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Old 11-28-08, 12:27 PM   #1
John Forester
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Hurst's Art of Cycling

The historic American policy regarding cycling has always been one of incompetent cycling through deliberate ignorance, administered through fear of same-direction motor traffic. I deliberately say deliberate, because America has always chosen cyclist-inferiority education instead of vehicular cycling education whenever the choice was open to it. And now, of course, that policy has morphed into one of incompetent cycling on bikeways.

We few vehicular cyclists have held to a second policy, that of following the rules for drivers of vehicles, which has been written up in several books.

So far as I know, nobody has written books about incompetent cycling or about bikeway cycling; the skills for these actions are just supposed to be natural, instruction unnecessary. But for the last four years vehicular cycling has had a different challenger in the form of Robert Hurst's Art of Cycling. Hurst accepts typical lawless cycling, and justifies it by arguing that motor traffic is also lawless (except for its own mysterious laws, whatever these may be). However, Hurst raises lawless cycling to a high performance art by applying super competence to it. So he says, but, like other descriptions of art, without being able to specifically describe it.

I have produced a detailed evaluation of Hurst's arguments and posted it to my website, johnforester.com. The following items are the introduction that I wrote for my page on cycling sociology, and the URL for the evaluation follows.

http://johnforester.com/Articles/Social.htm

Traffic Cycling: No Rules, No Laws, Just Perfect Performance Art?

Vehicular cycling is following the traffic rules. Typical American cycling is disorganized lawlessness because its cyclists believe that the laws don't apply to them and, as cyclists, they are not very competent. Robert Hurst, a former bicycle messenger, in The Art of Cycling, denigrates motorists by saying that they don't obey the traffic laws and vehicular cyclists by arguing that they think they do. Instead, Hurst takes typical American lawless cycling to the utmost level by advocating super-competent lawlessness as much better than vehicular cycling in the real, chaotic traffic world. "A successful, safe ride through American traffic is not an exercise in rule following , but a beautiful piece of performance art."

http://johnforester.com/Articles/Soc...rsts%20Art.pdf
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Old 11-28-08, 12:44 PM   #2
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Vehicular cycling is following the traffic rules.
What are these "traffic rules" of which you speak? The written rules that all road users must somehow memorize and follow intently? (and which are hardly even enforced by the enforcers... even in your own neck of the woods) Or the real rules which govern the streets that include "Might is Right," and the reality of physics, and the quick getaway of the distracted motorist?
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Old 11-28-08, 01:30 PM   #3
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a lot of Hurst's riding advice is more grounded and realistic than yours, john. i will admit, that first paragraph of yours left me chuckling from its inaccurate rhetorical invective.

I don't want to speak for him, but Hurst's schema suggests to be aware because other road users might not be, and not to blindly follow the traffic rules to the extent a bicyclist leaves themself more vulnerable.

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Old 11-28-08, 02:28 PM   #4
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Ahhhh ... well John certainly lives up to his reputation.

I think R. Hurst has some good points. My personal opinion is that he puts too much weight on personal vigilence and too little on that of others. That is, within some fairly broad bounds, following the rules makes it easier for others to sucessfully interact. As circumstances get more exceptional then it becomes easier to consider alternatives. Moreover, personal vilgilence or general attentiveness is subject to user error. It isn't clear to me whether the average cyclist's error rate will be greater/smaller than the average driver's error rate. I think some of John's critiques are petty -- failing to describe how to cross perpendicular to railroad tracks?

Oh well, back to turkey and pie!
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Old 11-28-08, 03:06 PM   #5
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Is there any point to this thread other than an attack on a BF.net contributer and his book?
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Old 11-28-08, 03:57 PM   #6
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What are these "traffic rules" of which you speak? The written rules that all road users must somehow memorize and follow intently? (and which are hardly even enforced by the enforcers... even in your own neck of the woods) Or the real rules which govern the streets that include "Might is Right," and the reality of physics, and the quick getaway of the distracted motorist?
Genec, if you actually believe what you have written, you are a fool because the world doesn't work that way. If you don't believe it, then you should not have written it.

