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Possible editorial, but can PG readers handle a shade of gray??

This topic contains 83 replies, has 19 voices, and was last updated by  byogman 11 mos, 3 weeks.

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byogman

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Sep 30 2013 at 11:29pm #

Got the callback on this, presumably would be run. Am mulling it over, wanted to air it here first. Was also holding back because I don’t really want to worry my poor (endlessly worrying, true to stereotype) mother. But that’s not good enough reason if people here think this is good to inject to the debate.

——————-
A year ago I became a bike commuter. At first, I stopped at all stops signs, and waited for green at all lights. I found that after the light turned, cars would want to go faster after the stop than I could, much faster in the case of uphills, and that was deeply uncomfortable. I had 3 options:

1: Ride far toward the right, allowing cars to pass as best as roadway width allows, hoping none push that envelop out of impatience.

2: Claim the lane in spite of being slow. This was generally safer but made me intensely guilty since I am personally impatient and hate to delay others.

3: Abandon the road, deal with bumpy sidewalk filled with pedestrians and joggers with earbuds, and with unpleasant transitions to/from.

Obviously, urban pedestrians ignore signals and cross whenever it’s clear. So I could be safe on a bike doing the same. But should I? What danger would it present to others if I did? Well actually, not much, since I approach intersections slowly and my vehicle weighs thirty pounds not over three thousand.

But it still weighed on me. I relented only gradually, but a couple close passes were a factor. I’ve had a relatively stress free time out there riding since, and delayed a lot fewer motorists to boot. It’s easy to blame cyclists for running reds without understanding why. And I’m not saying all do, I speak only for myself. But these are my reasons.
——————-

So, I know the right answer is to claim the lane whenever riding to the right is uncomfortable and not feel guilty about that, but that’s just not where I am in many cases. I certainly worry that the tone about delaying others is fuel to a fire that doesn’t need feeding.

But I also feel that a lot of backing and forthing over who real bad guys misses an important point. There are reasons (other than getting there faster), good reasons, even reasons motorists should appreciate, that cyclists like myself run reds.

I didn’t want to end there, wanted to indicate my dissatisfaction with the situation and continue into a plea for impatient motorists to join with the cycling community working on a common cause, uphill bike lanes on through streets so the dilemma doesn’t arise so much in practice. But anyways, no room.


Mick

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Oct 1 2013 at 1:36am #

I think it’s wonderful!

(be prepared for some awful stuff in the comments. They probably won’t mention your mother, but they might.)


edmonds59

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Oct 1 2013 at 6:37am #

I don’t know, seems fraught with the likelihood of negative backlash. And frankly, too complicated for the average op ed page reader.
Points I would personally like to see trumpeted in the media, repeatedly;
1. “Those cyclists” who allegedly run lights and stop signs etc. are not a unified group who gather around and discuss ways to break laws, any more than “drivers” gather round and talk about driving technique. Don’t lay their behavior on cyclists as a group. Cyclists who do gather around to talk about cycling are the ones most likely to be following laws.
2. With the current explosion in biking, there are so many newbies, it may not occur to them that on bikes they have to follow the same laws as other vehicles. They will learn.
3. The vast majority of cyclists are also drivers, so it’s entirely possible that the “cyclists” people see flaunting the laws are just as crappy at driving.
4. There are thousands of cyclists out getting around and following the laws every day at any given time. Like anything else, it is the ones who go against the norm who people notice.
5. Every person who gets out of a car and uses a bike to get around relieves traffic and makes it easier for everyone else, including other drivers.

Spread that around.


byogman

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Oct 1 2013 at 8:12am #

edmonds59 wrote:I don’t know, seems fraught with the likelihood of negative backlash. And frankly, too complicated for the average op ed page reader.

It’s hard for a motorist to understand “those darn lawbreaking cyclists”. Most don’t really care to and probably won’t ever unless they or a loved one get on a bike. But I tried to present it as simply and clearly as I could, true from my own experience in the hopes of reaching someone.

