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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 9 mos.

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czarofpittsburgh

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Oct 3 2013 at 3:31pm #

@mick, Cyclists know why cyclists run stop signs and/or red lights. Drivers understand why drivers speed. Pedestrians understand why pedestrians cross against the signal. I don’t think a letter to the editor from a driver explaining why they break the law by speeding or by passing cyclists at less than 4 feet would be well-received here.

The only way to get non-cyclists to understand why someone might run a red light or a stop light on a bike is to get that non-cyclist onto a bike. Putting a letter like this out there is really bad PR for the cycling community. It plays right into all of the bad stereotypes.


byogman

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Oct 3 2013 at 3:50pm #

czarofpittsburgh wrote:
The only way to get non-cyclists to understand why someone might run a red light or a stop light on a bike is to get that non-cyclist onto a bike.

I think that’s a bit absolutist and defeatist. But, in a sense, in prose, that’s exactly what I’m trying to do by framing this as a personal story. Thanks to Steven for encouraging more first person. I’m hoping that makes me and these circumstances more relatable than they’d seem coming from someone who sounds too much like a policy wonk. Maybe it doesn’t work, but I don’t THINK I come across as a self entitled jerk here.


czarofpittsburgh

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Oct 3 2013 at 3:52pm #

@byogman, I do think your story makes perfect sense to probably everyone on the board. Those of us who do stop at least understand the motivations and the safety factors involved with treating stop as yield and stoplights as stop signs.

I guess I think that people who really hate cyclists do so because they have no clue about the reality of riding a bike in traffic. If everyone had to commute by bike on occasion, I think we’d see Idaho-style laws very quickly. I like your story as a “this is why I do what I do” but the title of the thread asks if PG readers can handle shades of gray–I am positive that they cannot, unless they have experience being on a bike.

Getting drivers to relate to cyclists is pretty difficult. There are lots of behaviors that we do that are discourteous but not illegal. Here I am thinking of filtering on narrow roads, like Ellsworth, with many stops that require a driver to slow and pass you over and over again. That kind of behavior is not illegal but it gets people angry. Careful running of red lights is arguably safer than this kind of filtering because it minimizes your interaction with cars, but it’s illegal and filtering is not. Actually explaining it to a driver is much harder. They just lump everything cyclists do into one big blob of irritating behaviors without thinking about what is safe, what is legal, etc.


byogman

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Oct 4 2013 at 10:42am #

I think your mention of filtering is interesting. I agree that while legal, it’s often sketchy.

But I wouldn’t write it off entirely, I just think it’s most useful and least dangerous approaching right turns or when there’s the strong likelihood of being able to get ahead of traffic again at the intersection, preferably earlier rather than later during the red.

I can certainly understand why the repeat passing scenario generates annoyance. But it’s important in terms of justification of “getting ahead of traffic” for both filtering and red light running to explain why the repeat scenario is not such a big deal.

A motorist may catch up and want to pass same cyclist again, but that means a motorist behind him is not to that passing point yet and easily could have been had that cyclist hung back at the light. Likewise, thinking of a cyclist further ahead, had they hung back at the light, the first motorist would catch up to them that much sooner and be at another passing point again anyway.

The lower bound on the total number of passing situations the average motorist encounters most closely relates to * (1 – /). This can be surprisingly low if cyclists behave in ways that keep their average speed up and motorists don’t gun it between lights.


Mikhail

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Oct 4 2013 at 10:52am #

czarofpittsburgh wrote:Cyclists know why cyclists run stop signs and/or red lights. Drivers understand why drivers speed. Pedestrians understand why pedestrians cross against the signal. I don’t think a letter to the editor from a driver explaining why they break the law by speeding or by passing cyclists at less than 4 feet would be well-received here.

I am:
1. Car driver;
2. Motorcyle driver;
3. Bicyclist;
4. Pedestrian;
5. Jogger.

I understand all of those 5 types of “people”.
I do not have problem with drivers rolling stop signs at speed 3 mph (as Ben could tell you) from the “physics” point of view. I do have problem with drivers speeding 20 mph over posted speed limit from the same point of view.

