Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Being a rebel - disobeying the rules on the road

I am not sure how to write about this issue, but I'm sure it's an issue. An issue with either drivers, cyclists, the urban planning or likely all of those.

Once a while on my ride to/from work I meet some fellow cyclists on the road. Sometimes we share a few words, sometimes we only wave to each other. And while I have no idea what other cyclists think about me, I can tell you that I remember well those who ride against the rules and a common sense. Just like yesterday, when I met a cyclist on a bike without even a single light. At 6pm. Or those who first say hello and then ride away, running the red light, while I wait for my green. How would you call such a behavior? Stupidity?

Obviously, riding in darkness with no lights on is just asking for trouble and I would never tried that. I also have never felt like running the red light is going to help with anything and I have never done it. When I'm on my bike, I'm not in a rush. I don't feel like running reds is going to save me much time. In other words, I thought that the traffic regulations are there for a good reason and never felt like disobeying them. That's what I used to think.

Until I read this:
And as far as obeying the law on your bicycle, here's my approach, and it's based on both respect and common sense:

--When I'm in little fantasy bubble realms like gentrified Brooklyn where there's an actual infrastructure designed to incorporate cars and bicycles and pedestrians, and where it actually makes sense to follow the law because the people who laid out the infrastructure actually realizes that cars and bikes are completely different, I'm more than happy to be a good little boy scout;

--When I'm in Midtown or some other place where I'm "sharing the road" (that's cute) and thousands of two-ton, 350 horsepower motor vehicles are bearing down on me (...), you can be damn well sure I'll do whatever the hell I need to do in order to get a head start on these homicidal mutherf**kers, and that includes running the light if I deem it safer to do so;

--When I'm in the city, I do not ride on the sidewalk. However, if I'm in some suburban or exurban area on one of those heavy traffic routes with no shoulder that feeds into an Interstate, and there's a sidewalk, and nobody has actually walked on that sidewalk since 1963 (...), and I feel like I need to use the sidewalk to cross that Interstate, you're goddamn right I'm going to do it no matter what the law says. I'm going to "obey the letter of the law" in that situation to prove I "deserve respect?" F**k that.

In other words, I'll use bicycle infrastructure responsibly if you give it to me, but screw you if you think I'm going to pretend it's there when it's not.
BikeSnobNYC usually gets straight to the point and throws some f-words frequently to accentuate his opinion but in this case, he's right. While I have never been is such a situation, I can see how not every red light is created equal and in certain conditions it may be wiser to cross an intersection on red in order to avoid close encounters with numerous heavy trucks and speeding cars.
...unfortunately, if you try to run red lights in order to be safer, this is how you will be seen by most drivers (Source unknown)

Of course, this doesn't mean that running reds or riding on sidewalks should now be an acceptable norm anywhere in your area. It still doesn't mean that riding at night with no lights on is something different than just being nominated to the Darwin Prize. But it points out an important issue. Cyclists wouldn't have to run red lights in order to feel safer on the road if "sharing the road" idea worked the way it's supposed to. Yes, cars and bicycles are different and sharing the road will only work if both drivers and cyclists want it. However, too often I see heavy trucks passing too close to me, like trying to tell me "I drive a bigger vehicle - make me some space. Get off the road! I don't care about you". Too often I see some uneven markings painted on the street that are supposed to substitute a real bicycle infrastructure.

If you're a driver, you may think that all cyclists should follow the rules to the letter (even though a vast majority of drivers don't). If you're a cyclist, you may think that traffic regulations were designed for cars (true to some extent) and these rules don't apply to you. No matter who you are, the situation is not as black and white as you may think.

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