Variations on not all those cyclists are “those darn lawbreaking cyclists” are all very true, but it’s a well worn argument that I don’t think is going to convince anyone new at this point. Or maybe it will, but I’m weary of it and want to put something different out into the mix.

And I also get a little annoyed at implicitly being lumped in the “bad cyclist” category for doing something that, when you get down to it, is really quite reasonable.

I’ll probably be submitting, we’re a community, but of individuals. But if there are more arguments I haven’t thought of against I may hold back. At the very least, I wanted to test the waters here, get some thoughtful feedback before sending it out to the general public.


mjacobPGH

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Oct 1 2013 at 8:41am #

It will cause a debate I am sure but it will more than likely fall on deaf ears as most readers will not even begin to see your logic. Even bikers who understand the logic may not condone it. Just this weekend I had a debate with a buddy of mine who is in law school and is a RATIONAL person who claims that bikers breaking traffic laws is a far worse offense than motorists(namely bikes running stop signs). I asked him, “why do cars break the speed limit?” Knowing what I was getting at, he said I was being irrational and that a car going 5 MPH over the speed limit(which is being extremely generous) is not nearly as bad as a biker “running” a stop sign. Basically my point is that ALL modes of transportation justify the bending of traffic laws by believing it is safe and practical to do so. A biker slowing at a stop, seeing no cars, and going without completely stopping and putting their feet on the ground is no worse to me than a driver going 5 MPH over the speed limit.


edmonds59

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Oct 1 2013 at 9:01am #

I actually forgot what may be the most pertinent point to your line of thinking, I got caught up in my other thoughts;

6. For drivers who may never ridden a bike, especially as transportation, in traffic, the reasons for doing some of the things “those cyclists” do may be difficult to understand. For instance, on a bike, forward motion is your lifeline and your safety. To require a cyclist to come to a standing stop at every stop sign is equivalent to requiring drivers to put their car in park at every stop sign. When you take your feet off the pedals, you disengage your engine, you lose your forward motion, and when you give up forward motion, you lose the ability to stay upright, as well as losing the ability to get away from approaching danger. There are many circumstances similar to this example where biking and driving are much different activities, and the laws and assumptions formed for driving may not be optimal for cycling.


byogman

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Oct 1 2013 at 9:05am #

mjacobPGH wrote:It will cause a debate I am sure but it will more than likely fall on deaf ears as most readers will not even begin to see your logic. Even bikers who understand the logic may not condone it.

Well, there’s a couple posters who reliably say stupid or nasty things I expect will unload. That’s fine. As long as they don’t drag my mother into it. She’s a saint.

And I’m sure some here will be unhappy, with my riding style, my willingness to talk about it, or both. It’s hard to know who is of a mind to be swayed. Generally it’s not those who comment so probably won’t have a real sense of it after the fact either.

But basically, I just have a nagging feeling here that saying not all cyclists do these things, while true, is missing the point that many cyclists do, and will continue to, because it’s frankly pretty reasonable in many cases and makes life easier for everyone.


byogman

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Oct 1 2013 at 9:12am #

edmonds59 wrote:When you take your feet off the pedals, you disengage your engine, you lose your forward motion, and when you give up forward motion, you lose the ability to stay upright, as well as losing the ability to get away from approaching danger. There are many circumstances similar to this example where biking and driving are much different activities, and the laws and assumptions formed for driving may not be optimal for cycling.

This is great, and another part of the reason I wanted to post here first, to prime the pump so that when the anti-cyclists say anti-cycling things, the counterarguments are right there, at the ready.


salty

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Oct 1 2013 at 9:20am #

Personally, I choose option 2 and don’t run red lights or stop signs.

