Getting around

I wasn’t sure what to expect when we moved to the birthplace of the automobile.  I’d heard that the city was pretty car dependent, and we almost got a second car before moving here (and may still).

The driveway business must be booming.

My first big shock came when we were updating our car insurance.  I called our company and gave them our new address, and I was informed that Michigan is a no-fault state.  The way this was explained to me on the phone was that basically my insurance pays for me and my car, the other guy’s insurance pays for him and his car, regardless of what happened.  Hm, odd, I thought….seems like not a lot of incentive/reward for safe drivers…..but OK.

So you can understand my surprise when I found out that not only was our insurance rate going to nearly double in the this state, but that by far the largest increase came from our liability coverage.  I called our insurance company to try to understand this.  Was this right?  Yes: we are safe drivers, and in fact our rates were scheduled to go down had we stayed in Wisconsin.  So what gives?  Why even have liability coverage if no-fault works the way I understand it does?  The agent on the phone told me that generally my insurance pays for me and mine regardless of fault….except when there’s fault involved.  I imagine there are some situations (read: cost threshold) in which one insurance company would go after the other.  Also, under our no-fault law, I am not allowed to sue the other driver for damages exceeding $500, which is a huge joke. There is instead a state fund (Michigan Assisted Claims Facility) for people who sustain injuries their insurance won’t cover, into which we have to pay $150 a year.


I’d love to hear others’ thoughts on all this, because I’m sure I don’t have it all figured out.  However, I’m paying more, and I have fewer rights; this reeks of tort reform (or as Dave likes to say, tort deform).
I was wondering what this means for me as a biker, i.e. do drivers have any financial incentive NOT to hit me while I’m biking?  Turns out, I am covered under my own auto policy.

So what if I’m exclusively a biker and don’t have an auto policy?  There is a complicated hierarchy of coverage for injured bikers and pedestrians:

1.  My no-fault insurance policy
2.  If I have none, my spouse’s no-fault insurance policy
3.  If we have none, the policy of a family member who lives with us
4.  If the above not available, the policy of the owner of the vehicle
5.  If different than owner, the p0licy of the operator of the vehicle at the time of accident
6.  If none of the above are available, you can apply to the MACF.

So I am not only paying to protect myself while behind the wheel, I am paying to cover injuries that I (or any dependents living with me) sustain while biking or walking as a result of another driver’s (or my own) negligence. I feel safer already.
I’ve never lived west of the Mississippi and I probably shouldn’t complain to anyone from over there about driving — stuff over here tends to be more compact, and I have a very low threshold for what an acceptable drive time is.

My first week here I had to figure out what all the weird left turn lights meant, and what the heck a Michigan Left is.  Surprise: you have to be in the right lane.  Some people may call this safety, others may call this nanny state traffic enforcement.  I kid.  But seriously, why do you need a light to remind you that left turners need to yield?

When walking Barley in our neighborhood I am frustrated because there are no sidewalks.  This may be fine now, but what exactly am I supposed to do in the winter?  Dive into a snowbank every time a car approaches?  There’s a lady in a wheelchair a few blocks away….I guess no one expects her to go outside when there’s snow.  And this situation cracks me up:

The wide arterials and lack of long neighborhood roads in most of the city are not super conducive to biking.  Campus is making an effort:

keep working, guys

NOW all they need to do is teach the students how to ride their bikes!!

This is how I was raised

First of all, 98% of the bikers I see are riding on the sidewalk.  Without a helmet of course, because why would you ever need a helmet if you’re on the sidewalk??  I tried to look up the laws on biking in Michigan, and they are strange.  There is no provision for taking the lane.  They only suggest you always ride as far to the right as safely possible.  And while the official position on sidewalk riding is that it is not as safe as street riding, it is completely legal to do, and so that’s what everyone does.  If one more biker blasts into an intersection in the crosswalk going 25mph while I am making a turn (and with no helmet, of course), I am going to scream.  Right after I have a heart attack.

you’re doing it wrong


2 thoughts on “Getting around

  1. As another East Lansing/Lansing resident let me tell you that yes, the bikers around this place are AWFUL. They do not care that you are in a car and that they are in your way. They really don’t. They drive me crazy. You get used to the Michigan Lefts. Florida uses them too. 🙂

    As for the car insurance stuff, it sucks. We know 😦

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