I’m a very strong supporter of the principle that cyclists should be following the rules of the road – we are after all vehicles and allowed full legal rights to the roads. As such we have requisite responsibilities and to be honest it is for our own safety as well as other users of the roadways and crosswalks to follow these rules and recognize that we are only a part of the mobility community. Effective, civil use, requires a good dose of common sense and civility by all; it boils down to basic consideration of all users – not just ourselves. If you think about it, really think about it, the roads are not just barren strips of asphalt, dirt and or concrete, but along with sidewalks, walkways, bike paths, etc… they are the fibers of connection in and between our communities (how ironic is it that we tend to become so disconnected from each other when we are driving on these fibers). They are for moving and connecting – guess what – not cars but PEOPLE!
When you try and talk bikes and biking in many communities you get a surprising response, some folks seem to fervently feel that we, cyclists, are outlaws. That we ride around willie-nillie violating every traffic law we can find. Running all stop signs and lights, racing through crosswalks, flipping off drivers and walkers alike who may call out for us to pay heed. Well – I can’t tell you that these folks don’t exist but truthfully they are a true minority. I ride a lot and while I can admit to seeing some of this behavior – it is at a much lower level that what the stories seem to portray. I’ve also done some bike count surveys as part of the South Bay Bicycling Coalition’s South Bay Bicycle Master Plan initiative. And I just didn’t see it happening all that often. In fact – I saw more rolling stops and yes surprise – speeding by the cars that went through the survey area (this included at least 2 Hermosa Beach police cruisers that failed to slow down while turning through two successive intersections – twice. And nope – there were no sirens or other indications that a rapid but stealthy run down our local streets was in need (good case of lead by example if you ask me…).
So here’s the thing – I, and many of my compatriots, feel we are being unfairly singled out as rule breakers. Public money and time is being spent on stings and creating biased police statements. The same IS NOT being down for motorists! Let’s say for argument’s sake the incidents of cyclist scofflawing… (not sure that’s a verb – but let’s go with it for now…) are higher that I think they are. The risks wrt to public safety are not even close to that which cars present – to us and pedestrians. We are collectively, by the rules and laws of physics and biology, the vulnerable ones here. Want some proof? How about the several hit and run incidents in SoCal this year – we’ve got the death of Jim Swarzman , the death of a 12 year old girl in Compton, the serious injury to Adam Rybicki, hit head-on by an alleged underage drunk driver last month. There was a rampaging driver just a couple nights ago in Ventura that caused 2 separate collisions and killed a cyclist – a student, Nick Haverland, who was headed to class. There were… well I can unfortunately go on.
So the next driver that complains about the risks that cyclists present on the roads should step back and look at things from the cyclist/pedestrian perspective. Here Michael Rushlow helps provide some of that viewpoint in his latest post.
Okay, if in the end you still feel the need to aggressively watch us and potentially ticket us – fine – we’ll deal with it. But in the interest of public safety – please I implore you – do at least the same for the cars!