A little context: the route I usually use to get to work, Valencia St, has bike lanes. It’s also full of cars parking in the bike lanes; reliably 3 or 4 on an average ride down the street.
I am pretty good at navigating traffic on a bike. I haven’t been hit by a car because someone parked in the bike lane. It probably raises my relative risk of getting hit. Not by a ton. It probably raises some other people’s relative risk by a ton.
Some things I have tried when I see people parked in bike lanes:
1. ignoring it
2. just ringing my bike bell a bunch
3. yelling at them “don’t park in the bike lanes!” as I ride past
4. taking a photo and reporting it to SF 311
5. stopping in front of them until they come out of the store and then confronting them. (this I save for particularly egregious offenders and/or luxury cars.)
6. sending notes to my local representatives/etc asking for more protected bike lanes (with like a barrier so cars physically can’t park there)
7. waiting in front of the car until a parking cop comes by and waving at them to give them a ticket
(Some of them are a bit harsh, so I balance it based on the situation: if it’s a harried uber eats driver making $4/hr, I don’t take out my frustration on them. I try to save the angrier ones for the people who are Plain Old Bein' an Entitled Ass.)
Some things I have thought about doing:
8. printing out bumper stickers that say “I parked in a bike lane”
9. calmly lecturing them that, by getting their coffee twelve seconds faster, they are increasing my risk of actually dying
10. same as 9, but instead of lecture, I actually really try to connect with them and understand their needs
Effects on the driver:
1 (ignore) does nothing, of course.
2 (bell) does nothing too, although maybe it lowers the chance of dooring me.
3 (yell) maybe makes them feel bad, maybe makes them feel like “bikers are jerks.”
4 (report) does almost nothing. It means it gets included in SF’s bike lane stats, but they explicitly say they will not give a ticket for this.
5 (confront) seems the only one that actually does anything - I tell them off, they go “eh ok whatever” and drive off. Maybe their day is a little less pleasant. It also takes the most of my time and raises my blood pressure.
6 (legislate) maaaybe causes change, slowly slowly slowly. also, it’s hard to say “we should focus more on this” when there are homeless people dying in the streets and apartments cost $3000/month.
7 (wait for cop) does nothing; I had a cop literally drive past me and a car-parked-in-bike-lane today.
8 (bumper sticker) would piss them off and maybe give them consequences not to park in bike lanes! it feels somewhat disproportionate. I’m fine with that; traffic tickets are also disproportionate to account for the fact that we usually won’t catch you. but knowing my luck and current laws though, I’d probably end up getting a ticket for vandalism.
9 (lecture) won’t do anything. they’ll say “yeah ok” and then park in the bike lane again.
10 (connect) … also won’t do anything. it’s hella hard to connect with a rando on the street. Especially for the kind of length of talk that will lead to connection and actually changing their mind.
So, I mean, nothing is effective! Also, some of these raise my blood pressure and/or waste my time. Also also, maybe I occasionally road-rage at the wrong person, which makes the world worse - there’s nonzero fallout here.
Which leads to the difficult question: when you are powerless to a small injustice except to ignore it… is ignoring it the best/wisest/Zennest thing to do?
(this doesn’t map nicely onto other stories about injustices that we know about, because it’s pretty minor. feels like, I dunno, 2 micromorts/year? - which will lead to nonzero deaths in a city of a million people and therefore should be fixed, but for me personally I could just ignore it.)
(ok, I’ve left out choice 11. walk into the coffeeshop that they’re parked outside of, and say “does anyone have a Black Porsche outside? it’s being towed right now” and then wait for them to come out for it and then go “April fool, move your car, you goon.” this one I haven’t tried yet; just waiting for the opportunity :D
I actually have an answer to this! Unfortunately, it’s not a good answer: there is no “best” thing.
Accepting things you can’t change is the way to be happy. That’s certain. If your goal is to be happy, then your only real option is to learn to be happy on the inside no matter what happens on the outside. Make whatever inner change you need to make so that no matter what happens, no matter how bad it seems, you know that it really doesn’t matter and you don’t let your blood pressure go up.
You’ll note, though, that neither Buddha nor his successors ultimately recommended this. They talk about accepting circumstances and ending suffering and whatever else, but they also always, always, always talk about compassion. And compassion doesn’t accept a bad situation. Compassion gets your blood pressure up until you have no choice but to do something about it.
So I guess the only answer is: when you see a problem you can do something about, you do something about it; when you see a problem you can’t do anything about, you try to recognize the unreality of the self so that you can be happy anyway; and either way, you stick to your moral code, even when it injures your equanimity. I know it’s not a great answer – it would be great if we could find a solution rather than an algorithm to a solution – but it’s the answer I’ve got until we get out of the Iron Age. The real point is that no matter how involved you are in the world and its problems, being enlightened to any degree can make you better at it and help you do it without fundamental suffering. Even a kindergarten level of mindfulness can make a pretty dramatic decrease in suffering, as you’ve seen yourself.
PS I live in Brooklyn now, let me know if you’re on the East Coast.
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