Are you Ignorant, Stupid, Or Just A Jerk?

Written by Boston Biker on Jun 10

While it’s true that our transportation system, and how it works, involve engineering data, and traffic flows, there are less obvious aspects of human behavior that are often not as talked about, that feature prominently in how our road system work. I have written a lot about these more esoteric natures of our road system, it is very much about shared trust, behavior, and attitudes.

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So lets shine a light on these less often explored aspects of human behavior. I think about this a lot when I am riding around. Someone walks out in front of you after looking you right in the eye, someone pulls out of a parking spot when they know you are next to them, they cut you off, they do things that just seem wrong and you ask yourself…Are these people stupid, do they not know any better, or are they simply jerks? I see the options breaking down like this:

1. They are ignorant. They really just don’t have the information they need to make a good choice, so when they run a red light, or walk out in front of you, its because they didn’t know they were not supposed to do that. In many ways this is both the least offensive option, and the most terrifying.

2. They are stupid. They have the information they need, but choose not to use it. This may be because of lack of attention, or lapse in judgement, or because they are on their phone. They are not doing these things maliciously, but if asked, they do know better.

3. They are jerks. They know better, they have thought about it, and after all that they still chose to do some horrible thing. Because fuck you, that’s why!

I have lived in a lot of different parts of this country, have visited even more places, and have found that by and large the difference is not the first two. There is about the same number of people in all locations that are both ignorant, or stupid.

The real issue, especially in places like Boston, and other east coast locations, is that we have a LOT more jerks.

Boston has a culture of rude road sharing. They walk the way they bike the way they drive. I am sure if the trains were not on rails they would be cutting each other off. I don’t know how it got like this, but I am confident that it is our culture of road use that is the problem.

I think the problem is that people in this town have cognitive dissonance, that is they hold two contradictory ideas in their heads at the same time. They hate it when a cyclist runs through a red light, but then do the same thing when they ride their bike. They hate it when pedestrians crowd out into the street and then do the same when they are walking around. They hate when there is traffic, but they drive big cars around that take up lots of road space.

Everyone is guilty of this at least some of the time, I have done it, I am sorry. This even happens in other less toxic road cultures, the problem is we Bostonian’s seem to do it ALL THE DAMN TIME!

I think this misses an important point, folks around here are generally good. You are are basically a good person! We all need to remind each other that we are good people. Good people wait for the walk signal. Good people don’t run through a red light nearly hitting pedestrians on their bike. Good people don’t speed up at yellow lights, and use turn signals, and look in their mirrors. Good people are patient, and good people are not so quick to get violent, or retaliatory.

Next time you are out and about using our limited road resources, remind yourself you are a good person, and act like it. The only way to change the culture of how our roads are used is to change the way each of us individually use our roads.


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One Response to “Are you Ignorant, Stupid, Or Just A Jerk?”

  1. By mm on Jun 16, 2014 | Reply

    it’s as if drivers think they are playing a video game where the score is measured in the number of car lengths they can get ahead, or perhaps the # of seconds they can save (because it’s seconds, not even minutes) on their drive.

    it makes me wish I had superpowers so I could flatten car tires on demand.

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