This note is addressed to the driver of the small blue SUV who nearly killed me while I was biking on the Fowlerville Road in Avon at 10 a.m. on May 26. You were eastbound behind an extra wide farm combine that spilled into the oncoming lane, where I was riding safely on the shoulder heading west.
As I approached, You crossed the double yellow line to pass. It was obvious that I had nowhere to go except into the ditch. After clearly seeing me, you continued straight at me and increased your speed. As I careened into the ditch at the last moment, stunned by the choice you made, you shook your fist at me.
I do not know who you are or where you were going. How much time did you shave from your trip? 30 seconds? A minute? Take a moment and consider what would have happened if my reflexes had been a split-second slower. You broke the law, crossed a double yellow into oncoming traffic, swung widely into my lane to pass the combine, and when you saw me and could have easily pulled back into your lane, you instead chose to speed up.
Who would make that decision? Who would risk a human life to shave a few minutes off their drive? The decision-making process is incomprehensible to me.
Yes, we all feel moments of frustration when we get stuck behind farm combines, bicycles, pedestrians, or other occasional inconveniences on the roads of Livingston County. I’ve felt that impatience myself. But we live in such a wonderful place precisely because of our agricultural heritage. The ag sector in Livingston County produces nearly $200 million in marketable crops each year. Ag land contributes more than $4 million to our schools and nearly $3 million to our town and county budgets.
Agriculture is the reason we live in one of the most beautiful parts of the state. People travel from all over the world to visit our breathtaking open spaces, and thus further contribute to our tourist economy. If we have to occasionally be mildly inconvenienced because a hard-working farmer needs to move machinery a few miles down a road, that’s a price I gladly pay. If we have to occasionally slow down to ensure the safety of a bicyclist or anyone who has a legal right to be on the road, I gladly do so.
We live in a time when the consequences of our choices on others has suddenly become much more evident. And those choices relate directly to what it means to live in a society. Humans evolved and thrived because we cooperate. But when a critical mass of people decide that their short-term interests are more important than the safety of someone else, the social contract breaks down. That’s not a community that I want to live in. I doubt you do either.
Let’s all slow down for a minute. Let’s take that few seconds to ask how our actions might effect the lives of others. Let’s treat each other with dignity, respect, and tolerance for the occasional inconveniences we suffer by simple fact that we live in a community. A society where everyone makes the kind of decisions that you made on Tuesday morning is not a society that you or anyone else reading this would want to live in.