Sunday, October 22, 2006

Posted by SueJ to CycleDog

Some motorists complain to find some way of rationalizing their simple desire that life were less complicated - it would be simpler without bicycles, so let's find reasons for them not to be there. Some of the "cyclists don't pay taxes" and "they never follow the law" arguments fall under this category.

Some of 'em have a really valid point, though - a lot of cyclists around here do major bobbing and weaving which often means the same car has to pass them several times. Not often - most of the "guerrilla" riders are be-bopping on the sidewalks. I often catch one of 'em three or four times on a trip across town. They’re not just "rolling through..." they're "Blowing the stop sign."

I think that driving in traffic is a major pain-in-the-ass for many of us. And I say "us" because most cyclists are also motorists at least part of the time.

Oh, the car advertising always shows a lovely, winding country road completely free of traffic. The sunlight streams down and a gentle breeze ruffles the hair of the handsome smiling driver and his stunningly beautiful passenger.

But reality is somewhat different. A diesel pickup just ahead of you belches foul-smelling exhaust. There's a woman weaving from lane to lane as she attempts to apply makeup at 60mph. And there's a guy driving down the road with the newspaper propped up on his steering wheel, reading while he commutes. There's the house-sized SUV tailgating in heavy traffic, as if bullying the driver in front of him will shorten his commute. Add in a few panic-braking episodes, road rage incidents, and whopping doses of frustration, and you have a recipe for a highly stressful motoring experience.

So perhaps Sue is right. Motorists want a simpler, less stressful drive, and if getting us pesky cyclists off the road will contribute to that, they'll be all for it.

I think that's one reason we see the "all cyclists are scofflaws" argument so often. It's true that many ignore traffic law, either out of simple ignorance - like the ubiquitous wrong way cyclist - or out of fear - as in the "they're all out to get me so I can act any way I want." A co-worker used the latter as justification for both blowing through red lights and wrong way riding - at night and without lights or reflectors. He figured if they could see him, it just made it easier to run him down! I can only call that rabid paranoia.

There was an afternoon this summer when I was riding home. Up ahead, two twenty-somethings were zooming along the sidewalk, every now and then scooting out onto the road. But whenever a car approached, they swerved back onto the sidewalk again. It was unnerving to overtake them, because I couldn't know if they were going to shoot down onto the road.

I've been on group rides where the leaders yelled, "Clear!" and blew through stop sign after stop sign. And to be honest, in my younger days, I've done that too. The reality is that unless you run a red-light or stop sign directly in front of a police car, there's almost no chance of being ticketed. Motorists know this too. That's why they rolled through that 4-way stop with impunity. That's why they routinely exceed the speed limit, provided it's only a little bit over.

Sadly, even if we did get ALL cyclists to ride in a vehicular manner, that is, ride their bikes the same way they'd drive a car, we'd still have some motorists, law enforcement professionals, public officials, bureaucrats, and planners who believe that bicycles are children’s toys. They'd try to legislate us off the roads "for our own safety" or they'd give us nice, 'safe' facilities that connect nowhere with nowhere.


Blogger Paul Tay said...

I have a real problem with the speed limit laws. The engineers designed the roadways as straight as possible, as wide as possible, as if they are trying to encourage speeding.

Then the geniuses at the Sausage Factory make crappy sausage telling us the fastest we can go on any given roadway.

Shouldn't the roadways be designed to slow down traffic? They should reduce the width, install chicanes, traffic circles, and other measures to cause drivers to pay attention. Review the QT traffic plan. Everybody is on edge driving in and out of QT parking lots, so, wrecks are rare. Next time I get a speeding ticket and lose in traffic court, I'm appealing. The engineers must be held accountable for designing roadways that ENCOURAGE speeding.

But, I'm almost sure someone has tried that to get out of a speeding ticket.

11:54 PM  
Blogger Fritz said...

Paul is correct, and in many cities there's a move to design roads for the intended speed -- i.e. narrowing residential streets down to something less than freeway width.

12:04 PM  

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