But I have problem with people decision to break or not to break law based on their own preferences. Even bad laws. Bad laws should repealed in a normal way. And the reason why I have problem with people deciding that violating law is OK is that there is no end to this process. The line is moved further and further and on never crosses this line. It’s just human nature.


byogman

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Oct 4 2013 at 10:54am #

OK, right, no angle brackets, lower bound on number of motorist passes: [number of cyclists travelling the same path] * (1 – [average cyclist speed]/[average motorist speed]). This can be surprisingly low if cyclists behave in ways that keep their average speed up and motorists don’t gun it between lights.

A cyclist who cruises at say, 18mph and a motorist who cruises at 25 (don’t laugh) between lights on a road where you get green 3/5 of the time have theoretically no contention if crossings are very clear and far enough spaced out that the cyclist can keep 15mph average since the cars, including stops, have the same average. It’s a bit contrived and overoptimistic, but it illustrates the point.


byogman

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Oct 4 2013 at 11:02am #

Mikhail wrote:

But I have problem with people decision to break or not to break law based on their own preferences. Even bad laws. Bad laws should repealed in a normal way. And the reason why I have problem with people deciding that violating law is OK is that there is no end to this process. The line is moved further and further and on never crosses this line. It’s just human nature.

What you say is a valid concern and sounds reasonable. But it’s also totally un-american. We just fine with our hypocrisy here very much thank you (even if we won’t admit it).

And not all or even most envelopes get pushed further and further as time goes on, most don’t actually because of social norms. That’s the real law of the land here. It’s common to moan about the decay of these, but most of that is grass is greener old far nostalgia B.S… in most ways things actually get better over time, even mortality due to our motor vehicle addiction.


reddan

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Oct 4 2013 at 11:35am #

What you say is a valid concern and sounds reasonable. But it’s also totally un-american. We just fine with our hypocrisy here very much thank you (even if we won’t admit it).

Satire? I can’t quite tell. ;-)

I tend to agree with Mikhail regarding the corrosive effect of choosing to ignore laws you dislike, especially when it’s fundamentally for reasons of convenience.
It’s very difficult to put up a vigorous defense of the need for other people to obey laws unconditionally (see the 4-foot law, for example) when one chooses to ignore equally valid laws that don’t suit one’s beliefs re: safety or applicability.

That’s not to say that it’s in any way a bad idea to discuss reasons _why_ a given law is good, bad, or in need of modification…that’s pretty much awesome in my book. It’s even awesomer to work to change crappy laws. But, IMO, advocating the breaking of inconvenient laws without first (or at least, in parallel) actively pursuing the fixing of said laws is lacking in good citizenship.

(And, although it should probably go without saying, I do not consider acts of civil disobedience in order to protest truly odious laws to be remotely comparable to choosing to exceed the speed limit, run a red light, pass unsafely, or ignore right-of-way. )


byogman

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Oct 4 2013 at 12:35pm #

Referring to the bit you quoted, I think it’s a real cultural fact. Here law often but not always, follows cultural norms, and cultural norms, not law, are what has the power over mass behavior. I thought my attitude toward it was clear with the self referential hypocrisy. But in case not, no, I don’t think it’s for the best.

But anyways, it’s certainly part of the reason my piece is a plea for understanding, not centered around advocacy… if we can get norms accepted less grudgingly there’ll be fewer grudge matches.

I also think it makes it more relatable than “some know-it-all cyclist thinks they’re special” (not what is said, but what is heard when people lead with the idea that the rule should be changed or a wonk-ish factoid). Not to say you can’t make that statement later, but you have to establish a connection first.

Okay… dwelt too long on that. Now, in terms of actually getting the law changed, I don’t know the best approach, but certainly the most amusing was the mass display of civil OBEDIENCE suggested earlier. I would LOVE to do that ride.

And I would do it every day in pack, I’d just feel less safe solo. Contrary to what people might think when I pleaded guilty to Salty, it’s not all about getting there faster, that’s just a pleasant side effect. Among other approaches I’ve tried to reduce contention is actually, hugging the right and slowing to a crawl behind intersections approaching reds and waving motorists through. Overwhelmingly, they don’t understand and a few exceptional ^&*(wads have executed a close pass when I tried to do them a favor.

P.S. So as to not snarl my argument I’m assuming I’m doing about as good a job as can be be done making myself relatable, given the topic of my letter, as can be done. If someone wants to suggest changes to verbiage to improve matters though, please do so.


reddan

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Oct 4 2013 at 12:51pm #

Now, in terms of actually getting the law changed, I don’t know the best approach, but certainly the most amusing was the mass display of civil OBEDIENCE suggested earlier. I would LOVE to do that ride.

