[*BCM*] The movement that divides us
axw at michelmores.com
Mon Jun 5 12:13:45 EDT 2006
The eternal circle. As the more you (and others) run the lights and are disrespectful, the more you're going to get honked at, etc. Someone has to take the first step - why can't it be you?
From: bostoncriticalmass-bounces at bostoncriticalmass.org [mailto:bostoncriticalmass-bounces at bostoncriticalmass.org] On Behalf Of Justin Wong
Sent: 05 June 2006 17:04
To: 'Boston Critical Mass'
Subject: RE: [*BCM*] The movement that divides us
"As long as I'm getting honked at, told to get off the road, doored, barnstormed, flipped off, and whatever, I'm going to run those goddamned lights."
^^^ My sentiments exactly!
From: bostoncriticalmass-bounces at bostoncriticalmass.org [mailto:bostoncriticalmass-bounces at bostoncriticalmass.org] On Behalf Of Pete Stidman
Sent: Monday, June 05, 2006 11:42 AM
To: Boston Critical Mass
Subject: Re: [*BCM*] The movement that divides us
I think these points are getting all confused.
Wreckless bicyclists are one thing, and let us remember that there are wreckless drivers of any vehicle.
Running red lights as a cyclist is entirely another. It can be done just as safely as Jaywalking, which, let us also remember, is completely illegal.
What a cyclist is, regardless of what some lawbook says, is an undecided, unanswered question in the US. There obviously is no universally accepted norm about when to cross a red light or stop sign, and I would say the bigger tendency is to not act like a vehicle, but to act like a pedestrian when crossing the road.
BUT none of this is important at all right now. I think the whole argument is a huge distraction from the real problem, which is cars. Compare pedestrian deaths by car to pedestrian deaths by bicycle and you'll quickly see what I mean.
These ideas in the biking community come as a result of car drivers in positions of power saying to bike advocacy groups, "Well hey, if you expect to get us to teach drivers about cyclists, cyclists better get their act together." and then activists parroting that back to others and blaming cyclists for the fact that the streets aren't safe.
IT"S A FALSE ARGUMENT. And it's divisive. I have to hand it to the powers that be, it's a neat trick.
How it really happens:
Any place you go that has laws that protect cyclists, bike lanes etcetera, Bicyclists stop at the stop lights. Like Boulder Colorado for instance. Bikes stop at all stop signs and lights, even 4-ways, BUT, in those cities, when a cyclist pulls up to a full up four way stop, 3 cars and them, the three car drivers immediately look to the bike to go, regardless of which order they arrived in, an automatic bike right-of-way.
In that situation, a cyclist doesn't mind following every law. The law and the norms respect them. Bicyclists are recognized as having a stronger right of way than cars.
It's not the weak one (bicyclist) who has to give first, it's the strong one (car). It is a rule of nature that the weak one does not have as large an effect on the system. If you want systemic change, you go for changes that are strong, not weak. In other words, the bully has more chance of changing the system than the bullied.
As long as I'm getting honked at, told to get off the road, doored, barnstormed, flipped off, and whatever, I'm going to run those goddamned lights. And that is something that is so deep in me and hundreds of other cyclists who have grown to hate cars, police, and road planners that no cycling advocacy group in the world could ever change it without getting at the root cause behind itâ€”cars.
Getting pissed at cyclists who run reds is like telling people who are poor to quit complaining about it and work for minimum wage, if they do they'll get rich. Yeah fucking right.
Rachel Elizabeth Dillon <red at mit.edu> wrote:
Hi! I'm going to engage you (and anyone else) in discussion on this topic,
and I'm going to assume you don't mind since you entered into discussion
about it on a large public mailing list.
On Mon, Jun 05, 2006 at 07:00:28AM -0700, turtle wrote:
> Boston Critical Mass wrote:
> > I stop at red lights, look all around me, then if it is safe, I go. The right
> > of way should be as follows: Pedestrians, Powered wheel chairs, Cyclists,
> > Vespas, Cars. (notice i did not mention suv's). Pedestrians can cross streets
> > any time they want so long as it is safe, I don't see why cyclists can't cross
> > intersections at red lights when it is safe for everyone.
> The problem with this is it's not reality. In reality, in the Western
> World, there are traffic laws that generally don't descriminate against
> different types of vehicle operators. Your own plan for traffic law may
> well be a good one, but it's simply not reality right now. So, when you
> disobey the actual traffic laws it shows the rest of us that you have no
> respect for others, and gives bicyclists a bad name. Is that the
> impression you are looking to express?
Your second point here, about respect, is very good, but I would argue
that if 60% of cyclists are running red lights (number pulled from an
arbitrary statistic in the article, but it doesn't seem too off-base
from my experience), running red lights is reality; the law doesn't
define what is real or what is safe, it defines what is legal.