If you are as ignorant as your statement claims, then you are unfit to participate in serious conversation. Say what you mean, or ask reasonable questions, instead of trying to make points with scurrilous rhetorical statements.
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Old 11-28-08, 03:59 PM   #7
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a lot of Hurst's riding advice is more grounded and realistic than yours, john. i will admit, that first paragraph of yours left me chuckling from its inaccurate rhetorical invective.
Please provide evidence to support your claim.
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Old 11-28-08, 04:01 PM   #8
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I don't want to speak for him, but Hurst's schema suggests to be aware because other road users might not be, and not to blindly follow the traffic rules to the extent a bicyclist leaves themself more vulnerable.
Please explain why following the traffic rules makes one more vulnerable than does disobeying them.
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Old 11-28-08, 04:04 PM   #9
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Ahhhh ... well John certainly lives up to his reputation.
snips
I think some of John's critiques are petty -- failing to describe how to cross perpendicular to railroad tracks?

Oh well, back to turkey and pie!
I think that in a book supposedly of instruction, acts to be taken should have their methods described. That's not the only part of Hurst's book that does not provide instruction for whatever it is he recommends done.
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Old 11-28-08, 04:05 PM   #10
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Basic Principles of Traffic Cycling
by Donald Tighe




--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles.


That is the basic principle behind the League's Effective Cycling Program. Basic rules for safe cycling in traffic all conform to this simple principle.


To cycle safely and efficiently on crowded roads, you must follow both traffic law and safe cycling principles.


Legislators frequently find that it is far more difficult to tell you how to do something right than it is to tell you what not to do. That is why traffic laws cannot tell you all you need to know. Traffic law can be viewed as elementary knowledge, whereas safe cycling principles are the advanced knowledge and skills necessary for improving your performance and safety.


The five basic principles of cycling in traffic are:


Ride on the right side of the road with traffic--never against traffic and never on the sidewalk.
When you reach a more important or larger road than the one you are on, yield to traffic in the new lane or line of travel. [Yielding means looking forward and backward, and waiting until you see that no traffic is coming.]
When you intend to change lanes or move laterally on the roadway, yield to traffic in the new lane or line of travel.
When approaching an intersection, position yourself with respect to your destination direction: on the right near the curb if you want to turn right, on the left near the centerline if you want to turn left, and between those positions if you want to go straight.
Between intersections, position yourself according to your speed relative to other traffic; slower traffic is nearer the curb and faster traffic is nearer the centerline.
By obeying these five principles, you can cycle in many places with a low probability of being involved in traffic conflicts. With these principles alone you might not do absolutely everything in the best possible way, and you might not know how to get yourself out of troubles that other drivers cause, but you are sure to do better than those on the road who do not follow these guidelines.
There are many other aspects to sharing the road safely with others, from signaling intent to arranging your riding position on multi-lane roads. By recognizing and following these principles from the moment you leave your driveway, you can cycle safely while gaining the experience to understand and practice more advanced habits and maneuvers.


For additional training that can increase the enjoyment and safety of cycling, contact the League of American Bicyclists at bikeleague@aol.com, or www.bikeleague.org to locate a certified Effective Cycling Instructor near you.


This E.C. Notebook was adapted from the "Basic Principles of Traffic Cycling" and "The Why and Wherefore of Traffic Law" chapters of Effective Cycling by John Forester, Sixth Edition, MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.


Reprinted from "Bicycle USA", magazine of the League of American Bicyclists. Effective CyclingTM.
For more information about the League of American Bicyclists, visit their web site, www.bikeleague.org, or e-mail them at bikeleague@aol.com.
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Old 11-28-08, 04:42 PM   #11
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Here we go again.....

Welcome back John.

Last edited by urban_assault; 11-28-08 at 11:43 PM. Reason: removed photo
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Old 11-28-08, 05:26 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by John Forester View Post
I think that in a book supposedly of instruction, acts to be taken should have their methods described. That's not the only part of Hurst's book that does not provide instruction for whatever it is he recommends done.
Hmmmm ... well there are instruction manuals of varying specificity. I think that my specific example is one that most people would not bother explaining. Notice that I wrote some of your comments were petty, not all. You have some good points.

EDIT: More importantly, I find that discussing the petty issues is simply a distraction from the serious topics.
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Old 11-29-08, 09:16 AM   #13
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Hmmmm ... well there are instruction manuals of varying specificity. I think that my specific example is one that most people would not bother explaining. Notice that I wrote some of your comments were petty, not all. You have some good points.