Yeah, that concept for a ride is hilarious.

In all seriousness, though…does anyone know of any real efforts in PA to implement an Idaho-style law? I don’t have much free time, but I’d be interesting in pledging a bit of it to such an endeavor.

On a related note, would such a law have to be state-wide, or could it be implemented first at the city or county level (and override PA motor vehicle code)? I know nothing about such things…


byogman

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Oct 4 2013 at 12:56pm #

Wow, talking about relate-ability and totally scanning over the ;-) responding just to text. Whoops….


Steven

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Oct 4 2013 at 1:14pm #

Idaho got their law because cyclists were running reds, getting ticketed, and it was clogging up the courts. The Idaho court system’s administrative director happened to be a cyclist, and thought a good way to fix the problem was to make such behavior legal.

So that’s one way. Seems to involve a lot of tickets and a lot of luck though.

I doubt cities or counties could override state law. Generally, the only power they have is what the state gives them (as they’re created by the state). And I don’t think the state has chosen to delegate or share that power.


buffalo buffalo

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Oct 7 2013 at 8:04am #

Steven wrote:I doubt cities or counties could override state law. Generally, the only power they have is what the state gives them (as they’re created by the state). And I don’t think the state has chosen to delegate or share that power.

This is certainly true for Townships, and possibly for Boroughs, but cities like Pittsburgh, and certain other municipalities such as Monroeville, have home-rule. As quoted by wikipedia, “Local governments without home rule can only act where specifically authorized by state law; home rule municipalities can act anywhere except where they are specifically limited by state law.”

I don’t know where the question of stop signs and red lights falls on that spectrum, although a police department or district attorney’s office could certainly decide ticketing and/or prosecution weren’t worth pursuing.


byogman

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Oct 7 2013 at 9:10am #

Just a guess, but I think that’s very possibly where we are right now. But of course, there’s so much neglect out there it’s hard to tell if that’s due to any conscious decision making.

Anyways, a decision to make a big change in enforcement can come from public pressure, someone feeling like they’re on a mission, or some combination of both.

I don’t know that what I’m proposing to put out there would help change a couple minds and reduce public pressure to go after cyclists. And by no means are all cyclists are blameless, but we’ve seen an overreaction in New York and we’re not immune to that here.

I think the best cure to overreaction is airing things and doing so honestly and completely. I’m very close to pulling the trigger on this. I don’t know that I need this, but I’d feel better about it if someone other than myself and Mick would say they’re in favor. Well ok, and my cycling uncle in Brooklyn, Maybe Steven? (at least, I’m hoping your editorial efforts are not just a reflection of a reflexive desire to see better writing in this world).

Like I said before, this doesn’t have to be in some sort of vacuum. I don’t mind being on the margins if people want to follow up with counter editorials along the lines I suggested or others. Whatever builds toward more understanding of what we’re faced with now, why we do what we do, and steers us toward a long term path with better infrastructure and rules.


joanne

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Oct 7 2013 at 11:30am #

I share others’ concerns about this coming across as a “Why the laws don’t apply to me as a cyclist” letter.

Perhaps it would help if you prefaced this by explicitly stating your goals–something along the lines of the paragraph below?

I’ve heard people complain about cyclists running red lights. The reality is, many cyclists I know never run reds. But I do sometimes—not because I feel entitled, but because it’s safer for me, and helps minimize delays to drivers. Please let me explain—and consider this my plea for understanding.


Steven

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Oct 7 2013 at 12:44pm #

I’m all about wanting to see better writing in this world. :-)

I don’t run reds, but I’d like to see the practice made legal. I’m undecided whether running reds now furthers that end.

In any case, I think explaining the viewpoint of those who do it helps more than it hurts.

Thanks, buffalo buffalo, for the home-rule charter info.


byogman

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Oct 7 2013 at 2:39pm #

OK, here we go again

——————————————————————————

A year ago I became a bike commuter. At first, I always waited for green lights. I don’t anymore, paradoxically for my safety. This is my plea for understanding.

Riding is fun and normally, stress free. Most drivers pass only when it’s safe. But a troublesome few pass no matter the danger. I could be assertive and claim the whole lane, but feel very guilty delaying safe drivers significantly on account of the few dangerous ones, and I can only go so fast battling uphill from a stop. 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 generally weigh 1.5-3 tons and accidents cause many deaths. Bicycles generally weigh 20-40 pounds. Cyclists riding through at 5-10 mph are more like joggers than cars.