I don’t think “Really, I’m doing this for your own good” is going to resonate with drivers. And I don’t think that’s the reason most cyclists run red lights – I think they probably do it just due to impatience… which is the same reason people in cars roll stop signs and speed constantly. So, it sounds more like rationalization to me.


czarofpittsburgh

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Oct 1 2013 at 9:41am #

Honestly, I would suggest against publishing it. I do think that your letter could be easily tweaked into advocacy for Idaho stops. Openly admitting to flaunting the law plays into the negative stereotypes about cyclists. Even those of us who do always stop at stop signs and stoplights understand the strong temptation to maintain momentum and get out of cars’ way.

I think if you framed this as advocacy for changing the current law and specifying that we’re all trying to get along and get out of each others way would be much more helpful than trying to explain something that non-cyclists probably can’t picture.


byogman

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Oct 1 2013 at 10:00am #

salty wrote:I don’t think “Really, I’m doing this for your own good” is going to resonate with drivers.

Maybe not. But I think we do need to be driving home the point that cycling slowly across an intersection is basically jaywalking (well ok, jogging) level of seriousness as a problem.

Talking about things in personal terms and explaining an additional motivation (my own safety and desire not to delay others) I hope makes it relatable. At least it’s not us vs. them so much.

it sounds more like rationalization to me.

OK, guilty. But it didn’t start that way at all and with some more breathing room would’ve been a non-issue, like I said, it weighed on me. I wanted to be an upstanding member of the community.


Drewbacca

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Oct 1 2013 at 10:31am #

mjacobPGH wrote:I had a debate with a buddy of mine who is in law school and is a RATIONAL person

A rational person would have researched the field of law before applying to lawschool and realized that it is an oversaturated field. Most law students aren’t rational, they studied some go nowhere liberal arts major, couldn’t find a job after their four year degree, and go to law school in order to put off repayment of student loans. ;)

Even more so if he’s not in a first or second tier school. Sounds to me like he didn’t take enough statistics classes if he thinks 5mph is a safer violation of the law (or maybe he is just defending his own lawlessness). Give him a physics lesson… I’m not advocating a cyclist flying through a stop sign at 20+mph but a cyclist that slows down to a crawl and doesn’t come to a complete stop is a much different animal than a 2000# car that doesn’t come to a complete stop at the same intersection. Make him define exact scenarios when he tries to make an argument about cyclists blowing off a stop sign, then pick apart his scenario and make him start over… lawyer style.


mjacobPGH

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Oct 1 2013 at 10:36am #

Haha, well he’s a pretty smart guy and should do fine. My point is that is the opinion of someone who is generally rational and open-minded. Unfortunately, I think he is blinded by a windshield perspective.


byogman

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Oct 1 2013 at 10:43am #

czarofpittsburgh wrote:Honestly, I would suggest against publishing it. I do think that your letter could be easily tweaked into advocacy for Idaho stops. Openly admitting to flaunting the law plays into the negative stereotypes about cyclists. Even those of us who do always stop at stop signs and stoplights understand the strong temptation to maintain momentum and get out of cars’ way.

250 words isn’t much to work with in terms of writing an advocacy piece, it’s just enough to space to put one thing out there to chew on. Not even enough room to really tell it as a narrative, pure Joe Friday just the facts ma’am stuff.

Anyways, I hope it doesn’t come across that I’m someone who flaunts the law as a general matter. It weighed on me. And I have tried to go back to pure “effective cycling” a couple times.

To the extent I’d like to waive the advocacy flag it’s for uphill bike lanes more than for idaho stops, and do so with an analogy motorists here are familiar with… truck lanes. Same problem, power to weight ratio.

But before your argument will be heard first you have to reach people where they are. I AM an impatient motorist. One who’s courteous and attentive, but still. And that mindset doesn’t go away when I’m on a bike. So what I’m saying to them is, I understand, and I’m trying, and if I could just get some respectful space where I am, that’d be good. And hey, by implication, maybe these folks you see out there doing the same are real, decent people, too.

