Ha! Then I WIN!!!!!!! YeeeeeeeeeeHAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!
"I just need a rest...and by 'rest' I mean a really long bicycle ride."
I agree that Tom's position has the virtue of being logically consistent, and is ultimately the safest of all ways to approach cycling (other than not doing it).I guess what I was responding and reacting to were the people in this thread who have decided to arbitrarily create one set of traffic laws that are inviolate and another set of traffic laws that can be broken at an experienced rider's discretion. I think we can all agree that regardless of one's position on cyclists breaking laws, that the former has the virtue of being consistent and completely honest, while the latter is, at best, a slippery slope of cycling-ethics.
That said, I don't accept Chiro's suggestion that all issues have to be either black and white or hopelessly gray. That either-or position, while rhetorically pleasing, doesn't comport with the real world, in which conduct can be sorted into more than two buckets.
Take coasting through stop signs as an example. There is an inherent degree of arbitrary-ness (is there a word for that??) in deciding how fast is too fast. I think it is okay for a rider to slow enough to get a good look both ways, see that all is clear, then proceed. Conduct like this will not surprise any other riders or drivers. The rider is where people expect him to be, doing things people expect him to do. Key to this is that he will be going slowly enough to stop if something develops. For example, if a car pulls out of a parking spot, there is every reason to expect that the rider and driver will see each other. If the rider has slowed enough to stop safely when that situation arises, then the danger is minimal. Would it be safer to come to a dead stop? Sure. But you aren't creating all that much risk by riding that way.
How fast one can safely ride through a stop sign is a matter of degree. Is the "safe" speed capped at 3 mph? 6 mph? 10 mph? I suppose that varies by rider, traffic, locale, etc. But it is legitimately gray. I am not so married to logical consistency that I refuse to let human judgment play a role in that type of decision.
Riding the wrong way down a street is fundamentally different. As I've said before, it is something drivers aren't trained to look for, and don't have a basis of experience upon which to react reasonably. It is asking for trouble, no matter how "safely" you think you are doing it. Fast or slow, night or day, green or red, you are disrupting the usual traffic pattern in a way that is inherently and unreasonably dangerous.
The key to this is your use of the term "arbitrary". The mere fact that a distinction is not 100% logic-driven does not make it arbitrary.
One other thing -- you have used what I consider to be a suspect rhetorical concept -- the "slippery slope". If you accept the idea that slippery slopes are a problem, then you are committed to taking a position at one extreme (never break the law) or the other (any law is okay to break). This same concept drives Republicans further right and Democrats further left, to the detriment of those of us who prefer to live in the middle.
As I finished my 2 day RT commute this morning (drive in, leave car, bike home, bike in in AM, drive home) I ponder that everybody has buttons that when pushed trigger whatever activities of fellow cyclists piss you off. Everybody's are different.
Mine tends to be cyclists riding on the wrong side of the street (as per the OP's situation). I tend to cut a lot of slack to the locals where I live as a lot of them are seemingly recent immigrants and have no clue it's against state law. And they are struggling to make a living, cannot yet afford a car and I leave them alone. I get REALLY pissed off at what I call the "Rockaway Wrong-Way's" (a catchy phrase), who come off the streets adjacent to the beach, hang a left into the marked bike lane and ride the wrong way in the lane. But, hey if Alec Baldwin can do it I guess it's OK, even though the ****** got a deserved ticket for it. But seriously, I have had so many near misses it just pushes the Nuke 'Em" button. At 5PM , it's possibly safer along Rockaway Beach Blvd. for me to ride the wrong way on the other side of the street. If one of these friggin morons gets nailed by a car, I'm stealing their friggin wallet while they lay bleeding and I am NOT digging out my cell to call 911. Let 'em die where they lay.....
Last edited by Steve B.; 07-18-14 at 04:40 PM.
Right now, I wish I could get in a ride ALONE, let alone with somebody else. I am doing my annual overnighter from the New London end of the Orient Point Ferry to Misquamicut Beach, RI on Sunday 7/20 and I'm pretty sure I haven't been on a bike in about two and a half weeks. I'm working my butt off doing tech work for our town concerts and I just don't have the energy when I get home at 5:00.
It's a possibility to meet for a ride...if I don't have a stroke this weekend. It wouldn't be until the fall, though.
"I just need a rest...and by 'rest' I mean a really long bicycle ride."
