Saturday, June 21, 2008

Why Bikers Flout The Rules

A recent Colorado Springs Gazette article about the competing needs of drivers and cyclists drew a flurry of irate responses from both sides. The chief complaint from drivers: those goddamn cyclists are always violating the rules of the road, and should get fat tickets just like us.

Four thoughts:

(1) Cyclists sometimes violate the rules because they can. Drivers do this, too: they ignore "no right on red"s, cut through corner paved lots, etc. It's human nature to cheat when you're convinced its consequence-free. So climb down off of your high horses, thanks so much.

(2) You're several tons larger than us. Your violations of the rules can kill us. Our violations of the rules can kill us.

(3) It's sometimes safer for cyclists to violate the rules. This is especially true at stops on streets with no marked bike lane. If a cyclist has a trail of cars behind her, she'll see if she can get a head start on them so she can get clearly out in view of the car(s) to her side.

(4) We weave back and forth between sidewalk and road (one of the way drivers say that cyclists violate the rules) because streets with no marked bike lane and minimal shoulder are fucking scary. Stopping at a light with a line of 2+ ton vehicles idling their engines is fucking scary. Trust me: no cyclist enjoys riding on the sidewalk. Sidewalks are for pedestrians. Most cyclists will only hop onto a sidewalk as a last resort.

Bottom line for cyclists: yes, we ought to follow the rules of the road just as drivers (often) do. We can cause grave injury or even death if our recklessness causes drivers to swerve into other traffic. But until our cities are better retro-fitted to accommodate two-wheeled commuting, we're going to bend the rules where our safety's concerned.

Bottom line for drivers: if you want cyclists out of your hair (and off of sidewalks!), campaign for better bike lanes and trails, and better demarcation of city cycling arterials. Work with us, not against us. The more we're in our own lanes, the faster you can get to your destination - and the safer it is for us.