EDIT: More importantly, I find that discussing the petty issues is simply a distraction from the serious topics.
I'll echo the same thing, personally I would like to see Johns paper organized with the more serious topics first and the nit picks later.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Traffic Cyclists as Performance Artists Review
Hurst here claims that traffic does not operate according to the rules of the road, the traffic laws, that have been enacted by man, but according to its own different laws. This contrasts with the conventional view of traffic law and highway engineering.
As far as traffic laws go in Maryland it is illegal for a motorist to pass on the shoulder for a left turning car but you're darn straight I'll anticipate a motorist doing such a illegal maneuver. In VA it's common that one car will make a left just as the light turns green again not exactly legal but again its something cyclists should be on the watch for. Also it is not that uncommon here for motorists coming from a minor intersection (to make a right turn) to stop/slow just outside the travel lane and not stop at the stop sign or stop bar as legally required, again something a cyclists needs to be mindful of. The "rules of the road" are not what has been codified but what is observed, so I agree more with Hurst then you on this point but with that said a cyclist can deal with these situations while obeying the "rules of the road."

PS. Welcome back John
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Old 11-29-08, 09:44 AM   #14
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PS. Welcome back John
While he was on self banishment, he wrote and posted the John Forester version of his experience at BF proving (i.e. JF style) everybody wrong unless they agree with him. http://www.johnforester.com/Articles/Social/Year.htm

Don't miss it THC, the convoluted nature of your argument is specifically pointed out. Lots of laffs if you have the stomach, or sense of perverse humor to read another JF essay on bicycling truth as handed down from Mount Forester.
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Old 11-29-08, 09:47 AM   #15
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Fixed that link for you, John. http://johnforester.com/Articles/Soc...rsts%20Art.pdf

I have not had time to read through your entire piece, but I did get through this part and will comment on it.

2.1 Opposition to rules: what I get from Hurst here is quite simple and valid...not opposition to rules in general, but opposition to rules that are not reflected by reality. The actual flow of traffic in any given environment does not necessarily always conform with traffic laws or even the basic rules of the road...in those cases it is best to ride according to the actual flow of traffic rather than to work against in in a vain attempt to impose the letter of the law upon it. If you wish I can give some lengthy real-world examples of this, but as an experienced cyclist you should already understand what I am saying and know it to be true.
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Old 11-29-08, 10:01 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by The Human Car View Post
The "rules of the road" are not what has been codified but what is observed, so I agree more with Hurst then you on this point but with that said a cyclist can deal with these situations while obeying the "rules of the road."

PS. Welcome back John
I agree with the statement in this font. In reference to Gene's comment, I think that this set of norms is followed pretty closely by the vast majority of drivers making them quite predictable in a majority of situations.

Although one needs to put the term vast majority in the right context. In many settings, people would say that 95, 99, and 99.9% all constitute a vast majority. But across a population these differences would result in drastically different results. My personal experience is that as driving becomes more congested and aggressive -- rush hour -- people break those norms at a higher frequency.
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Old 11-29-08, 10:10 AM   #17
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I strongly suggest John Forester find himself a tough editor to help him resist minor digs and focus on his main argument.
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Old 11-29-08, 11:20 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike View Post
While he was on self banishment, he wrote and posted the John Forester version of his experience at BF proving (i.e. JF style) everybody wrong unless they agree with him. http://www.johnforester.com/Articles/Social/Year.htm

Don't miss it THC, the convoluted nature of your argument is specifically pointed out. Lots of laffs if you have the stomach, or sense of perverse humor to read another JF essay on bicycling truth as handed down from Mount Forester.
Wow, thanks for the link, that conversation on BF had to be the most surrealist conversations in A&S ever. Tsk tsk on John for not providing a link to the discussion almost as bad as Hurst not providing references for his graphs. (To (sort of) get back on topic.)
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Old 11-29-08, 12:49 PM   #19
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Genec, if you actually believe what you have written, you are a fool because the world doesn't work that way. If you don't believe it, then you should not have written it.