Your entire argument here rests on the supposition that you somehow are the purveyor of moral truths and only the laws YOU choose to break are the ones acceptable to be broken. If you cannot see the inherent hypocrisy in that, I suggest you look a little closer. Otherwise, perhaps you can produce some University based, peer reviewed, journal-published research supporting your assertion that rolling through stop signs and red lights is somehow safer than riding on the wrong side of an unpopulated road? I named only a couple of possible dangers in a previous post that you can encounter by rolling through red lights and stop signs, but there are plenty more.
So, yes, your statement that your law-breaking choices here are somehow safer than mine are preposterous at best. There are dangers that both of us are opening ourselves up to here, and I am sure that riders like Papa Tom would be the first to attack both our positions. The problem here is that your "rules" sound like you are making them up as you go along, or are justifying why one set of laws are all right to break while another, with similar consequences, are somehow taboo? Uh-uh. No way on that one.
Look, if you were to compare breaking into an ATM with nobody around with murdering a clerk for a few bucks in a store, then I would agree because of the severity of the latter. But the bill of goods you are trying to sell here is not so extreme as to compare murder with property theft. You are comparing one kind of cycling scofflaw to another, giving the thumbs up to one and the thumbs down to the other. No way, man. I have to call bullsh*t on this, UNLESS you are willing to revise your position and cop to the reality that your law breaking is just as wrong as mine.
Want a little more evidence to support my case? Ask cops in your area (and by the way I have here in NYC) what they are moe likely to ticket cyclists for, riding down the wrong way of the street or blowing stops signs and red lights. Guaranteed, most cops will say they couldn't be bothered with enforcing the law in either scenario, but the ones that will ticket scofflaw cyclists will tell you to a man that they ticket only the red lights and stop signs NOT slowly drivng on the wrong side of the road.
Now, let me be clear, this is NOT an attempt to justify that my breaking the law is somehow superior to yours. It isn't. Both are technically wrong. My only point is that if you were to press a cop on this one, the ones that ticket cyclists, I mean, they would confirm this. So the only point I am making here is not to stick my tongue out and say "Nyah Nyah! Even the cops agree with me!" but to say that your position against my law breaking is suspect and at the very least even law enforcement would not agree with your scofflaws being inherently superior to mine.
Furthermore, I reject the premise that you are allowing human judgement to play a role in this...well except your judgement. When I go against traffic, I judge it as safe to do as you blowing a red light or stop sign. So your "allowing human judgment to play a role" is not so much human judgment as it is judgement that is in accord with yours.
Like I said, Papa Tom's position is unimpeachable. He is consistent and forthright and he is not asking anyone to buy into arbitrary and random stipulations to "certain laws" being all right to break because...well, he breaks them so that means they are okay!
By the way, I am not saying arbitrary is bad. I think you absolutely SHOULD make these kinds of decisions for yourself. And if you were to tell me that "Well, I am comfortable rolling through red lights and stop signs, but riding on the wrong side of the road? Not so much," then I would not my head and respect your position. But you aren't doing that at all. You are not only making your own rules, but now demanding that others follow them as well!
Sorry, my friend, but you don't get to sit in judgment of minor cycling infractions I choose to break while you opt to break different ones. Papa Tom can judge me all he pleases, because, as I said, his position is unassailable in its consistency.
I think we are pretty much done with this argument, and will have to agree to disagree. I just want to add one thing, respond quickly to a couple of things, then move on.
First, the new point. I see this as somewhat akin to judicial review over negligence findings. A jury gets to decide whether the defendant's conduct was reasonable. The judge is required to give the jury's determination considerable leeway. The judge is not allowed to intervene unless the jury's decision is so outside the bounds of reason as to be unsupportable. In essence, the jury gets to decide what is reasonable, but a judge sits over the process and gets to decide whether the jury's determination of reasonableness was itself reasonable.
Here, we seem to agree that each individual cyclist should sit as his own "jury", with significant discretion to decide what is okay and what is too dangerous. But I don't accept the idea that that discretion is limitless. At some point the cyclist's discretion should be truncated because no reasonable person could determine that the conduct in question is reasonable.
I agree that I am not the ultimate judge as to where the line is. The crux of my position is that the line exists. For the purposes of this thread, you asked for opinions and you got mine. I don't feel bad about passing judgment under the circumstances. But I don't usually make a habit of it.Sorry, my friend, but you don't get to sit in judgment of minor cycling infractions I choose to break while you opt to break different ones.
