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  1. #1
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    Urban cycling vs. everywhere else...

    I just wanted to solicit some opinions. So far in my browsing through A&S, it seems a significant portion favor observing all traffic laws in almost all situations; behave like a car because you are on the road. From this camp, I hear the arguments about how disregard for the law leads motorists to disrespect ALL cyclists; we'll never get anywhere with advocacy if people don't respect us...

    There is also the minority that calls for "personal safety" as numero uno; I'll break the laws when practical and to keep myself alive.


    It seems logical to think many of the first group primarily ride in more rural or suburban areas, and many of the minority group ride in the city. Am I wrong?

    I ride in both the suburbs and the city, and I find myself riding lawfully in the suburbs; practically in the city. Defensively in the suburbs; offensively in the city. Different situations call for different strategies. All I'm saying, is that we all need to stop pointing fingers at each other. Law-abiding cyclists angry at the urban cyclist for riding recklessly and endangering others. The urban cyclist scoffing at the impracticality of a commuter waiting at a red light when no one is coming.

    We all take our own lives into our own hands every time we saddle up. So let people ride how they will. If you want to wait at a stop light, go for it. You're spending your own time. If you want to roll through it when no one is around, go for it. But don't blame anyone else if a cop sees you and writes you up. If you want to blast through a light brakeless at full speed, go for it. But don't blame anyone else if you get hit.

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    Ahh, words to live by... and I'm being serious when I say that!

    The problem is a result of the 3rd strongest drive/instinct built into man:

    1- survival
    2- reproduction
    3- getting in somebody else's business

  3. #3
    Violin guitar mandolin
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    Sounds good to me. I obey laws out here. When I commuted in DC I broke laws. Many laws. Constantly. Often in front of LE.

  4. #4
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    Of course one's own survival should be numero uno. As many have pointed out in these forums, the laws of physics always trump the laws of the state.

    My experience is the opposite of yours. I have found the need for lawful cycling more critical in the urban environment, with its higher density of slower speed traffic, more intersections, and more possibility for conflict when people don't act in a predictable manner.

    Around here, I prefer traveling closer to the downtown core, with its old-fashioned grid of parallel streets that allow me to choose multiple options for getting around and avoid the arterial routes. This becomes increasingly difficult as one moves out to the suburbs.

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    Senior Member maddyfish's Avatar
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    I ride in the city primarily. I follow the traffic laws. 1.Because following the traffic laws is the easiest way to stay safe.2.Because I choose to generally follow the law.

    I will disregard any law that seriously affect my safety or freedom. Traffic law or otherwise. I just find that traffic laws generally increase my safety.
    Not too much to say here

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    Senior Member maddyfish's Avatar
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    IMO the main reason people run stop lights/signs is laziness and stupidity. Also these people break traffic laws because they feel they can get away with it. i.e. why stop at the light, they don't write tickets to bikes?

    They will make all sorts of excuses- it's too hard to stop, it is not safe to stop, so forth-but it all comes back to laziness (I dont want to unclip), or stupidity (I am a bike, I should not have to stop).
    Not too much to say here

  7. #7
    Al noisebeam's Avatar
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    define city and suburb in context of street layout and design.

  8. #8
    feros ferio John E's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by noisebeam View Post
    define city and suburb in context of street layout and design.
    Also, cite specific examples in which illegal cycling is safer than legal.
    "Early to bed, early to rise. Work like hell, and advertise." -- George Stahlman
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  9. #9
    Senior Member alhedges's Avatar
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    My behavior is the opposite of the OP.

    When I'm riding in the city, I almost always follow traffic signals. There is a lot more traffic in the city, and because of buildings being close to the street there aren't good lines of sight down cross streets before you arrive at the intersection. In the suburbs, however, there is little traffic and is much easier to see whether there is any traffic at all approaching an intersection before you arrive there. Which is why, if I do ignore a stop sign, it is much more likely to be in the suburbs.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by maddyfish View Post
    IMO the main reason people run stop lights/signs is laziness and stupidity. Also these people break traffic laws because they feel they can get away with it. i.e. why stop at the light, they don't write tickets to bikes?

    They will make all sorts of excuses- it's too hard to stop, it is not safe to stop, so forth-but it all comes back to laziness (I dont want to unclip), or stupidity (I am a bike, I should not have to stop).
    In cities (my experience, Philly; but I'd venture to guess pretty much any major city), you can get away with it. Law enforcement has bigger problems than some people on bikes disregarding lights. And how are you going to catch them, anyways? Kind of hard when you're sitting in gridlock while the cyclist is going, going, gone...