I hesitated, many cyclists never run reds, and the desire to get there quickly easily breeds bad decisions. I tried hugging the right and slowing well before red lights, waving cars ahead. But this was misunderstood and sometimes drivers would not let me back into a safe lane position.

More close passes convinced me to take opportunities get ahead of traffic whenever possible. I’ve delayed fewer drivers, and suffered fewer impatience fueled close passes as a result.
I’ve done no harm, but I certainly wish I felt equally safe without having to scout these opportunities.

——————————————————————————


StuInMcCandless

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Oct 7 2013 at 4:56pm #

I would be clearer on making a distinction between waiting for a green to go, as you do, and scofflaw cyclists who don’t even try to stop, which is what gets most people’s goats. That is the distinction of the Idaho stop.

Should you go ahead with this, this is something I would try to emphasize in follow-up comments, but I think it is important to say explicitly at the start.

Also, add a “to” to “take opportunities get ahead” in last paragraph.


byogman

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Oct 8 2013 at 10:10am #

Well, technically I don’t even try to stop, when possible (which is certainly not all the time) I keep a VERY slow roll even with reds. That roll starts a little further back and extends up to but not across the pedestrian crosswalk (unless there’s really nobody in which case I’ll use those few feet too). Basically want to buy myself a few extra seconds to look into things without foot down.

Now, I would stop, period if Idaho rules were in effect, since then the rules are close enough to reality that I may as well stick to them.

It’s interesting that you mention the scofflaw cyclist thing again. I think it’s important to address head on and I needed a better closer anyway.

I think maybe people are a little weary of this thread, but here I go again (on my own (cue the eye rolling)):

———————————————————————————-
A year ago I became a bike commuter. At first, I always waited for green lights. I don’t anymore, yet paradoxically am safer. This is my plea for understanding.

Riding is fun and normally, stress free. Most drivers pass only when there’s a safe opportunity. But a troublesome few won’t wait and create danger. I could be assertive and claim the whole lane, but feel very guilty delaying safe drivers meaningfully on account of the few dangerous ones, and I can go only so fast battling uphill from a stop. I could ride on the sidewalk, but pedestrians and joggers with earbuds make this dangerous, too.

Most pedestrians ignore signals and cross if an intersection is clear. It’s easy to do safely. We demand that drivers wait because their vehicles are massive and mistakes are often tragic. Most bicycles weigh 20-40 pounds. Cyclists riding slowly represent a danger more like that of joggers than cars.

I hesitated, many cyclists never run reds, and I worried about being tempted into danger by impatience. I tried hugging the right and waving cars ahead before lights. But this was misunderstood and sometimes drivers would not let me back into a safe lane position.

Finally, more close passes convinced me to seize safe opportunities get ahead of traffic. There’s no danger if you approach intersections slowly, ready to stop. I’ve delayed fewer drivers, and suffered fewer impatience fueled close passes as a result.

Call me scofflaw if you like, but I’m anything but reckless.
————————————————————————–


Steven

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Oct 8 2013 at 11:54am #

You’re still missing the “to” Stu mentioned. “Finally, more close passes convinced me to seize safe opportunities *to* get ahead of traffic.”

Also, “impatience fueled” should have a hyphen in the middle.

I still think you should explicitly state the behavior you’re advocating, and the reason. You talk about seizing safe opportunities to get ahead, and approaching intersections slowly, and talk about the various things you don’t do, like hug the right or take the sidewalk. But you never come right out and say “Now I approach the intersection slowly, and if I can see it’s clear and safe, I run the red light.”

Similarly, at the start, you say that some drivers pass you unsafely. You should directly explain how your light-running behavior addresses that problem. You never say “As a result, cars pass me less often.” (Or whatever your reasoning is.)

Perhaps you could skip the “I hesitated” paragraph to make room, if needed. It’s not necessary to describe all your worries and concerns, or every behavior you tried and rejected. It’s better to focus on explaining the specific thing you do, and why it addresses close passing, the specific problem you started with.


byogman

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Oct 8 2013 at 12:56pm #

You’re still missing the “to” Stu mentioned. “Finally, more close passes convinced me to seize safe opportunities *to* get ahead of traffic.”

Also, “impatience fueled” should have a hyphen in the middle.

A hazard of rewriting obsessively at odd hours.