It is unreasonable to clump all violations of cycling laws into a broad category -- "cycling scofflaw" -- and then suggest that each violation is "just as wrong". Conduct at one extreme is clearly okay. For example, when stopping at a red light, it is illegal to encroach on the pedestrian-crossing zone, even by an inch. And it is illegal to signal a turn 74 feet before an intersection instead of the legally mandated 75 feet. No reasonable person could condemn cycling violations this benign. Heck, maybe even Papa Tom would admit to violations like this.You are comparing one kind of cycling scofflaw to another, giving the thumbs up to one and the thumbs down to the other. No way, man. I have to call bullsh*t on this, UNLESS you are willing to revise your position and cop to the reality that your law breaking is just as wrong as mine.
At the other extreme, I would hope that we would all join in condemning someone who thinks it is okay to completely ignore red lights and blow through busy intersections at full speed without looking. Violations this extreme cannot be left up to each individual cyclist -- it is simply wrong and cannot be tolerated.
Obviously, most cycling violations fall somewhere between these two extremes. But if one extreme is okay and the other extreme is not, there must be some point at which "within each rider's discretion" crosses over to "never okay, no matter what an individual rider says". There will never be complete agreement on where that line is, but I think it is healthy to discuss it.
I think we are talking past each other when I mention "coasting through stop signs" and you mention "blowing stop signs." My personal practice is to slow down to 1-2 mph (maybe 3 mph if the line of sight is wide open). If the coast isn't 100% clear, I put my foot down and come to a complete stop -- unless a driver waves me on, in which case I might continue, especially on an uphill road. I don't think this gives rise to anything more than trivial danger.And I would make the argument that blowing stop signs and red lights is just as bad and drivers are not prepared for that either.
This is different from "blowing stop signs", which I agree is just as dangerous as riding the wrong way. I acknowledge that the line is hard to draw, but I would say that riding the wrong way and "blowing stop signs" are both over the line. No reasonable person, imho, will choose to do so.
Again, this is just my opinion. I guess I have trouble seeing one or the other as ethically superior because neither of these actions is on he extreme end of cycling stupidity. Oh and I want to be clear about one thing: I do not habitually cycle against traffic. I prefer to be on the right side. In one post, I think I said I cycle on the right side, with traffic, about 90% of the time. Well since starting this thread I realize that it is actually much higher, and I really only very rarely am against traffic. I have been doing some rides and sort of taking an internal, grass-roots poll as I cycle to see when the urge to cross over to the dark side strikes me and I do it, and I now realize that it's more like 99% I am on the right side, and only ever cross over when my judgement tells me it is safer going against.
I know you don't agree with this, and I respect that and agree to disagree, as you suggested. But I wanted to post that I don't think we are as divergent on our opinions as it originally seemed.
This has nothing to do with who was more law abiding or whether you should obey laws. You were not sufficiently attentive.
When I break traffic laws, I have a burden to be more attentive than normal. If I have a collision while I'm breaking a law, it will probably be my fault. If I'm breaking the law and I also don't see the other vehicle, it is almost surely my fault.
I won't tell you to obey all traffic laws, because I don't do that myself. I ride in a style that I consider to be sensible and considerate. I will advise that you pay more attention than you've been paying.
When I have a close call, I ask myself what, if anything, I did wrong. It's a very useful practice, and I believe it has made me a better car driver and bicyclist.
Good point about the 10%. I had a similar incident. I was running a red light, and I forgot to look adequately. A car, traveling legally, passed by me in front of me and I felt the wind. I don't often make mistakes like this, and I aim to make them even less often!
Sorry to revive a stale thread, but I thought of you this morning, Chiro.
I was driving on 2nd Avenue stopped at a red light looking to my right up the side street (I think it was at E. 11th, maybe E. 9th). I was looking that way because an attractive woman was jogging away from me up the south sidewalk. About 50 feet from the intersection, the woman decided to cross to the other side of the street. She looked back over her right shoulder (towards me, where traffic should've been coming from), and saw nothing. If she had looked left, she would've seen a bike heading the wrong way up an otherwise deserted street. But she didn't. Instead, she darted across the street and broadsided the bike, knocking the rider over. I didn't look like the rider or runner were hurt all that badly, but the runner just as well could've been a car coming out of a parking garage. Just sayin'.
Thank you, @indyfabz. I'm guilty of thinking things too hard, but sometimes, it proves useful. I see I have passed it on to my 22-year-old. She recently got hit by a car while she was on her bike. She wasn't hurt, and she instantly told the driver it was entirely her fault. Then she thought about what she did wrong and can do better from now on. I'm impressed!
@ChiroVette has both:
- acknowledged all of the problems and extra responsibilities of wrong-way cycling, unlike other wrong-way cyclists, and
- made it clear that he doesn't do it often.
Yet people address him as if he has done neither of these.
Thanks for having my back, though!