This blog is not about the proper role of cycling in society, nor about whether we’d be better off with bike lanes or bike freeways, banning cars or whatever, nor about the finer points of cycling “culture.” If I write about Seattle, it’s when I GO there and ride. It isn’t about cycling law, except how it affects my riding in a given situation. There are lots of blogs that talk about these topics. This blog is here to talk about the practical and fun aspects of riding around, from point-to-point. At the risk of getting onto a slippery slope, I’m making a temporary exception today. Stay away or read on depending on your feelings on the subject.
People on bikes routinely get away with running traffic signs & signals, riding the wrong way, scaring pedestrians on sidewalks, and so on. It hurts me to see it. Motorists doing the same would be quickly brought to account. Motorists are keenly aware and resentful of this bike scofflawery. It fosters a mindset that even lawfully operated bikes don’t belong on the road as part of traffic, that statutory exceptions to “Far to the Right” law don’t count, that roads are "for cars," and that bikes are only for recreation, for play, and for children. Prosecutions for lawful bike operation are very serious when viewed from a cycling standpoint, but are often regarded as “more spandex whining” by the general public.
This is illustrated by an anonymous commenter on ChipSeal’s blog, I wasn’t in Ennis. I’ve never seen ChipSeal ride, I don’t have “Judge” in front of my name, but I HAVE had polite police invent imaginary laws to get me “out of the way,” so I’m not inclined to conclude Chip was actually doing anything wrong. I believe the police officer was acting in good faith, but he’s probably had little or no specialized training about bike law, safety, duties & rights. It’s doubly unlikely he ever had formal education on how to safely ride a bike on the road. Had Chip been riding at night without lights or running a stoplight, it’d be totally different – at least in my mind. Those don’t touch on fundamental cycling rights, the way a case like Chip’s might. Fred_dot_u had a similar situation he reported on CommuteOrlando. Fortunately, Fred won his case. Other cases appear from time to time. Cyclists do NOT win all of them. It’s why cycling is illegal on the road in Hunter’s Creek Village Texas.
I was brought up to believe one should oppose injustice, whether big or small, and that the accused are presumed innocent until found guilty. “Anonymous” might do well to remember those principles. They’re foundations that distinguish our country from a banana republic. It’s not “use the law against those that are irritating or inconvenient, even if you have to twist it around or ignore parts of it to do so.” It’s the RULE OF LAW. You don’t like the law, get it changed. With the proper steps, bicycles could be made more illegal in the US than Afghan heroin. Our State and Federal Constitutions govern those steps, and they’re not documents to be arbitrarily twisted either.
As a transportation cyclist, I prefer laws that don’t restrict me from traveling according to the rules of the road. All evidence is that's the safest way to ride. That biases me towards ChipSeal. I don’t need special protection. I need the RULE OF LAW. I’d prefer laws that don’t actively discriminate against me, but what we’ve got works. I don’t want motorists excused for running down cyclists after failing to exercise due care. I don’t want cyclists given a pass as if they were overgrown children. BEHAVE AS A VEHICLE AND GET TREATED LIKE A VEHICLE.
Now, back to our regular programming. Once in a rare while, all of us feel a need for a rant.
PS: You're right - I drove to work today so I'm moving towards "bike culture" instead of "Star Wars on bikes." This rain has got to let up. I've only ridden to work once this whole week...
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