stop signBy Collin Kelley
INtown Editor

The lack of basic driving skills displayed by Intown motorists is truly frightening to me.

The use of turn signals appears to be a thing of the past as more and more motorists simply slow down or come to a complete stop in the middle of the street before making a turn. Most of the time, cars just veer in the general direction of where they are turning with absolutely no warning at all. The use of turn signals, the last time I checked, is required by law. It’s Learners Permit 101. And, of course, when you honk at the offender, they invariably give you the middle finger salute or you can see them raging against you behind the glass.

In the Old Fourth Ward, a desperately needed four-way stop was installed a few months ago at the intersection of Sampson and Irwin Street. You would think this would facilitate the flow of traffic at the busy intersection, but it usually winds up being a series of starts and stops as inattentive drivers can’t decide who reached the intersection first. There’s usually a good bit of honking going on there was well. At the other end of Sampson, where it dead-ends at Highland Avenue, I cannot tell you how many near-misses I’ve had at that three-way stop. Drivers are distracted by their cell phone conversations, putting on make-up or just decide the giant STOP sign doesn’t apply to them.

I’ve become used to sharing the streets with bicycles, and I’m a proponent of more dedicated bike lanes and infrastructure to make wheeling around town fast and safe. However, there are always a few rotten apples to spoil the bunch. One rainy evening a couple of months ago, I was turning off Krog Street onto Lake Avenue when I had what could have been a deadly encounter with a cyclist. I was already in the intersection turning right when a cyclist wearing all black, no helmet and no visible front reflectors ditched his bike in the path of my car. I somehow managed to break and not hit him. This wasn’t a kid, but appeared to be a guy in his late 20s or early 30s. He was uninjured and jumped on his bike and raced off into the night with a “Sorry” thrown over his shoulder.

Just a couple of weeks ago, at the intersection N. Highland and Freedom Parkway, a cyclist came speeding off the PATH trail into oncoming traffic, bopping his head to whatever tune he was listening to on his iPod and oblivious to the chorus of screeching breaks and horns.

My point, and I do have one, is that I’m happy to share the rode with cyclists but some basic Bike Riding 101 (stop at intersection, helmets, pads, reflective clothing) needs to be instilled in riders.

While I know we all want less government in our lives, I wouldn’t object to new rules that require motorists to retake the driving test every 10 or 20 years to renew their license. As for cyclists, just remember those lessons your mom and dad taught you when learning to ride in the cul-de-sac when you were 8. It will make sharing the road a much more pleasant, and less dangerous, experience.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.