I’m not really advocating what I do. Just defending myself and by extension some, but not all red light running cyclists against the charge that we’re reckless and create a hazard mainly by trying to relate the some of the feeling of being on the road on a bicycle.

And pointing out, truthfully, that I at first tried to just hang back and let cars ahead to relieve the tension and suffer fewer dangerous passes is important to establish some credibility.

I’ve done a little more rewording, hopefully which addresses some of the other editorial concerns as well:

————————————————————————————

A year ago I became a bike commuter. At first, I never rode through red lights. I do now, yet paradoxically am safer. This is my plea for understanding.

Riding is fun and normally, stress free. Most drivers pass only when there’s a safe opportunity. But a troublesome few won’t wait and create danger. I could be assertive and claim the whole lane, but feel very guilty delaying safe drivers meaningfully on account of the few dangerous ones, and I can go only so fast battling uphill from a stop. I could ride on the sidewalk, but pedestrians and joggers with earbuds make this dangerous, too.

Most pedestrians ignore signals and cross clear intersections. We demand that drivers wait because their vehicles are so massive that mistakes are too often tragic. Most bicycles weigh 20-40 pounds. Cyclists riding slowly represent a danger much more like that of joggers than cars.

I hesitated. Many cyclists never run reds, and I worried about being tempted into danger by my own impatience. Instead, I hugged the right and waved cars past before lights. But this was misunderstood and often drivers would not let me back into a safe lane position.

Finally, more close passes convinced me to seize safe opportunities to get more breathing room using the open road ahead. There’s no danger if you approach intersections slowly, prepared to stop short. I’ve delayed fewer drivers, and suffered fewer impatience-fueled close passes as a result.

Call me scofflaw, but I’m anything but reckless.

————————————————————————————


Steven

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Oct 8 2013 at 3:03pm #

“I’m not really advocating what I do. Just defending myself and by extension some, but not all red light running cyclists against the charge that we’re reckless and create a hazard mainly by trying to relate the some of the feeling of being on the road on a bicycle.”

I think, instead of telling people about your feelings, you should make a clear, rational argument. You do a fine job presenting the case that you’re not harming others, but fall down on presenting the case that there’s a safety benefit for yourself (though you assert that there is).

So what is your safety-based reason for running red lights? “Get more breathing room” is the closest you come, but it’s still not clear how that relates to the problem you stated at the beginning, close passes.

Do you think you’re reducing the number of times you’re passed, by running reds?

Or do you think being farther from the cars stopped at the light increases your safety?

Maybe you run red lights because you don’t want to get rear-ended by an inattentive driver?

If it’s not any of these, and if there’s no other safety justification for running reds, perhaps you should reframe your letter as “I’m certain I’m not endangering anyone else, so why should I have to wait just because cars do?” Then you could delete most of the material about how cars endanger you, and how paradoxically you’re safer, since it’s not relevant to your argument.


byogman

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Oct 8 2013 at 3:28pm #

The heart of my argument, and the concluding sentence of my second to last paragraph is “I’ve delayed fewer drivers, and suffered fewer impatience-fueled close passes as a result.”

There are more variables and a lot of ways to refine this, which, if you like we can have as a sidebar discussion, just focusing on the letter for now.

I thought this was a reasonably clear description of cause and effect. Maybe it needs an introduction earlier in the piece? I don’t know, it’s so hard to say even a fraction of what I want to say already, I’m loathe repeat myself.

I guess if nothing else I can swap in “impatient” for “troublesome” to zero in early on the idea of impatience as the proximate cause of much of the danger.


joanne

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Oct 8 2013 at 3:56pm #

I think it may not be obvious to readers that you running reds=fewer people passing you overall, and as a result, fewer close passes (if that’s the argument here). I’m guessing that most readers/drivers will assume that they would just catch up to you after the light turns green.


Steven

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Oct 8 2013 at 5:56pm #

I think Byogman is saying that, yes, they will catch up, but because it will take them a while to do so, they will then wait patiently behind Byogman instead of trying to pass, or else pass more carefully because they won’t be as annoyed at Byogman. Perhaps they won’t catch up until they’re almost at the next light, for instance.

Is that it, Byogman? If so, I’ll observe that I didn’t get that this was the argument you were trying to make until your last post. I figured it was one of the three examples I gave before.


byogman

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Oct 9 2013 at 9:13am #

Even if I am only delaying the pass, at such time as they do catch up, I’m going my full speed, which, while not full speed for them by any means, is a much closer approximation of it than what I can manage in the first few seconds starting from a light.