    In this way, it seems there are different expectations. For example, I've found that when riding in Philly, if a motorist sees a cyclist approaching a 4-way stop, they will wait the extra half-second or so to let them through. That's practicality. They wait a negligible extra amount of time; I don't have to go from cruising speed to a complete stop and then pedal back up to speed. In the suburbs and more rural areas (anywhere that's not a major city of the world), pretty much invariably, I have to wait my turn, as drivers expect me to behave like a car. BUT WE AREN'T CARS. While we may brake similarly, we provide our own acceleration. Stopping and going for a cyclist is much different than hitting the brakes and hitting the gas for a motorist.

    Maybe I should have said that illegal cycling is more practical. But, it can also be just as safe as following traffic laws, if you're smart about it. And in some cases, it may be the most sensible choice.

    Let's say, you're cruising around your city, and you turn onto a familiar street. Ah, it's a one-way street, and there is construction/major traffic so you can't fit between cars or anything. What are you going to do? Are you going to sit there in traffic like everyone else? I personally would hop the curb, and ride (very cautiously) on the sidewalk to the next intersection.

    Let's say it is illegal to occupy the same lane as a motorist waiting at an intersection (I don't actually know how the ins-and-outs of this sort of law apply, but this is just an example of a cyclist behaving as if it were a car). You're sitting behind the car in front, waiting for the light to change/your turn at the stop/whatever. Some jerkoff from behind was busy texting or something, and what would have been a car-hitting-car rear end accident, turns into a cyclist sandwich.


    I think one of the biggest issues is the lack of coherent and complete bicycle-specific traffic laws (But, that doesn't necessarily mean people would follow them if they were around). Like I said before, we aren't cars, and until a bicycle somehow transforms into a 2-ton metal box around us, some people aren't going to ride them the same way they drive cars.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by seajaye View Post
    In this way, it seems there are different expectations. For example, I've found that when riding in Philly, if a motorist sees a cyclist approaching a 4-way stop, they will wait the extra half-second or so to let them through. That's practicality.
    I think you have that backwards, or maybe it's different in Philly. I'm thinking that the reason they wait is because they expect that you are going to blow through the stop sign and they don't want to be liable for hitting you. It is not a positive reaction, they assume you're going to be a jerk.

  12. #12
    Dogs like me. Ajenkins's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by seajaye View Post
    Maybe I should have said that illegal cycling is more practical. But, it can also be just as safe as following traffic laws, if you're smart about it. And in some cases, it may be the most sensible choice.

    [snip]

    I think one of the biggest issues is the lack of coherent and complete bicycle-specific traffic laws (But, that doesn't necessarily mean people would follow them if they were around). Like I said before, we aren't cars, and until a bicycle somehow transforms into a 2-ton metal box around us, some people aren't going to ride them the same way they drive cars.
    I have to agree with maddyfish. These are just lame excuses for laziness. I lived car-free in Boston, with my bicycle as my primary transport, before the term "car-free" became a bumper-sticker rallying cry; I've lived in the suburbs of a metropolitan area, again using my bicycle more than anything else; and now I live in the country.

    Pretty much everywhere, red means stop, green means go, and you ride with the traffic. It's pretty freakin' simple, it works, and I love to see all the whimperin' and whamperin' that goes on for excuses not to follow the law.

    Except, of course, Joey. He's just in a different reality.
    Last edited by Ajenkins; 07-31-09 at 05:48 AM.

  13. #13
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    I also agree with maddyfish regarding the laziness and stupidity, but I think there are some other things going on that some cyclists use to justify their actions.

    Victim/persecution mentality: I am treated like an inferior road user, and my vulnerability entitles me to bend or break the law to get me back onto a level playing field.

    Moral superiority mentality: I am single-handedly fighting the wars against obesity, oil-funded terrorism, urban congestion, and environmental devastation, and that entitles me to ignore the rules of the evil establishment.

  14. #14
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    I really see high roller's point, insofar as SOME cyclists have a victim mentality and SOME have the moral superiority mentality. I definitely feel that way sometimes, and I have to keep it in check. I don't agree with maddyfish's "laziness and stupidity". It's a little too easy to call anyone we want lazy and stupid.

    But come on! I agree 100% with Seajaye, especially this bit:

    Quote Originally Posted by seajaye View Post

    Maybe I should have said that illegal cycling is more practical. But, it can also be just as safe as following traffic laws, if you're smart about it. And in some cases, it may be the most sensible choice.

    Let's say, you're cruising around your city, and you turn onto a familiar street. Ah, it's a one-way street, and there is construction/major traffic so you can't fit between cars or anything. What are you going to do? Are you going to sit there in traffic like everyone else? I personally would hop the curb, and ride (very cautiously) on the sidewalk to the next intersection.
    Obviously the caveat is, "if you're smart about it." So you can attack this position pretty easily, if you feel like it. I also split my riding between the city and the suburbs, and I recognize that the rules in each are different.

    And actually, High Roller, in your first post when you talked about the nice city grid - that just goes to show that the rules are different between particular cities, and even what parts of the city. I feel really comfortable following the rules in some areas of the city, but in others I think it's the best thing to move independently of traffic.

