Use the Right Tool for the Right Job

As a tradesman, I was taught two very important things. One was “Attention to Detail!” and the other was “Use the Right Tool for the Right Job!”

“Attention to Detail” means to single-mindedly finish one thing before moving on to another (so much for multi-tasking) and “Use the Right Tool for the Right Job” means don’t use a pipe wrench as a hammer even though both have a flat side and they are both heavy instruments.

Knowing this, it astonishes me that traffic engineers don’t understand that riding a bicycle less than two miles to the grocery store is  “using the right tool for the right job” since it can be quicker than driving there, waiting at several lights, driving up and down looking for a parking space, etc. In fact, today I surprised my wife at how quickly I went on a trip to the store and back.  I was back so quickly that she thought I drove.

Yet when I talked a few weeks ago to a civil road engineer all he wanted to talk about was recreation and how we “cyclists” were in the way of real transportation, didn’t want to stay “in our place” although he had worked hard to create it, blah, blah, blah.

We talked for a long time, more than an hour and I hope I made him think, but I don’t think I did.

The only time I really got his attention was when I said that I was using the right tool for the right job, meaning I used my bike for knocking around town, running errands, but when I went on a job to Vero Beach to work, I drove.

His final word was, “Well, why don’t you ask for 6 feet if 5 feet isn’t enough?”

I don’t think I got through.

But, as a tradesman I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at that, since in many aspects of my working life I have trouble getting engineers to understand why their plans don’t work, are not safe, do not fit, etc. and they don’t believe me, either. After all, I’m the guy who has to make it work, make it safe, make it fit . . . what do I know?

1 reply
  1. Laura M
    Laura M says:

    These engineers are really just parroting the conventional wisdom of the day. I find that most people think the same way. They don’t bike themselves so they really don’t understand the issue. Pictures and animations are helpful in conveying these foreign concepts, but taking them out on the street is even more effective. I think the lack of understanding the concepts comes from not actually getting out into the environment and seeing things up close and personal.

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