Trust Each Other, Share the Roads

Boston Biker has a great little meditation on trust between bicyclists and motorists:

You can in fact trust people these days! In fact we put more trust in total strangers these days than ever before. If anything our lives are so wrapped up in trusting strangers that I started to get nervous with just how much trust I was putting in complete strangers. First I thought about money (how we just trust that people will take it and that it is worth something). Then I thought about food (how many people touch it before it gets to me and what they could do to it). Finally I started to think about biking, that’s when I really started to freak out.

The writer lists the evidence of trust s/he sees around him--but also notes the ways that trust is undermined when people, bikers and drivers alike, refuse to share the roadways. "So how do we rebuild this trust?" s/he asks.

The same way you build any other kind of trust. Slowly, and deliberately. Stop at that red light, walk with the signal, use your turn signals. It is going to take time, and it is going to happen slowly, and you will not be able to get anyone else to do it with you. You have to set that example. Every time you stop at a red light and you make it clear you are going to follow the rules, the person in a car next to you can see that at least some bikers don’t run reds. Every time you yield to a cyclist when you are making a left hand turn in your car the cyclist gets just a little grain of trust back in drivers. Every time you wait till the walk guy comes on to cross the street you show other walkers how it is done. It is the only way I can think of to make any real kind of steps towards rebuilding the shared trust in Boston. The nice thing about this system is that it is free, and the more you do it the better things get. There are other ways (better infrastructure, better enforcement) but they all cost a lot of money, and can not be implemented tonight on your ride home.

So the next time someone tells you “you can’t trust anyone these days” look them right in the eye and say “I trust you, and thousands of other strangers every day with my life” then smile at them.

Words to live by. Folks interested in trust might also read this essay I published in Utne Reader with sociologist Pamela Paxton, which explores why trust has declined and what we can do to renew it in American society.

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