By the way, this message was test marketed, if you will, a ways back at a toastmasters meeting with positive vibe following. In person always better than text on teh interwebs so apples and oranges, but my intro speech was titled “I’m ‘that’ guy”.


byogman

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Oct 1 2013 at 10:47am #

Drewbacca wrote:

Even more so if he’s not in a first or second tier school. Sounds to me like he didn’t take enough statistics classes if he thinks 5mph is a safer violation of the law (or maybe he is just defending his own lawlessness). Give him a physics lesson… I’m not advocating a cyclist flying through a stop sign at 20+mph but a cyclist that slows down to a crawl and doesn’t come to a complete stop is a much different animal than a 2000# car that doesn’t come to a complete stop at the same intersection. Make him define exact scenarios when he tries to make an argument about cyclists blowing off a stop sign, then pick apart his scenario and make him start over… lawyer style.

Oh dear, flashback to the rather lengthy back and forth with Mikhail on the danger level posed by cyclists vs. cars at stops. Relate-ability usually trumps logic. Beer is a good social lubricant, good luck.


edmonds59

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Oct 1 2013 at 11:03am #

Believing that a car going 5 mph over the speed limit is “not nearly as bad as” a cyclist running a stop sign is a little worrisome, kind of an existentialist position on the law, which should not be a particularly existentialist profession. They are both breaking the law.
It’s that kind of thinking that got us to “It’s not nearly as bad to have our government spying on us as it is to have their government spying on them”.


mjacobPGH

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Oct 1 2013 at 11:11am #

I’m the one who posed the question of which was worse or if they were equally acceptable. In my mind, they are equally acceptable when done within reason(like a car going 30 in a 25 or a biker slowing but not completely stopping at a sign). Here’s the real kicker: the core of the argument is that bikers breaking traffic laws is worse because it is much more dangerous for them personally. The point that I keep trying to drive home is that drivers breaking traffic laws is far more dangerous for every other person anywhere near a road so that is far worse. He also wants tougher enforcement of bikers breaking traffic laws while saying “we’re never going to fix bad driving.” So, we want to fix bad biking using methods that have apparently failed with driving.


WillB

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Oct 1 2013 at 12:01pm #

@byogman – I think your philosophy works fine for any individual biker, but fails once we start to think of bikes as traffic. Imagine if every time you ran a red light, 40 other bikes followed you through. That doesn’t happen now because there aren’t so many bike, but hopefully one day there will be. And if we get to that point, it’ll be a lot easier for everyone if bikers are already in the habit of following the rules of the road.


Mick

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Oct 1 2013 at 12:40pm #

mjacobPGH wrote:So, we want to fix bad biking using methods that have apparently failed with driving.

I believe I understand you and I largely agree.

But I’d like to point out that it’s more like “fixing” good biking by methods that should be, but generally aren’t, used against deadly driving.

I think Byogman is absolutely right – if bikers waited in the lane instead of careful filtering and more carefully red light violating, that would slow traffic (both car and bike) considerably while endangering bicyclists.


Mikhail

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Oct 1 2013 at 12:44pm #

WillB wrote:Imagine if every time you ran a red light, 40 other bikes followed you through.

Imagine if 70 bicyclist (and Teamdecaf rides collects this amount of bicyclists) would all stop at stop sign and strictly one-by-one proceed through intersection. :) I can imagine what drivers would do.

Or french/italian style strike — I propose we get all during rush hours on streets going in different directions (let say group of fives) and go through city acting like this. I think we have enough bikers to completely stop city traffic.


mjacobPGH

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Oct 1 2013 at 12:56pm #

Mick, I’m not in anyway opposed to enforcing traffic laws against bikers(especially the more egregious offenders). However, I find it ironic that the logic is “there’s nothing we can do about bad driving but we can solve poor biking with the same exact failed measures.” All while poor driving is a MUCH bigger concern for public safety.


WillB

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Oct 1 2013 at 1:10pm #

Mikhail wrote:Imagine if 70 bicyclist (and Teamdecaf rides collects this amount of bicyclists) would all stop at stop sign and strictly one-by-one proceed through intersection. :) I can imagine what drivers would do.

