Tuesday, October 6

Steve Does Principles

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...

7 comments:

ChipSeal said...

I am keenly interested in viewing the patrol car video and listening to the recorded conversations between Officer Watson, and the conversations between him and Sgt. Pillow.

I drove my bicycle in the "default" manner, and so I am confident that my memory is not being selective in how I rode. It will be interesting to see how fair I was in relating the dialog we had.

I take refuge in the law, and the truth is my Ally.

I do not think any EPD officer has "twisted" their understanding of the law to harass me. I believe they have acted with the noblest of intent in their dealings with me.

That said, many of my non-cyclist friends think I have no chance of avoiding penalties, irrespective of whether I actually broke a law or not. They think I am naive and that resisting the police and local courts will bring wrath down on my head.

We shall see.

Keri said...

I think Chipseal is right, EPD was simply acting within the cultural bias. You can't see the shape of the universe when you're inside it. They don't have any consciousness of the bias or any other perspective.

It is somewhat unfortunate that TX does not have "motor" vehicle in the impeding traffic statute. I forwarded Chipseal's post to FBA's law enforcement expert (and my colleague in the development of our Florida LE training program). He told me the original UVC did not have "motor" but that some states (like Florida) inserted it to ensure the rights of non-motorized vehicles.

This may make Chipseal's case a little harder. But if anyone can articulate a winning defense, it's Chipseal!

What's so frustrating (and deserving of at least the occasional rant) is that all we want to do is get from point A to point B safely and minding our own business, but sometimes the speed-dominant, car-centric culture BS stands in our way, like an overgrown bully that can't just live and let live.

Chandra said...

Chipseal & Keri,
Nicely put!
Chipseal good luck with everything.
Peace :)

Steve A said...

Almost forgot. This blog is not about beer or recipes, either! I do miss beer, however...

Rantwick said...

Steve - Well said. I am quite to content to live and ride by the law. As you know, I occasionally break it; that said, in a strange way I would welcome the ticket if it meant that enforcement was across the board.

I have a short commute, and you a long one, so it's easy for me to say, but ride in that rain baby. You know deep down that Mother Nature needs a lesson.

Steve A said...

It's not the ticket as much as what the ticket is FOR.

As for Mother Nature, some say she's related to a female dog. I'm starting to miss July already! Clothing choices were so much simpler then.

Keri said...

The in-between is tough: warm weather and chilly rain. Cold rain is easier to deal with. I'll offer this:

http://www.showerspass.com/

Some good technical products. I have a jacket and rain pants from them. I really like them.

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