Humor: Are Backlash Drivers Crazy? Maybe It’s Dissociative Commuter Disorder

No Exit comic by Andy Singer
No Exit comic by Andy Singer

Today SBLA features a guest post by an L.A. safe streets advocate who prefers to remain anonymous. This piece grew out of a private discussion that took place on social media. The question was just what to call the folks spewing so much damn-the-facts bile against Vision Zero, road diets, cyclists, pedestrians, buses, safety, and pretty much anything other than unfettered cars on L.A. streets.

Are all of these folks really crazy? No, but sometimes humor can help livability advocates get a respite from the venom. 

TO: Dr. Jane Jacobs
FROM: CDC Task Force on Urban Mental Health Crisis
DATE: January 4, 2017
RE: Dissociative Commuter Disorder

Recently Los Angeles has experienced an alarming spike in residents suffering from Dissociative Commuter Disorder. Primary care and mental health professionals are being asked to screen patients for the following in hopes that early intervention will lessen the burden on transportation professionals.

Dissociative Commuter Disorder: a mental disorder characterized by at least two distinct and relatively enduring identities or dissociated personality states (formerly known as Multiple Personality Motorist in DSM IV).

The behavior most commonly observed for establishing a diagnosis of DCD is the patient decrying local public officials on NextDoor for not slowing traffic by installing speed “humps” on the street running directly in front of the patient’s home. However, when safety measures are installed on streets between the neighborhood in which the patient resides and the patient’s workplace, a second, distinct personality emerges decrying any and all traffic safety measures. In extreme cases, patients have been observed foaming at the mouth while spouting erroneous facts about “road diets.”

Note that the disease is almost always accompanied by a severe allergic reaction to new housing. Other somatic symptoms include blindness: to people of color biking to work, low-income children living next to freeways, pollution maps, global climate change, regional rental apartment vacancy rates, peer-reviewed scientific literature, facts, reason, and the like.

High functioning patients have been known to suffer from sudden onset mutism. In one case study, the mayor of a major American city lost his voice after holding a large press conference announcing a Vision Zero campaign.

Patients often suffer from the following delusions:

  • the belief that all cars with the exception of the one that the patient drives is “traffic”
  • bikes and public transit worsen air quality
  • the patient would be able to drive from Venice to Pasadena for dinner with friends at rush hour if it weren’t for a half-mile of protected bike lanes.

One odd manifestation of the disease is an inability to count. For instance, believing four signatures to file a recall notice of intent is equal to five or crossing a three-lane road as a pedestrian is somehow more dangerous than crossing four.

Dementia has also been observed in some patients who demanded multiple signalized crosswalks at $250,000 dollars per signal when a road diet could achieve much greater safety improvements for free when combined with road resurfacing schedules.

Paranoia is a common manifestation of the illness. The patient may become obsessed with the “all-powerful bike lobby” or the belief that LADOT is “lying” about crash statistics that are publicly available on databases maintained by the California Highway Patrol.

DCD checklist questions:

  • Does the patient announce how long they have been a resident of a specific neighborhood prior to introducing him or herself?
  • Does the patient use the term “zero vision?”
  • Does the patient write rambling, incoherent screeds on a Los Angeles based blogging platform called CityWatch?
  • Does the patient issue pedantic corrections to transportation/public health officials such as reminding them that the official term for a speed “bump” is “hump” in order to establish that he or she has superior knowledge derived from an advanced degree from the University of Google? (Note that these corrections are issued overwhelmingly to women with far more years of training and professional experience than the patient.)
  • Does the patient believe bicycles are toys that belong on recreational paths away from work, shopping, schools, etc?
  • Is the patient a mid-city councilmember who writes scientifically indefensible surveys asking constituents whether they’d like “safety improvements or a road diet?”
  • Does the patient form a “street safety” group that advocates against rigorously studied best practices in the field of traffic engineering?
  • Does the patient believe that buildings between 45 and 85 feet high along transit corridors are the same height as the 2,000-foot Burj Khalifa tower in Dubai?
  • Does the patient live in Manhattan Beach near a calm, safe two-lane road while insisting that the same exact road be four lanes within the borders of Los Angeles?
  • Does the patient say “Los Angeles is full”?
  • Does the patient have grandiose delusions such as a God Complex that manifests itself in believing the property line of his or her home encompass entire cities, so he or she should have veto power over all new housing on his or her “property?”
  • Does the patient claim to be an environmentalist while arguing against infill housing?
  • Does the patient claim to be defending poor people from congestion pricing?
  • Does the patient claim to be a “Berniecrat” while consorting with racist, xenophobic talk show hosts and raising 62 percent of his cash from registered Republicans in an amateurish attempt to launch a recall campaign against one of Los Angeles’s most beloved, progressive public servants?
  • Does the patient sputter the words, “Los Angeles isn’t Amsterdam.”
  • Does the patient dig tunnels for electric cars under Los Angeles with a pre-owned sewage pipe boring machine while claiming to be “disruptive?”
  • Is the patient incapable of being civil online or at public meetings?
  • Does the patient write a “science-based” advice column while ignoring science?
  • Does the patient insist that more free parking spaces are needed because they will lessen traffic congestion?
  • Does the patient call parents who bike with children “assholes?”
  • Does the patient personify the term “elite projection?”
  • During the physical examination is the patient holding the balls of three-quarters of the city council and the mayor in his or her hands even though the patient represents the views of only 29 percent of the city’s voters?

TREATMENTS

During a time of global climate change, wars, massive income inequality, an overgrown toddler controlling the nuclear codes, homelessness, hunger, and racial inequality, remind the patient that his or her time on this planet is short. Advocating for other people’s neighborhoods to be less safe is not a good use of that time.

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