I take your point, but I think it raises a question about stop signs in general, and not just for bikes. I mean, you can say the exact same thing about cars, except we don’t have to imagine what would happen to traffic if every car came to a stop (more or less) on Smallman Street at rush hour. The result is backed up traffic, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that those cars shouldn’t be stopping at the signs.


Mikhail

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Oct 1 2013 at 1:40pm #

WillB wrote:

Mikhail wrote:Imagine if 70 bicyclist (and Teamdecaf rides collects this amount of bicyclists) would all stop at stop sign and strictly one-by-one proceed through intersection. :) I can imagine what drivers would do.

I take your point, but I think it raises a question about stop signs in general, and not just for bikes. I mean, you can say the exact same thing about cars, except we don’t have to imagine what would happen to traffic if every car came to a stop (more or less) on Smallman Street at rush hour. The result is backed up traffic, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that those cars shouldn’t be stopping at the signs.

Ha-ha. You should take at my arguments with Ben. :)

On Smallman it would not happen anything extraordinary. I take sometimes this street during morning and evening rush hours on my car. And stop at every stop sign. And not just stop and go — real stop, look left, look right, and then go.


byogman

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Oct 1 2013 at 2:35pm #

This is getting fun, I like. So, WillB, I talked in terms of going through a clear intersection, not blindly following the last guy which of course is dangerous.

You are correct to point out that it’s tempting to do so since in many situations doing so makes you part of a wall and relatively safe, at least from crossing traffic you’re preventing from starting out (once they’re really moving you’re dead). But yeah, you see it all the time for instance with motorists doubling up on the Pittsburgh left.

And it arises naturally and tends to be shrugged off as inevitable on larger group rides. That IS a problem. At a certain point those things resemble parades more than regular traffic and probably need to brake into more groups or be treated as parades and get permitting.

But anyways, I don’t think we’ll be getting to that level of regular bike traffic thickness any time soon. I don’t see much point in making personal decisions based on speculation about tempting random strangers into bad decisions at some unknown point in the future. Whoops, made that sound more fun to speculate about than intended…


Steven

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Oct 1 2013 at 4:13pm #

I don’t think your letter will be clear enough to an audience that doesn’t already know your argument.

For instance, you never come right out and say you run reds, and it takes until the 5th paragraph until you directly imply it. And while you say at the end that you’re given reasons, the only reason you specifically articulate is that pedestrians do it safely and so it’s safe for you too. You never really state how it makes you safer, just tiptoe around it.

I tried editing it to make some of the implied rationale explicit:

——————-

A year ago I became a bike commuter. At first, I always waited for green lights. I don’t anymore, and I think I’m safer.

Why? When I wait for a green, drivers want to pass me. Some pass much too close and endanger me. (Other options: I could take the lane and keep cars from passing, but this makes me intensely guilty since I am impatient and hate to delay others. I could ride on the sidewalk, but pedestrians and joggers with earbuds make this dangerous for everyone.)

But if I carefully cross when the light is red and there’s no cross traffic, I can eliminate contention with cars. They don’t have to pass me, too often unsafely, and I don’t have to slow them down.

Pedestrians frequently ignore signals and cross whenever the road’s clear. They can judge when to do this safely. So can I. What danger does it present to others when I do? Well actually, not much, since I approach intersections slowly and my vehicle weighs thirty pounds, not over three thousand.

But it still weighed on me. I relented only gradually, but a couple of close passes were a factor. I’ve had a relatively stress free time out there riding since I began running red lights, and delayed a lot fewer motorists to boot. It’s easy to blame cyclists for running reds without understanding why. And I’m not saying all do, I speak only for myself. But these are my reasons.

——————-

I also removed the stuff about stop signs and made it just be about red lights, since the argument for running stop signs is different and wouldn’t fit in 250 words.


andyc

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Oct 2 2013 at 9:09am #

Bicycles are a fundamentally different form of vehicle and the regular laws of the road do not apply. I pick which ones to follow based on what is safe at the time.