If you are as ignorant as your statement claims, then you are unfit to participate in serious conversation. Say what you mean, or ask reasonable questions, instead of trying to make points with scurrilous rhetorical statements.
John I actually believe what I wrote... and I am far from unfit to participate in serious conversation... I carry out serious conversation daily in my career as an engineer, and from time to time I have been known to contribute here on bike forums... that you make such an assessment of regular cyclist and contributor here causes me to question your cognitive abilities.

If for some reason you honestly believe that the vast majority of the driving public is actually following the "traffic rules" (which you cannot readily define, apparently) then there should be no reason for traffic light cameras nor the deaths of 45,000 drivers each year nor the 85 percentile rule (as motorists would not be driving over the speed limit in the first place...) Nor would bike forums contain the stories of hit and run motorists. Now I know that you will next take the tack of listing the millions of traffic miles that are traveled which result in a mere tick of number of deaths, and you will cite this meaningless statistic as "successful," in spite of the mandates to the auto industry to increasingly improve the safety of the vehicle, in spite of the operator.

John there is a prime example of this lack of knowledge of "traffic rules" right in your back yard, on Dehesa road...

From the SDCBC web site I offer you this shining example of lack of knowledge by law enforcement:
Quote:
OK. This is my first post to this forum after a year of reading the various posts and opinions. But something happened today that I would like to get some feedback on. This morning I am riding down Dehesa Grade in east county, a winding single narrow lane road. I was going around 35mph not too fast but within the speed limit. Now the Speed limit is 50 mph for the whole length but because of the blind turns and safety concerns the yellow speed signs are posted as 30 mph. So I figure that 35 is a fairly safe speed. There are two sections on the down hill side that have enough of a shoulder to pull over. One about 3/4 mile down from Japatul and another about 1/2 mile down from there. There is maybe an average of 3 to 12 inches of shoulder, give or take, on the upper area aproaching the first safe area to pull over. So I hope I've painted a decent general picture of the road. OK back to what happenned. I'm cruising down Dehesa on the narrow winding section and a Sheriff approaches from behind. I am in the road right of center. I have a blinking red tail light. There are two groups of cyclist cimbing up the grade from the other direction. The Sheriff tries to pass into the other lane in front of the oncoming cyclist, which I'm not sure that he can see due to the blind corners. I put my hand out to signal not to pass as I felt his passing was too fast and too close to me and the oncoming cyclists. He did brake and fall back behind. He never had his lights on and I always had him in my mirror. At that point he turned his lights on and started using his loudspeaker to pull over. Which I did but only untill I reached the first section that is wide enough to do so.
Well, to say the least he was more than miffed. And this is what he said.
1. I was impeeding the flow of traffic and I should not ride in the lane unless I was going the speed limit. He said there is a minimum speed allowed on roads. (I did not think to ask him what that was at the time.
2. That I would be liable and charged with manslaughter if some was killed trying to avoid me.
3. That he could arrest me and take my bike for not pulling off the road immediately when he came up from behind.
Just a note. He was not in a hurry or on a call to go anywhere because when I got down to the bottom at Harbison and Dehesa he was sitting in his car hanging out amd when I drove by in my car 30 minutes later he was still there, hanging out.

So, Is he right?
If the LEO cannot properly cite the rules of the road, where do you get the idea that the general public is knowledgeable enough to manage to follow the rules of the road?
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Old 11-29-08, 12:51 PM   #20
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The "rules of the road" are not what has been codified but what is observed, so I agree more with Hurst then you on this point but with that said a cyclist can deal with these situations while obeying the "rules of the road."
Exactly... reality vice fantasy.
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Old 11-29-08, 01:36 PM   #21
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Old 11-29-08, 02:30 PM   #22
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While he was on self banishment, he wrote and posted the John Forester version of his experience at BF proving (i.e. JF style) everybody wrong unless they agree with him. http://www.johnforester.com/Articles/Social/Year.htm

Don't miss it THC, the convoluted nature of your argument is specifically pointed out. Lots of laffs if you have the stomach, or sense of perverse humor to read another JF essay on bicycling truth as handed down from Mount Forester.
Whoa what a read...

