September 5, 2014

Click Bait: "The Myth of the Scofflaw Cyclist"

Ken Ohrn recycles:


This is a 2008 post from TheWashCycle, a Washington DC blog maintained by several authors.  

The post leads with the negative, which is unfortunate, but contains some number-oriented research.  For me, the most useful thoughts are near the end, and deal with why we have red lights and stop signs on our roads in the first place.  It also begins to sketch out an idea that interests me more and more — that there are “social constructs” or “taboos” built in to our understanding of road behaviour.  These, in my evolving opinion, lead to so much of the otherwise inexplicable focus on people on bikes.  

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  1. One theory of the focus on and demonization of cyclists is that transgendered people got smart. They saw what had been done to their gay and lesbian allies some years ago and worked to prevent it happening to them. Those that operate by the creation of an underclass to demonize that had been lining up transgendered people as the next one to attack, had to find someone else. With the popularity of cycling in the past few decades, and the lack of infrastructural inclusion of the mode, they can always find someone who has had a conflict and instead of blaming the road design, blame the individual.
    Pretty classic really.

  2. I don’t buy the premise: cyclists do break the road laws more (and I speak as a person who lives by bike). But, as the Idaho stops show (and the accompanying Atlantic article reflects), the present road rules are deeply flawed.
    Despite the fact that our roads are a commons, they are governed by total focus on imposing a formal system that results in one thing: faster speeds. Full stops have replaced the “negotiation” (a CanBike-training term) of rights-of-way at each intersection. The laws work against the interests of all “alternative” modes that can’t use that any extra speed, but rather are victims of it. (Check out P. Norton Book, “Fighting Traffic” to see the historical context of road laws).
    The naked-streets approach (cited in the Atlantic piece, but not by that name or identifying its ‘inventor,’ the late Hans Monderman) is really a resolution of governing the road commons that works for everyone. After all, what we get from cars is not just the negatives of speed, but the negatives of congestion; that is the result, in part, of cars being so large — to have enough cushion around the occupants to be able to protect them in the event of a high-speed crash, something that most of us feel should not need protecting against in human settlements.

  3. As a regular cyclist I behave like a car when I’m occupying a lane. I stop at red lights and wait my turn. Like most drivers I roll through stop signs when there’s no competing vehicles or pedestrians.
    But when it comes to turning across traffic I’m quick to take advantage of crosswalks. It saves me time and energy and gets me out of the way of other vehicles. Sitting in the left lane blocking traffic like a car simply isn’t friendly behaviour and is apt to rise the ire of numerous drivers. Likewise waiting at the red only to roll across the street and push a button to invoke another red is unnecessarily disruptive.
    I’d like to pose a question to the group. What is the proper route/procedure for getting from Hornby bike lane to Burrard Bridge? The route I use is straightforward, but feels wrong because includes some crosswalks.

    1. I stop at Drake, get off my bike and walk across Hornby within the pedestrian signal. Then I walk across Drake with pedestrian signal. I get on my bike and use the separated track on Drake to get to Burrard. I push the button and with the light, turn left onto the Burrard separate track.

    2. If southbound on Hornby: if there is no oncoming traffic at Drake, and the light is green, turn right into the separated lane. If there is traffic, cross Drake and wait for the light to go west up Drake. In both cases, cross Burrard with the light into the separated lane. Stream onto the bridge. With great caution.
      If northbound on Hornby: take the lane at the light at Pacific. Turn left with the light. Ride west on Pacific. Turn left at Burrard with the light, keeping to the right side of the left turn lane. Enter the separated lane on the bridge.

    3. “I’m quick to take advantage of crosswalks”
      I won’t do so when riding. I think it creates a risk of conflict with pedestrians, for whom the crosswalks are intended (unless they are marked with elephant feet). If I need to use a crosswalk then it is appropriate to walk the bike (unless it is a shared bike/ped crosswalk).
      IMO there is no more reason for a driver waiting for me to turn left to have his ire raised than if I was a motor vehicle, as long as I signal in advance and proceed when safe to do so.