This closer match to speed decreases the dangerous “must pass” feeling on single lane roads, and in the case of multi-lane roads, makes it easier for them to smoothly slide to a leftward passing lane. Plus cars space out better the further you get away from the lights so gaps are easier to find. Plus they’ll have seen me up ahead for longer so they will have had more opportunity to find that gap.

And let’s not forget the intrinsic condition that generates the potential passing situations, the (generally) lower average speed (including stops) of bicyclists. Running reds helps.

The intrinsic number of these situations a motorist faces is [number of cyclists travelling the same path] * (1 – [average cyclist speed]/[average motorist speed]). These average speeds include stops. If we’re stopped less, the ratio of cyclist speed to motorist speed increases, and the number of required passes decreases. Remember it’s not just that one driver or even the drivers at that light, but the drivers behind them!

So, not only less pressured and safer passing, but fewer passes, sometimes many fewer. That’s my experience. As you might imagine, there’s really no room to cram all this justification into 250 words. But I thought breathing room was a fair condensed description.


Mick

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Oct 9 2013 at 10:02am #

Well Byogman, you’ve had agood discussion of the pro’s and con’s of your letter and even buffed it up a touch.

Now it’s your decision to send it in or not.


Mikhail

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Oct 9 2013 at 1:03pm #

byogman wrote:
And not all or even most envelopes get pushed further and further as time goes on, most don’t actually because of social norms. That’s the real law of the land here. It’s common to moan about the decay of these, but most of that is grass is greener old far nostalgia B.S… in most ways things actually get better over time, even mortality due to our motor vehicle addiction.

Hm, when I came here (1995) exceeding speed limit by 5 mph on a freeway in most cases caused a ticket. One of owner of a company I worked for at one point got ticket and we discussed it, about 7 colleagues got tickets, a couple friends got those two. An citations was between 6 and 9 (except one — 25). By 2000 it’s was ok up to 10 mph. And ypu got ticket for 11. This was the first and only time I’ve got a ticket — 13 mph. By 2005 it’s became a norm not to exceed 15 mph. And this was a year I drove 25,000 miles. A lot of miles from Pittsburgh to Cincinnati and back in one day. And I did a lot cruising just with police cars going 78 mph. No attention. Today we see 25 over and police car riding alone in the city (2nd, Penn, Greenfield, Panther Hollow — just to name few) and no reaction.

I can tell you the same story with shopping carts people leaving in parking lots. I even called police in one dispute. It used to be some rare fact that people drop a cart in the middle of the lot or park it between other cars.

Amount of garbage that people through out of car is growing. And I can tell you this first hand — PMTCC adopted part of Allegheny River Blvd (from Washington to Nadine) and we clean it twice a year. And I can tell that amount of garbage bags is growing every year.

I have two daughters 6 years apart and I can tell you about changes in school culture since I watched then to go through Elementary, Middle, and then High Schools in the same district.

There are a lot of changes in social norms here.


andyc

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Oct 9 2013 at 1:48pm #

I’ve yelled at people for throwing garbage. It’s something that really baffles me – why do people throw garbage where they live? Even animals shit in the corner.

On freeway speed limits, part of the problem is that they are too low in certain places. I drive east on 376 every morning and between the Monroeville exits traffic is usually between 65 and 80 (speed limit is 55). I see one person pulled over about once a month but also, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen an accident along that stretch.


byogman

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Oct 10 2013 at 12:28pm #

Thanks to all for your feedback, special thanks to Steven. While by no means perfect, I think the final version of the letter is much improved from the first. I’m not sure I feel like there’s a straightforward and clearly better way to change it, at least to my eyes.

Most here discouraged me from sending this in, and I respect their opinion. Conversely, most casual conversations I had with cyclists I know personally, rather than through this forum, encouraged me to send this in.

So it was back in my court, I had to make up my own conflicted mind rather than pawn my decision off on others. So if you’re wondering, I’m sending it in tonight. We’ll see, but I expect another callback on this letter, and for it to eventually run.

I know this will be flamebait. But to a degree anything about bicycles pro or con is that. Opinions just run really strong. The only thing we can do is try to enrich the discussion. The improvements in the letter and the seeding of a productive discussion started here have already done that, and will make its release to the general public far more productive.


