Montana Jones

Montana n: A state of the northwest United States bordering on Canada. Admitted as the 41st state in 1889. The fourth largest state in the union, it includes vast prairies and numerous majestic mountain ranges.
Syn: Treasure State, Big Sky Country, Last Best Place.

Jones n: slang. An addiction or very deep craving.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Cars, bicycles and pedestrians, Oh My.

I wasn't even looking at the white Ford Fiesta as it slowed to a stop. I was perched on my bicycle seat holding myself upright against a sign post, a stop sign, indifferently watching the traffic passing through the intersection in the other direction. Glancing around I saw the Ford stopped and the driver gave me a little wave indicating I should go. I shook my head at him and turned back to watch the line of cars passing through the other way. They weren't stopping for me, nor should they. I had a stop sign controlling me and they did not. When I looked back again white Ford was still sitting there and still trying to wave me in to the oncoming traffic. By now a couple cars had stopped behind him and I saw the guy driving the blue Chevy on my left make that palms up "what the hell is going on here?" gesture. I gave the white Ford my best annoyed glare and waved him through the intersection. He finally got the hint and pulled through allowing traffic to move again. Those of us at the stop signs shook our heads and practiced our patience.

I ride my bike to the post office regularly and I have seen that scenario a few times now. Some good samaritan completely screws up the flow of traffic because they see me waiting at a stop sign and they stop for me while completely failing to notice how no other traffic is stopping and I would get killed if I took advantage of the gesture. It's like this good people of Montana, bicycles are supposed to obey the same rules of the road as cars do. That means I stop at stop signs. If you don't have a stop sign, don't stop. I am expecting this and your stopping for me just screws up traffic even more than usual. Everyone will be happier and we will all get where we are going faster when we obey the same rules of the road.

I have learned that Montana has some interesting rules regarding pedestrians. I'm not too sure of the particulars but I gather that vehicles are supposed to stop for any pedestrian wanting to cross the street. Coming from larger cities I am scared shitless of this rule. Cities generally don't follow this rule and any pedestrian stepping foot into a street without some sort of traffic control is taking their life into their own hands. I have spent my life believing that the bigger, faster, more likely to kill you cars should get preferential treatment. Apparently not so in Montana. I have seen folks do some crazy things here. People just walking out into a busy street without so much as a glance to see if they are in danger. Once in Missoula I watched a driver slam on her brakes and bring a whole line of fast moving cars to a perilous stop just because she saw me loitering by the roadside. Call me crazy but I see all this as dangerous.

With more and more people coming into the state from elsewhere like myself, I don't expect anyone to know the Montana rules of the road. I am going to behave as though drivers will not stop for pedestrians, just like the big city. Sorry about that friendly Montana drivers but when you stop for me that will just freak me out. And if traffic going the other direction does not stop I ain't stepping out into the street no matter how friendly your gesture is.