issue resolved... hopefully

last week I had an episode with a speeding car in the alley behind my house...
gwadzilla archive on that speeding car

this episode was not a single incident... this episode was a fair representation of this individual's driving style
their driving style each and every time they entered the alley since the day I moved on the block a number of years ago
my alley is his alley
he passes the rear of my house as he drives to get to the rear of his house

in short... this neighbor of mine finishes his daily commute with the same speed and intensity in the alley behind my house as he does on Interstate 395
yes... he slows and stops for the kids in the alley
his speeds leading up to the kids and then his speed leading away from the kids is irrationally fast
the thought that he accelerates away from the kids to speeds well beyond the stated legal limits for alley driving boggles my mind
one would think that his being a father would aid in his understanding of parents' fears and the reality of "the worst case scenario"
but no... for years he has driven through the alley in his red BMW in a style that is more fitting for a car commercial being filmed in the hills of Napa Valley than how a person should behave when driving down a short urban alley that serves as the play area for many children on the block

well... as mentioned in the post...
last week this man came driving down the short hill that feeds into our alley and screeched to a halt on the sand that collects at the curve

the sound of the chirping wheels sent me and my son scurrying out of his way
we had been spooked
with passage cleared he slowly rolled past and waved... I refrained from exchanging hellos
my blood was boiling

what if... what if there were kids riding their bikes or skateboards up that hill at that moment? what if kids were at the base of that hill playing four square or five hundred?
what if... what if... what if...
I hate to imagine this long list of "what ifs"
those "what ifs" turn into a consideration of "the worst case scenario"

so... after my blog entry I received some comments, a few emails, and some electronically transmitted thoughts... it was agreed that I should talk to this guy
in fact... it was realized that I should have talked to this man about his behavior years ago

time passed... the weekend came and I had yet to approach my neighbor
Saturday morning came and the family got into our Saturday soccer routine
Lisa took eight year old Dean to his game... I took six year old Grant to his game

just as I was taking the field as coach of the U6 team The Purple Dragons I saw this neighbor
he was just about to leave with his middle daughter who is the same age as my younger son
his daughter had just played their game... she was still in her yellow jersey
as I issued instructions to aid in the pre-game warm up of the Purple Dragons I was approached by my neighbor from down the block
his approach was friendly with good intentions
playfully he spoke about next month's game between his daughter's team and my son's team
slightly distracted by the coaching tasks at hand I gave a short response
then before he left I started in

"oh.. by the way... I had been meaning to talk to you"

I retold my perspective of the actions of the other night
then I asked him to slow down in the alley
to which he responded with a request.... that the kids get out of his way more quickly


the kids are good about getting out of the way
I do not believe that people need to clear the way for cars... yes... they need to be respectful and share the space... but they do not need to evacuate at the sign of a car

why is it that sitting in the driver's seat gives a person a greater right to shared space?
answer me this...

still somewhat distracted I tried to guide the actions of the young players of the team while also carrying on this conversation

I objected to his reasoning... I was offended by his I will do this if you do that line of logic

the kids are respectful of the cars
the kids do a pretty solid job of moving when cars come down the alley
the issue here is not the kids... the issue here is the adult
the speeding adult putting lives at risk
not the child being a child

so... our conversation became a near confrontation
my attention was split
I could not offer up any more time, energy, or focus for this discussion

my blood pressure went up as I went back to coaching the kids

my blood pressure did not drop and the conversation with this man never left my mind

after the game I saw this man's wife working one of the flea market booths in the parking lot trying to earn money for this neighborhood school
I approached her trying to smooth things over
well... oddly enough... her logic was painfully similar to that of her husband
when I presented the situation and tried to lessen the conflict I was told that the kids are sometimes slow about getting out of their way when they come down the alley

my already elevated heart rate sent steam from my ears

I could not believe what I was hearing
they clearly had a strong belief that the kids were in the wrong and that their behavior was acceptable
it was clear that there was no conversation to be had here

before leaving I agreed with her and her line of logic
okay... we have an understanding here... your husband always speeds down the alley while the kids sometimes don't get out of the cars way fast enough

never did I get into mention of the law and the 15 MPH Speed Limit
never did I get into my personal diatribe on COMMON SENSE AND COMMON COURTESY
no... I tried to avoid the soap box.... I tried not to get preachy
somehow I thought it would all be easier
somehow I thought that this conversation could be had without any mention of "the worst case scenario"

I was wrong... the conversation could not be had without conflict

I drove home with a still elevated heart rate
I drove home bewildered by what I had just experienced

when I got home I let the dust settle and let my heart rate drop then walked down the block
I did not want conflict... I wanted to resolve this conflict... I want to have good relations with my neighbor
so I walked down the block and had a conversation with this man

I knocked on the door... to my pleasure he was home
he came out on the porch and we talked
it was a nice conversation... it was a good conversation... it was a settling conversation

there was no more conflict
there was no confrontation... there was agreement

my neighbor agreed to slow down in the alley
I agreed to keep trying to teach the children to be respectful of the shared space
while believing that the kids are good about getting out of approaching cars way
while also believing that it is not the duty of people in the alley to clear out of the way like pigeons in the crosswalk
pigeons who must move or die

hopefully his driving behavior will be changed
hopefully we never experience a situation of "the worst case scenario"

I hate to even consider the variables when combining a speeding car and a small child
the "worst case scenario" is not a pretty situation
it would be easy enough to avoid this potential for a "worst case scenario"

but honestly...
for years coming and going in the alley on my bicycle I have never felt the need for me to rush out of people's way
when I unlock my back gate and a car is coming... I usually just keep pace and do my thing
trying to "take back the space"
not trying enable the car drivers' notion of self importance

people need to tone down their ME ME ME sense of entitlement
the cars do not just want the kids out of their way... the cars do not want the bicycle out of their way... the cars want everyone out of their way
the other day I was loading my car before going to a bike race
I was going between my garage and my car
in the two seconds it took to walk from my car to my garage a car honked... their four wheels had not stopped rolling and they were already impatient... they had not waited a second and they were already impatient
people need to chill out
people need to relax
people need to share the space
(I am only slightly different... in at least I try)


Cycle Jerk said...

Reading this made my heart rate jump. Good for you for keeping cool. I live on a street where commuters like to cut through to avoid a light. The road in front of my house is on a slight incline and motorists think they need to have the pedal to the floor to get up it. I have become the guy who yells "SLOW DOWN" from his yard. Like you I think of my little girl and the worst case scenario and what people are willing to risk to beat a red light.

gwadzilla said...


the road in front of my house is part of half the city's cross town commute

people speed...
people routinely run the RED ARROW at the top of the hill

in the past many years I have done my fair share of yelling at these cars
flipping off these cars

we went through a series of traffic calming meetings... but I think there is some division on the block of what to do

we all need to slow down
if we all drove through our own neighborhoods like we want others to
that would be a start

I hate to think about the "worst case scenario"

Bruce's Bike Blog said...

Dear Gwad,

I stop by and read you blog quite often--as I was reading, I thought well, you're going to have to put speed bumps in your alley or something... The attitude of that fellow is much like that of where I live--the most dangerous part of my commute or when I'm out on the weekend, is within a mile of my house. The bike lane ends and it's get outta my way I'm wealthy and my BMW is the bomb! There's a park and kids and people walking their dogs, etc etc--

Anyway, your courage is admirable--Good Luck! Cheers! Bruce

Unknown said...


I've been out of a job for 2 years now. I heard through a friend you are in the same boat. Sorry man. Good job keeping the car drivers under control. So much effort, heck that's a job in itself. Maybe you could patrol all the DC alleys and peacefully slow people down!