StuInMcCandless

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Oct 11 2013 at 3:11pm #

It has been my experience that in the majority of cases, the editors will reword or excise parts either for space or what they think is clarity. Assuming they print it at all, of course. I wish you luck.


byogman

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Oct 16 2013 at 12:43pm #

Well, got the callback again today, so we’ll see.


jonawebb

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Oct 26 2013 at 8:11am #

It’s in print!

http://www.post-gazette.com/opinion/letters/2013/10/26/Bikes-and-red-lights/stories/20131026006


helen s

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Oct 26 2013 at 1:15pm #

Let the flaming begin! Does one have to belong to the book of faces to post a comment? I take issue with the first comment- it is not a senseless act, but rather a well thought out strategy. It would make as much sense to crucify people for turning right on red.


StuInMcCandless

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Oct 26 2013 at 5:08pm #

2 cents added


byogman

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Oct 27 2013 at 4:41pm #

Is it weird that I’m kind disappointed by the relative lack of flaming? Maybe I need to be more confrontational next time, accuse motorists’ harping on lights of hypocrisy based onmy experience with their behavior under each scenario? I had versions like that. Oh well.


StuInMcCandless

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Oct 27 2013 at 7:14pm #

I already jumped in once. I don’t feel like jumping in again. If I did, it would be to press my point about changing the law to allow for more-safe behavior if current law makes a situation less safe.


buffalo buffalo

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Oct 28 2013 at 11:40pm #

I suspect the change in the commenting system, along with the semi-paywalling and other changes, have greatly thinned the flock at the PG.


jonawebb

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Oct 29 2013 at 6:35am #

My take on this is that taking the lane, where appropriate, solves the passing issue while being completely legal. But is more inconvenient to drivers than byogman’s strategy. Byogman is breaking the law to go a little faster, while slowing drivers less.


neilmd

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Oct 29 2013 at 8:12am #

A thing I feel is missing from almost all of these conversations is the distinction between “the law” and “the rules of the road”. The real clash, in my opinion, is that we (the whole vehicle community) need to establish the rules of the road to safely incorporate bicycles (and pedestrians).

The discussion sort of has to start with the law, but it does not end there. As people have noted time and again, by any measure cars violate the letter of the law vastly more often than bicycles. Many of those violations are much more dangerous as well. The two most obvious are speeding (nearly universal) and the very generous definition of “stop” at most intersections, but there are certainly others.

Because cars and trucks have established the “rules”, their drivers are essentially blind to the infractions that are “permissible” — not just the trolls, who are for the most part the distilled essence of those “rules” taken to an extreme — but quotidian, reasonably responsible drivers.

“Stop” is an interesting one — a large majority of Pittsburgh drivers drop to maybe a few mph and roll on through if an intersection is clear. That alone is an argument for bicycles taking the lane; I want lateral space to maneuver when that SUV hood eases out from the right. What is “stop” for a cycle?? Foot down? I don’t like to unclip, but I generally come to pretty much a track stand, and motion cars with the right of way through. I’m aware, however, that this is unnerving to some drivers. You could make a good argument that for the “rules of the road” the nonverbal communication of a foot on the road is much stronger.

Another I find totally normal as a driver (almost unique to Pittsburgh) is wrong-way parking. It is simply what people do here. As a cyclist it terrifies me; this is yet another argument for taking the lane — if you are in the door zone and a grill turns out of a wrong-way parking job, you are screwed.

I have a tough time with cycles going straight through red lights, even after a compete stop. Too much can go wrong. I also won’t turn right on red, but that seems a much grayer issue to me when it comes to the “rules of the road”, and there the Idaho law seems to me to make a ton of sense.

In a perfect world the law and the “rules” would be the same, but we are not in a perfect world. How do we change the rules? To me, every ride is a (mostly nonverbal) communication with cars. Be assertive but try to be polite. Take the lane firmly but give space willingly when safety permits (but stay out of the door zone please — I used to live and cycle in Boston; any vehicle can and will do anything allowed by the laws of Physics, more or less randomly). Encourage cars to treat you as a vehicle; it drives me nuts when people stop to let me take a left turn (not uncommon), when as often as not the next car back is going to pull around them. Yield to the vehicle on the right at a 4-way intersection, but also assert your turn to the extent safety allows.

I’m sure there are many more things, and I am sure some of what I do is not the best. I’m interested in other views.

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