Law breaking cyclists

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Wednesday, July 27, 2005
By Yokota Fritz


Traffic law and cycling are always big topics of discussion at the height of summer, especially with the much discussed ticketing of scofflaw cyclists in Chicago. Cycledog in Oklahoma writes, "It must be one of those perennial rites of summer, a complaining letter to the local newspaper about all those lawless cyclists on the road." Cycledog then describes his numerous run ins with outlaw motorists. While cyclists should ride lawfully, I agree with him and with Velorution that motorists contribute much more to fatalities, injuries, and property damage when they drive unsafely than cyclists do.

In the same vein, Matt in St Paul wrote a fantastic letter to the editor in response to a columnist's anti-cyclist rant about "Spandex-Obsessed Bicyclists who think they own whatever road they're on." Matt notes:

Running stop signs? Have you ever watched cars at stop signs? If there's no opposing traffic, cars hardly ever stop. Just watch the wheels, see if they stop turning.

Running red lights? Not like those innocent lambs in automobiles, 4,400 of whom were caught running red lights in just 30 days and 12 intersections in Minneapolis's test of the Stop On Red traffic camera system in June. It's reassuring to know that fourteen police cars, an animal control vehicle and a fire department SUV were among the harvest.

Law-Abiding Motorists? Just for a day, just once, try driving the posted speed limit on all the roads you drive all day long. I predict that many people will enthusiastically communicate with you!

I don't condone blasting through red lights and stop signs on a bike or in a car, but hoping that all those road-hogging scofflaw cyclists will now go away so that traffic can once again run free as nature intended is just silly. You should worry more about those scofflaw motorists. Every year we kill more than 42,000 people in auto accidents in this country, 567 last year just in Minnesota. Do you hold NASCAR directly responsible for this? Or is that just the regrettable but necessary cost of convenient transportation? Sharing the road with a smattering of bicycles should be the least of your worries.

What do you think? Should there be increased enforcement of traffic law on cyclists? Or does the benefit of any kind of cycling overcome the discouragement that enforcement actions may provide?


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Comments:
Right now, at leaast in my experience, cyclists are hardly policed AT ALL for breaking traffic law, and I definitely think they should be. Further, I think there should be more education for cyclists on traffic law before they take to the road.

It's been my experience that most cyclists don't even KNOW that traffic law applies to them. Same goes for motorists. It is this lack of education, more than any other factor, that contributes to this problem of scofflaw cyclists.
 
Hmm. I drive the posted speed limit or below at all times including on the expressway, stop completely at all stop signs, sit at red lights until they change even if I'm in the middle of the desert with 100 miles of nothing around me. To my knowledge I do not break any traffic laws when driving my car. I don't get that much attention. As a bonus for driving very carefully, my car requires almost no service; even my brakes last > 100K miles.

I mostly get to work on my bike, and though I do VC and in general follow the law, there are two stop signs I coast through carefully, one in our company parking lot which has no opposing traffic, it's just there for calming, and one that's on a back alley in town where there's rarely traffic, but I do still slow down and put both hands on brakes.

I am more careful in my car because I realize that if I screw up I might hurt someone. If I screw up on my bike I probably only hurt myself.
 
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