Seven Resolutions for Colorado Commuters

Let's all vow to do a little more of this in 2017.
Let's all vow to do a little more of this in 2017. Elvert Barnes at Flickr

Getting from home to work and back again — and running errands in your off time — is something of a challenge in larger metropolitan areas, and Denver is no exception. Last year, we covered rules for driving, biking, mass transit, even walking — and now, in 2017, there are some commitments that we can all swear to honor anew, for the betterment of the roads and everyone on them.

To that end, here are seven resolutions for all of us who use (and sometimes abuse) the Denver roads and sidewalks upon which we so regularly depend.

click to enlarge No one wants to sit in what you just stepped in. - TEAGUE BOHLEN
No one wants to sit in what you just stepped in.
Teague Bohlen
7. I will obey the rules.
This one works no matter what you might be piloting: a car, a bicycle, a skateboard, a pair of shoes. If there’s a stop sign, stop. If it’s a school zone, slow down. Don’t roll through intersections, don’t ignore signs and lights, and keep an eye out for your fellow folks on the road whose attention spans might have momentarily slipped. If you’re on a bike, follow the rules of the road; they apply to you, too. If you’re walking, don’t cross in the middle of the block or against the light. If you’re on mass transit, keep your disgusting feet off the seat across from you. They’re courtesies both small and large, but they have the benefit of making all of our lives a little nicer, and potentially a lot less dangerous.

6. I will avoid confrontation.
Road rage is so 1990s. And it doesn’t solve a thing — in fact, it just makes your day worse, because most of the time, the person you’re screaming at hasn’t the foggiest notion that you’re angry at them at all. They’re too busy rocking out to Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher” or scarfing down a cheeseburger or posting about Van Halen videos and delicious cheeseburgers on Facebook. So, yeah, it’s pointless — and when it’s not, it can lead to some seriously bad shit. So keep your cool, be the bigger person, and just resort to a strong belief in karma.

click to enlarge Queen demands it: Get on your bike and ride. - FREEWHEELINBIKER AT FLICKR
Queen demands it: Get on your bike and ride.
freewheelinbiker at Flickr
5. I will drive less.
There are a lot of ways that we can all reduce our carbon emissions, and one of the easiest ways to do it is to find a way to get to and from work that doesn’t involve you by yourself in your car. There’s a lot that’s wrong with driving yourself to work on a regular basis — traffic hassles, the expense, global warming — and each of us can work on that by choosing to bike, carpool, take light rail or some combination of the above. It’s one of the rare solutions to a problem that actually solves other problems at the same time: your budget, your sanity, and your sense of helplessness as the glaciers continue to melt.

click to enlarge I'm not sure you finished that parking job. - ELIZABETH M AT FLICKR
I'm not sure you finished that parking job.
Elizabeth M at Flickr
4. I will park where designated.
If you’re in a car, don’t park in handicapped spots, or across two (or more!) spots. Don’t use a dusting of snow as an excuse, either — everyone knows you can see where the lines should be. You’re not as sneaky as you think you are. If you’re on a bike, take an extra minute to ride over to where the bike racks are; don’t settle for locking your bike up to anything stationary and loopable. Hell, this goes for all you parents with strollers, too: The world is not your stroller parking oyster, people. If you’re walking, well, avoiding the parking hassles is probably one of the reasons you’re doing it. So nice work; keep it up.

3. I will stop texting while operating a vehicle.
Yes, this includes at stoplights. If you have kids, know that they’re watching you, and they’re learning far more from what you think you’re getting away with than from what you’re telling them. If they see you doing dumb things while driving, they’ll do those same dumb things when they drive, no matter what you tell them, no matter how often you half-jokingly remind them that they need to “do as I say, not as I do.” Every parent says it, and it’s never, ever worked. Kids aside, texting is a great way to kill yourself or someone else on the road. If nothing else, stop doing it so we don’t have to see any of those terrible daytime-TV lawyer anti-texting ads anymore.

click to enlarge Same sticker, different charmer. - RYAN MCMINN AT FLICKR
Same sticker, different charmer.
Ryan McMinn at Flickr
2. I will be less "us vs. them."
I was on commuter rail just last week, coming back from the holidays out of state with family, and a dude got on with his bike. Seemed like a nice guy at first — he was polite when people needed to get around him, made small talk with the lady he was standing next to, that sort of thing. But then I saw the sticker he’d affixed to the side of his helmet: “My other ride is your mom.” Seriously, what the hell is that? It’s like presuming antagonism before there is any. To top it off, it was emblazoned on his helmet’s left side, so clearly it was placed so as to be evident to passing motorists (assuming he uses the bike lanes properly). It’s this sort of thing that we just don’t need, that exacerbates an already widespread and serious issue: There’s enough animosity already between cyclists and drivers without literally stating that you’ve fucked the mom of everyone who passes you.

click to enlarge May this old-timey British traffic cop be an inspiration to us all. - LEONARD BENTLEY AT FLICKR
May this old-timey British traffic cop be an inspiration to us all.
Leonard Bentley at Flickr
1. I will be kind.
One of the most thoughtful responses to others on the road comes from a friend of mine, who remembered having to drive a family member to the hospital in the middle of rush hour, and she was driving like a crazy person trying to get them to the ER as fast as possible. She says that when she sees someone driving erratically, speeding, cutting people off, that sort of thing, it occurs to her that they might be rushing toward something important, and maybe on one of the worst days of their lives. So instead of flipping them off, or even thinking badly of them, she wishes them the best of luck with whatever they’re going through. It’s kind, it’s generous — in other words, it’s all the things we should aspire to be when we’re on the road. Stay safe in 2017.

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Teague Bohlen is a writer, novelist and professor at the University of Colorado Denver. His first novel, The Pull of the Earth, won the Colorado Book Award for Literary Fiction in 2007; his textbook The Snarktastic Guide to College Success came out in 2014. His new collection of flash fiction, Flatland, is available now.
Contact: Teague Bohlen