I think the oddest statement made is this:
Quote:
The bikeway advocates who participated in this discussion cannot be considered typical, not even, I suppose, typical of the participants in Bicycle Forums, because they were self-selected to participate in the Vehicular Cycling subgroup, largely for the purpose of opposing vehicular cycling. Presumably, they considered themselves to be both particularly interested and particularly competent in this subject. Bearing this in mind, however, one can still reach some reasonable conclusions from these discussions.
In the statement above JF denies that those visiting the VC subforum are typical cyclists as we chose to visit the VC subforum... Great logic.

Of course JF may not fully understand that every one of us also choses to participate in many other of the subforums... does that then render us typical or atypical... if at anything, I might agree that we cyclists are atypical American cyclists, in that we do use computers, and also chose to participate in a cycling forum... and since only 1% of all transportation in most of America is done on bicycle, we are indeed atypical Americans.

But we are indeed typical American Cyclists.

BTW my apologies to our international visitors.
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Old 11-29-08, 02:44 PM   #23
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personal vigilance = defensive driving

makes a lot of sense to me

it's just plain stupid to expect anyone else on the road to 'do the right thing'. Traffic laws were made to be broken, just ask any speeding or red light running motorist; the vast majority of motorists break the law when it benefits them and/or when they think they can get away with it, and enforcement is not a deterrent.

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Old 11-29-08, 04:09 PM   #24
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Great logic.

Of course JF may not fully understand that...
There is only one type of black and white logic from Mount Forester. A cyclist either agrees with everything Forester ever uttered about cycling to include his wardrobe of excess baggage, and always rides as Forester believes a Vehicular Cyclist™ should; or a cyclist is an incompetent lawless lout unworthy of any consideration by Forester and his Vehicular Cycling™ disciples.

Forester has given up on the goal of training the great unwashed in Vehicular Cycling.™ The public has not been receptive to his brand of safety or advocacy, and his logic demands that there is no point to wasting time on unworthy cyclists. "Protecting" the interests of Vehicular Cyclists™ (from whatever threats Forester has nightmares about) through bike facilities obstructionism is his only remaining advocacy or safety goal.
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Old 11-29-08, 04:54 PM   #25
John Forester
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Originally Posted by genec View Post
John I actually believe what I wrote... and I am far from unfit to participate in serious conversation... I carry out serious conversation daily in my career as an engineer, and from time to time I have been known to contribute here on bike forums... that you make such an assessment of regular cyclist and contributor here causes me to question your cognitive abilities.

If for some reason you honestly believe that the vast majority of the driving public is actually following the "traffic rules" (which you cannot readily define, apparently) then there should be no reason for traffic light cameras nor the deaths of 45,000 drivers each year nor the 85 percentile rule (as motorists would not be driving over the speed limit in the first place...) Nor would bike forums contain the stories of hit and run motorists. Now I know that you will next take the tack of listing the millions of traffic miles that are traveled which result in a mere tick of number of deaths, and you will cite this meaningless statistic as "successful," in spite of the mandates to the auto industry to increasingly improve the safety of the vehicle, in spite of the operator.

John there is a prime example of this lack of knowledge of "traffic rules" right in your back yard, on Dehesa road...

From the SDCBC web site I offer you this shining example of lack of knowledge by law enforcement:


If the LEO cannot properly cite the rules of the road, where do you get the idea that the general public is knowledgeable enough to manage to follow the rules of the road?
Genec, your words to which I responded are quoted below.

genec
genec

Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: san diego

Originally Posted by John Forester View Post

Vehicular cycling is following the traffic rules.
What are these "traffic rules" of which you speak? The written rules that all road users must somehow memorize and follow intently? (and which are hardly even enforced by the enforcers... even in your own neck of the woods) Or the real rules which govern the streets that include "Might is Right," and the reality of physics, and the quick getaway of the distracted motorist?

Nobody, Genec, carries on a physical activity by memorizing the rules and following them intently. I know, you know it, Why on earth do you think that I didn't know this? That's what's absurd in your own words.
Furthermore, "Might is Right" is both atypical of traffic operation and completely against the rules. Drivers who use this, very rare examples, get taken out quite quickly. Of course the laws of physics apply, and in consequence both the rules of the road and road engineering have been developed in accordance with them. As for the "quick getaway of the distracted motorist", what's that in English?

I will discuss your point about the sheriff in another post.
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