driver... I think I got yelled at once or twice and I've had one or two incidents where people decided to floor it and not really care if I was in the middle of an intersection... it's been somebody in the neighborhood, so I think it's probably a bit too convenient for people to assume that all of the perpetrators of car violence are not neighbors. As such, I've kept out of it, because I know I'd probably be trolling instead of saying something insightful.
This morning, while biking to work, I noticed that a giant chunk of street was cordoned off by the police. Apparently a pedestrian was killed by a hit-and-run driver.
The first response to the email contained, as it's second sentence "Understanding of course it was probably an accident and the driver panicked". Now I'm pissed off. On the other hand, I've had a bunch of random drafts of blog posts floating around along this vague subject, so it's a good place to start.
There's such a thing as cognitive dissonance. Pretty much, your brain allows itself to believe two completely conflicting things and provides ways for you to not think about it too much. Cognitive dissonance is a great way to get smart people believing stupid things and there's a ton of psychological research about how it is easier for your brain to insert bogus ideas into your head than come to terms with an unpleasant truth.
Now, somebody were to have been found with a bullet hole or knife wound in them, would somebody suggest that it was probably an accident? If somebody were found dead and covered with mysterious chemicals? Might somebody have punched them by accident and then fled the scene?
The person who posted this is not an idiot. They've posted cogently in the past. They have an education and a job and a family. So, in theory, they should 'know better'. But I know that this is what cognitive dissonance does to people. Your subconscious inserts justifications, without you realizing it, for why driving must be seen as a safe and sustainable activity, no matter how many people get killed in 'accidents' that are mostly avoidable, because being without your car is akin to being dead in modern America.
If I post onto twitter mentioning that 'most of you use the story of the cyclist you saw run a red light to justify cyclist murders' as a justification for why I occasionally post comments about how much I hate drivers as a general class of people, people jump down my throat. I'm not necessarily saying this because I want all drivers to die in a flaming car wreck... after all a good number of people who I love very much have not yet been convinced to give up their cars. But I do think that I see people justifying killing when it's done because of a car a little too easily and, because I don't drive much anymore, my subconscious doesn't ignore it to avoid me the pain of realizing that whenever I get behind the wheel of a car, I get behind the wheel of a killing machine.