Up the one way? No problem!
Speeding? I can hit 45 going down Negley!
Crosswalks? There was a solid 4 inches between my handlebars and her walker!

The road and it’s laws are made for cars. Since the laws do not apply to bicycles, bicycles do not belong on the road.

(Yes, this is devil’s advocate hyperbole with tongue [somewhat] firmly planted in cheek.)


byogman

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Oct 2 2013 at 12:17pm #

Steven, I agree your version is better. I think I will still tweak it slightly.

andyc, thanks for making me laugh this morning.


ieverhart

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Oct 2 2013 at 1:36pm #

Sounds to me like he didn’t take enough statistics classes

Totally consistent with my experience in law school. (ANECDOTAL DATA ALERT)

Imagine if 70 bicyclist (and Teamdecaf rides collects this amount of bicyclists) would all stop at stop sign and strictly one-by-one proceed through intersection. :) I can imagine what drivers would do.

Contemplating exactly this point, I once heard the statement that “the only thing that would annoy drivers more than cyclists not scrupulously obeying the law would be cyclists scrupulously obeying the law.”


Mick

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Oct 2 2013 at 2:05pm #

ieverhart wrote:“the only thing that would annoy drivers more than cyclists not scrupulously obeying the law would be cyclists scrupulously obeying the law.”

I like it!


StuInMcCandless

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Oct 2 2013 at 2:49pm #

Yes, full two-foot-planted stops, fully owning the lane. That would make for a helluva Critical Mass event.


byogman

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Oct 2 2013 at 2:56pm #

Civil obedience as a way to protest bad law.
I love it!


byogman

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Oct 2 2013 at 4:02pm #

OK, another version. Kind of a top to bottom rewrite, semi-obsessed I guess.

————————————————————————————

A year ago I became a bike commuter. At first, I always waited for green lights. I don’t anymore, yet paradoxically am safer.

Riding is fun and normally, stress free. Most drivers give a wide berth. But a few will get impatient and try to squeeze by when there isn’t enough space, creating danger. I can only go so fast battling uphill from a stop. You can be assertive and claim the whole lane. I just personally feel very guilty delaying safe drivers significantly on account of the few dangerous ones. You can ride on the sidewalk, but pedestrians and joggers with earbuds make this dangerous, too.

Most pedestrians will ignore signals and cross if a road is clear. It’s easy to do safely. We demand that drivers wait because their vehicle is so massive that if they misjudge they can easily kill someone.

What should we demand of cyclists? Most bicycles weigh 20-40 pounds. Blasting through at speed is dangerous, but approaching cautiously and riding through at 5-10 mph makes a cyclist more like a jogger than a car.

It weighed on me, I wanted to be a model citizen. I relented only gradually, but more close passes finally convinced me. Now I get out ahead of the traffic when intersections are clear. Consequently, I create fewer and shorter delays for drivers, and deal with far fewer impatience fueled dangerous passes.

I speak only for myself, many cyclists never run reds. But I do, and this is why.

———————————————————————————-


Steven

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Oct 2 2013 at 10:05pm #

Looks good. A few minor things though:

In your second paragraph, you refer to yourself with the 1st and 2nd person alternately. It might be better to use “I could” instead of “You can” in both places so it’s all 1st person.

In “We demand that drivers wait because their vehicle is” you have many drivers but one vehicle. “their vehicles are” would be better.

In “I speak only for myself, many cyclists never run reds.” the comma should be a semicolon (or period).

Hope this helps, and that you have your asbestos suit handy. :-)


byogman

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Oct 3 2013 at 7:42am #

Steven, thanks again for your close attention to detail.

Here’s the final version:

————————————————————————————

A year ago I became a bike commuter. At first, I always waited for green lights. I don’t anymore, yet paradoxically am safer.