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    PS. feeling more aggression from the "follow the law" wing in this thread. Can we hear some hardcore messengers talk crap about "lazy, stupid" people who stop at every red light???

    PPS. Also, please post physics equations and dictionary definitions to back up your point.

    PPPS. I am kidding, and I admit I basically agree with the OP 100%

  16. #16
    Que CERA, CERA jefferee's Avatar
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    I'm definitely more willing to waive my legal entitlement to ride in the traffic lane in rural areas where traffic is going 50 mph+.

    My personal safety would be a higher priority than following traffic law--however, I can only recall one situation in my entire life where I would have been safer by breaking the law (I was waiting at a red light and approached by a pedestrian who was walking erratically, obviously sky-high, and claiming to have just consumed a rather large amount of hash.) For what it's worth, that was in an urban, rather than rural, setting.
    Quote Originally Posted by MajorMantra View Post
    Cycling (taken to the typical roadie extreme) causes you to cough up your own soul as every fibre of your worthless being sings in choral agony. Once you embrace the pain everything is dandy.

  17. #17
    Al noisebeam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by seajaye View Post
    Let's say, you're cruising around your city, and you turn onto a familiar street. Ah, it's a one-way street, and there is construction/major traffic so you can't fit between cars or anything. What are you going to do? Are you going to sit there in traffic like everyone else? I personally would hop the curb, and ride (very cautiously) on the sidewalk to the next intersection.
    That would be perfectly legal almost every part of the city I live.

  18. #18
    Senior Member capejohn's Avatar
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    My morning commute gives me most roads to myself. Traffic controls, like lights and stop signs are kind of moot. I use the same route for the evening commute home and obey every traffic contol because there are lots of us on the road then.
    Bike riding New England gentleman.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by johndeere View Post
    I think you have that backwards, or maybe it's different in Philly. I'm thinking that the reason they wait is because they expect that you are going to blow through the stop sign and they don't want to be liable for hitting you. It is not a positive reaction, they assume you're going to be a jerk.
    Might not be a positive reaction, but a positive outcome for both sides: No one gets hit and only very minimal time (of the motorist) is lost.


    You guys can say what you want about stupidity and laziness, but that just means you're from camp #1 and not camp #2.


    High Roller:
    I don't know how you feel about the additional two points, but I am 100% in support of the victim/persecution mentality. Do you not genuinely believe that? The moral superiority thing is BS in my opinion, but for the first point, the fact is we are treated as inferior road users, and we are MUCH more vulnerable than someone sitting inside a car.

    Force = mass times acceleration. Assuming both a cyclist and a motorist are traveling the same speed, I'd hope it's obvious the car has much more force. Now, who is more vulnerable in any car/cyclist accident? I make up for that by being aggressive and riding offensively, as opposed to timid and defensively (similar to what I said in the original post).

    Noisebeam:
    In many, many places (maybe not yours), it's illegal to ride on the sidewalk, especially in central business districts.


    Capejohn:
    See, I figured that some of the people in the first group (letter-of-the-law cyclists) were adamant about following every light, every stop, no matter who was around. Them being a moot point when noone is around seems like compromising legality for practicality, which is pretty much the basis of this thread.

  20. #20
    L T X B O M P F A N S R apricissimus's Avatar
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    I'm totally in agreement with the OP. The higher traffic density and lower speeds of the automobile traffic in the city makes it possible to do things I wouldn't dream of in the suburbs. Sometimes it's for safety, sometimes it's because there's really no reason not to.

    For those who cite laziness, why don't you get off your bikes and start walking, you lazy bums!

  21. #21
    Two H's!!! TWO!!!!! chephy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by seajaye View Post
    I don't know how you feel about the additional two points, but I am 100% in support of the victim/persecution mentality. Do you not genuinely believe that? The moral superiority thing is BS in my opinion, but for the first point, the fact is we are treated as inferior road users, and we are MUCH more vulnerable than someone sitting inside a car.
    Yep. The system is very heavily biased against you. You can't expect people to respect such a system.

    Example: most "official bike routes" in my city is on backstreets that have a four-way stop sign every 70-200 metres. That's a HELL of a lot of stops. The reason the stop signs are there is to discourage traffic from going through those streets, to make it as inefficient and unpleasant as possible. And then they give cyclists a choice of either riding there and having to come to a standstill every couple of pedal strokes or to riding on the parallel major street and be subjected to all the stresses, abuses and dangers associated with riding a bike on a busy, fast arterial road. Nice choices, eh?..

    As soon as the average person, with a bit of training, can travel by bike on an efficient road network without fear, I'll be all for strict adherence to the laws. The way things are right now... sorry, cyclists will break the law, and I can't blame them (obviously, they CAN be faulted when they cause a dangerous situation etc., but not for breaking the law when it does not endanger them or anyone else).
    Stomping as lightly as I can...

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