You’re a scofflaw, even when you’re not

You might have heard of “modal bias,” which is the belief we all have that “I (and people like me) are okay, but you’re a moron who’s always wrong.” From the bike advocacy world, we often call this the “windshield perspective” or “car headed thinking.”

Zach in Washington DC encountered this modal bias writ large when he was crossed in traffic. He rode straight through an intersection on the green light when a car driver turned left into a parking lot directly in front of Zach. He was laid up in the hospital with the investigating police officer handed him a traffic citation.

“Wait, you mean, you were biking and you want a ticket canceled?” [Officer Carlos Carter] said, incredulous. “We all know how bikers behave. It must have been your fault. C’mon. You are a biker.”

Zach was able to dig up security camera footage showing the light was green and he had the legal right of way. Officer Carter still refused to cite the offending driver.

This has been my general experience with police officers, too, when I’m involved in a car-vs-bike collision. The officer is clearly sympathetic to the driver, and then counsels me to slow down and be more careful.

You can read Zach’s full story at Greater Greater Washington.

Props to Blacknell in DC for this, who notes, “I don’t need society to be all jazzed about my choice to ride a bike. But I *do* need it to not make that the reason to bar me from justice, if things go wrong.”


  1. As a white, educated, employed, home-owning middle-aged woman, I know that I have privilege when it comes to law enforcement. That is, until I get on a bike.

    As a cyclist I understand more fully what people in less privileged circumstances face. I expect to be deemed at fault until proven innocent.

  2. To better understand the policman’s statement, replace “biker” with “negro”. That will put it in perspective.

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