Riding is fun and normally, stress free. Most drivers give a wide berth. But a few will get impatient and try to squeeze by when there isn’t enough space, creating danger. I can only go so fast battling uphill from a stop. I could be assertive and claim the whole lane. I just personally feel very guilty delaying safe drivers significantly on account of the few dangerous ones. I could ride on the sidewalk, but pedestrians and joggers with earbuds make this dangerous, too.

Most pedestrians will ignore signals and cross if a road is clear. It’s easy to do safely. We demand that drivers wait because their vehicles are so massive that if they misjudge they can easily kill someone.

What should we demand of cyclists? Most bicycles weigh 20-40 pounds. Blasting through at speed is dangerous, but approaching cautiously and riding through at 5-10 mph makes a cyclist more like a jogger than a car.

It weighed on me, I wanted to be a model citizen. I relented only gradually, but more close passes finally convinced me. Now I get out ahead of the traffic when intersections are clear.

Consequently, I create fewer and shorter delays for drivers, and deal with far fewer impatience fueled dangerous passes.

I speak only for myself; many cyclists never run reds. But I do, and this is why.

———————————————————————————-

With that said, will issue the question one last time. Is this a destructive thing to put out there? Disclaimer: I’m probably pretty close to impossible to convince, that more opinions, more information, is ever really a bad thing, when I think there’s something big missing in a debate.

But if someone wants to fill that gap in a less flame provoking way (honestly I’m not sure how, I had several much more confrontational versions before version 1 here because I think proof is in the pudding and harping on the reds thing is fundamentally dishonest on the part of motorists). But anyways, if someone has figured out something less confrontational and more constructive addressing this particular issue, I’ll step aside… if for nothing else for my poor mother.


reddan

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Oct 3 2013 at 9:49am #

Hmmm…aside from my personal dislike of the “breaking laws keeps me safer, so it’s okay” mindset, the biggest lack I see here is a concrete proposal for change.

It’s a very well-written description of why you make the choices you do, but, lacking a specific proposal, it’s more autobiography than call to action.

I don’t think it’s destructive, but I’m not sure it’s particularly constructive either. If phrased in the sense of “this law about red lights works in Idaho, and can work here”, I think it would be more constructive; as it stands, any debate this engenders will likely be about you and your choices, not about the merits of actually changing traffic rules.


byogman

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Oct 3 2013 at 10:21am #

reddan wrote:Hmmm…aside from my personal dislike of the “breaking laws keeps me safer, so it’s okay” mindset, the biggest lack I see here is a concrete proposal for change.

I don’t like the mindset either, it weighed on me. 250 words isn’t the room needed for description of why I do what I do AND what I’d rather the law or infrastructure be, believe me I tried to write that letter. I plan on dropping some comments in there to that effect, I hope others here do the same.

I think the main point is that the standard complaint about cyclists going through lights is not the black/white moral thing motorists believe, and that it’s driven by physics, and by their own behavior (and incidentally was very happy to get a chance in the same go to weigh in on claiming the lane, a common complaint). So it’s time for a gut check on the holier than thou thing relating to both these complaints.

Maybe (ok probably) it won’t work, but talking about all the totally law abiding cyclists out there doesn’t do a thing against that either because drivers do see light jumping frequently enough to dismiss those arguments out of hand.


reddan

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Oct 3 2013 at 11:10am #

Maybe (ok probably) it won’t work, but talking about all the totally law abiding cyclists out there doesn’t do a thing against that either because drivers do see light jumping frequently enough to dismiss those arguments out of hand.

Gotcha, I better understand now what you were trying to accomplish.

