Better Riding: Slow down, school ahead
Parents are generally inattentive, ill-tempered people in the morning. This is easy to explain. Kids are usually not morning people and won't eat, dress and move until My Little Pony has been digested. If they live close enough to the school, then papa or mum must hop in the car in their casual finest to drop the wee brats to school. And once that is done, they've to rush back to ensure that they can leave for work on time themselves. Does this sound like an image full of good driving and all-pervasive common sense?
Yeah, that's what I thought too. I pass two schools as I leave my house in the morning and it's a mess. Part of the reason is that most schools do not have a place for parents and school buses to drop kids off away from the street. So the buses gum up the works while the parents typically try to park as close to the school gate as possible.
The badly parked cars are a given but I'm especially careful if I can see a driver/parent still in the car. There's no telling when they'll discover a crayon or snot-wipe the brat's forgotten in the car and then they'll open the door and blindly run to restore world peace forgetting entirely that there's traffic around them. This is also true for parents who've dropped the kids off then caught sight of the clock on the dash.
Even worse and a lot more dangerous are parents who're still driving and brat delivery hasn't yet been completed. Given how our urban infrastructure is, this means they're looking for a place where they can park (only for a moment, promise) so that the cargo can be off-loaded in time for morning assembly. This is a situation where mirrors, honking and lights make no difference and the parental concentration is absolute.
How to deal with this? Ideally, hunt down a detour that takes you around the mess. This is the best solution - avoid the school zone entirely.
The next best solution is to be on your guard, eyes scanning, brake levers covered. In this mode, you're passing through this traffic looking for parents in the cars trying to anticipate what amazing stunt they're about to pull next.
Even more prudent is to halve your speed if you see unaccompanied kids about. They dart this way and that without warning and their instinct for self-preservation is still maturing.
If you are a parent, this applies to you. Sometimes it can seem like all that matters in the world is to have the apple of your eye past the school gate at 07:29. But the big perspective is that a minute here and there, over 12 years of school education isn't worth all this messy hazard making. Pay attention and drive well just like you're expected to all the time.
Final word is for you geniuses who ride a bike to school with your toddler perched on the pillion seat. The kid enjoys the attention while the parent thinks that riding in on a bike is the best ever because you get through the traffic so quickly. But curb your enthusiasm just a little bit. You're taking the most vulnerable vehicle this side of a bicycle into a sea of distracted drivers wearing a half-face helmet, tee-shirt, shorts and flip-flops. Chances are your kid gets nothing more than his or her uniform as protection. That's a huge risk to take in my book.
And don't forget, there will be a few kids and parents who are actually morning people who will remain courteous, situationally aware. Wave a hello and a thank you. In a desert, you appreciate every single drop of water you can find.
For more Better Riding stories, click here.
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