To further the point about reality, in the past week, I was stopped
for running a red light in a pack of five or six cyclists on Mass
Ave (pedestrian signal, no one coming), but a coworker of mine was
specifically _told_ by a cop to run a red light two blocks down six
hours earlier. I'm not defending or attacking either action, just
emphasizing that law doesn't mean reality.
> If you really believe that your traffic regulation is better, then
> promote it to everyone and get it passed into law, or at least accepted
> by society. In the meantime, if you have respect for others, they will
> have respect for you, both on the roads and in the political arena.
> Even if you don't agree with others, showing respect for their beliefs
> and traditions gives you far more power than discounting them does.
This is absolutely true. But in today's society, lobbying for legislation
and behavior changes is often a full-time job and requires more effort than
many people have to put in. What, then, for those of us (well, I'm being
dishonest here by putting myself in this group, honestly) without the
resources to do these things?
I could also go off on a rant about how cyclists don't get any respect
from drivers, or pedestrians, or police, but your response would be
"Maybe you should respect them, and then they will respect you" and I
think you're absolutely right. (Unfortunately I'm not sure that it works,
but getting respect by being disrespectful works even less, most of the time.)
> > The interview paints a picture that all cyclists blindly run red lights and
> > aim for small children...
> Are you sure? I got a very different picture from the article. I read
> that the author believes that only a small number of cyclsits are
> really abusive while most others, such as the author himself, are
> simply not aware of how dangerous their driving may be.
I agree with you here.
> > Somehow I think there is an
> > over protective mother who's child was nearly hit by a bike, and now she must
> > start a crusade against all cyclists to prevent it from ever happening again.
> Are you implying that kids SHOULD be hit or scared? Should parents just
> sit down and shut up when illegal and dangerous behavior threatens their
> kids? Should we just chain our kids to the sofa until they are 16 and
> can drive themselves in armored vehicles to school and work?
> I'm sure you don't really think that!
No, but our kids should be exposed to and prepared for reality, which right
now includes a lot of cyclists running red lights. I agree with your point
overall, which is the attempt to change reality by encouraging cyclists
to stop running red lights.
> All cyclists, and motorists, and skateboardists, and horseback riders,
> and everyone else should be respectful of kids who are using the
> roadways. Vehicles of all sizes can easilly be quite dangerous, and
> the operators of said vehicles are ultimately the only ones who can be
> responsible for avoiding crashes and other dangerous incidents. We are
> the adults here... Well, there are probably some younger folks on this
> list, too, so maybe you aren't an adult, so maybe you have an excuse
> for not taking responsiblity for yourself. Anyway for those of us who
> are adults, we need to take responsibility for our own behavior, and
> that includes being respectful of other people's rights.
I think most people who will actually participate in a discussion on this
matter believe that they are taking responsibility for their behavior, and
even being respectful of other people's rights. I know I do.
> > If it were a car that nearly
> > hit a kid, there would be no crusade, just a woman with a lawsuit against that
> > ONE driver, not ALL car drivers.
> I beg to differ. Have you ever heard of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
> The message is, in fact, aimed at ALL drivers.
> Also, as you may have noticed, it's not just a single incident. It's a
> trend. Seen not just in England, but in the US, too. I think the
> problem is that society, the government, and the educational system
> hasn't taken cycling seriously. People aren't tought that bikes are
> respectable vehicles on the roads that are subject to the same traffic
> laws as any other vehicle on the roads. So, unfortunately, many
> cyclists either don't know how to bike respectfully, or see bikes as
> symbols of rebellion against the system. And non-cyclists, too, don't
> get the message that cyclists are the same as they are, so they treat
> cyclists as unwelcome outsiders on the roads. In either case, you get
> dangerous (unintentional or intentional) driving by everyone. The only
> cure I've seen is to promote the Same Roads, Same Rules, Same Rights
> idea. I, myself, try to impress upon my students the idea that biking
> is a normal and respectable way to travel.
There are many potential solutions; yours is probably the most reasonable
(as compared to "burn all cars," "bike paths everywhere," "separate laws
for cyclists," &c.) though I'm personally not convinced it's as safe or
as efficient as the way people bike now. Realistically, cyclists are not
the same as cars. We don't weigh two tons and, under normal conditions,
ride lower than the speed limit and significantly lower than the actual
maximum traffic speed. Stopping distance, wear and tear on the roads,
ability to handle different kinds of construction (did anyone else take a
fall on the gravel<->pavement ridges in Porter Square a month or so ago?),
other things are all different as well. Though I don't feel qualified
to give an answer to it, I think whether or not cars and cyclists should
have to follow the same rules should be an open question.
I appreciate the time you took to write this, though, and the thought
you've obviously put into it (and I agree with you in many places).
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