I find any arguments similar to “I saw individuals break one law, so I can ignore other laws myself” generally unworthy of response; they are fundamentally irrational (and juvenile) arguments, which are not amenable to rational rebuttal. You can’t reason with the unreasonable.
I mean, really: how can _anyone_ view the statement “I’ll obey the 4-foot law when every cyclist stops at stop signs” as a rational one? It, and many similar knee-jerk responses, are thinly veiled code for “I’m not gonna do what you tell me to do! So there! [stamps foot]”

[edited to add:] To be more clear, I’m talking about the futility of responding to people who snarl “I see cyclists running red lights all the time”, at least with any form of reasoned argument. If they were interested in reason, they wouldn’t use that statement in the first place.


czarofpittsburgh

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Oct 3 2013 at 12:39pm #

Honestly, I am still strongly opposed to this kind of letter being published. In particular, one of the common arguments against the 4-foot passing law is that it endangers the driver who crosses a double yellow to pass. If you are running red lights in order to ensure your safety, a driver could easily argue that they’re not paying attention to the 4 foot law because they’re doing it to ensure their own safety.

Arguing that you can tell when it is safe to run a red is too similar to a driver saying “I am in charge of my vehicle, and I can tell when its safe for me to pass a cyclist without hitting them” and then ignore the law. I realize that the difference is your own safety vs the safety of others, but many many drivers hate cyclists because they’re afraid of the guilt of hitting someone, even if it is entirely the fault of a person who gets hit. Running a red and getting nailed is your own fault, but it still puts the guilt on the driver just the same.

Again, I think the letter should advocate Idaho stops, and not announce that you’re going to pretend as if Idaho stops were the actual law here. I have a strong aversion to advocating breaking the law in a public forum. We’re trying to win the public relations battle, and this will do the opposite.


byogman

Private Message

Oct 3 2013 at 2:11pm #

reddan wrote:
To be more clear, I’m talking about the futility of responding to people who snarl “I see cyclists running red lights all the time”, at least with any form of reasoned argument.

Message boards tend toward the snarly. The folks who post there are not the folks who’ll ever be convinced. From my informal conversations with random folks who learn I used a bicycle for transportation when possible I tend to get a lot of concerned, exasperated, confused or curious statements/questions about cyclists running lights.

Variations on the “it’s basically jaywalking” argument are not always met with agreement, but often it grudgingly is, and even when not there’s almost always a glimmer of some thought happening there and a hard opinion softening a bit. The argument is stronger still with the setup about the dilemma as a cyclist about lane positioning due to aggressive drivers, and how this can help relax the tension and make life easier for everyone.

That said, czarofpittsburgh, I understand the false but easy to draw analogy you’re drawing to a motorist crossing double yellow to pass and concern that’s the only one that would be drawn. The key differences of course being between “must get there faster!”(no matter what conflict and danger I create for others) and “must get there safely” (but in a way which is also incidentally faster and LOOKS more dangerous). You make a strong enough argument to put me back in fence sitting mode, maybe. Won’t send it out tonight anyway.

Let me share one more aspect of my thinking though, this from a PR standpoint since that was brought up. I’m kind of deliberately setting myself up at the margins of the argument to make room for other pro-bike positions to sound like the reasonable middle path. It didn’t start that way, but there wasn’t room in 250 words, and I have to say, it’s a fun reversal for me, I’m generally the one suggesting compromise.

It makes way for someone, maybe Stu? to write something to the effect “why I always claim the lane” if he likes connecting the dots back to my light jumping as a foil and saying it’s better to safely control the situation without worry about who you might delay, that safe and convenient passage is a right for all, not just those with cars. That in turn could set the stage for the next letter referencing both, suggesting more bicycle infrastructure as a way to give safe passage while lessening the potential for conflict in lane OR in intersections.

As an alternate this could also be taken as Idaho stop advocacy and rewritten that way, I just think it’s stronger as a personal experience story. And I also think, while that law would more closely align law to realities, that’s actually far, far less important than improving said realities with (ok, I’ll say it again) uphill bike lanes universally, protected cycle-tracks when reasonable, 20 is plenty, conversion of less important motor vehicle connectors into bike/ped ones (Pocusset Street in the park), etc, etc…


Mick

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Oct 3 2013 at 3:09pm #

I think Byogman’s letter is something that really needs to be out there.

Sure, almost everyone who reads it will either already understand why we go through red lights already or totally reject it, but it is still important to put a little reality into the discussion.

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