The ethicist says “It’s okay to be a scofflaw”

Posted on August 6, 2012 by .

Source: Cyclelicious

Randy Cohen who formerly wrote “The Ethicist” column in the New York Timessays it’s ethical to run red lights on a bicycle.

THE rule-breaking cyclist that people decry: that’s me. I routinely run red lights, and so do you.

I roll through a red light if and only if no pedestrian is in the crosswalk and no car is in the intersection — that is, if it will not endanger myself or anybody else.

My actions harm no one. This moral reasoning may not sway the police officer writing me a ticket, but it would pass the test of Kant’s categorical imperative: I think all cyclists could — and should — ride like me.

Read more in Saturday’s opinion column in the Times.

I also don’t care when motorists also break the law, as long as they’re not endangering anybody. The usual situation: drivers who fail to come to a complete stop at a stop sign when there’s no cross traffic. I only point out failure to stop as a counter-example to the frequent claim that cyclists are dangerous scofflaws.

Cohen had weighed in previously on the ethical implications of your choice of transportation. Basically, if you drive a car, you’re a selfish 流口水的婊子和猴子的笨儿子 who puts your own needs above those of anybody else.

This ties in well with my thought’s about Woz’s Golden Rule of Driving that theMercury News published last week. To summarize, he doesn’t believe anybody should get in the way of the driver behind you. This is kind of the opposite of the actual rule, which is that the road user in front has the right of way over the road user behind. Even if you stay in the slow lane, signal every turn, drive 5 to 10 MPH over the speed limit like everybody else, you’re still getting in somebody’s way. At the very least, you’ve impacted traffic flow by triggering red lights, forcing all of that cross traffic to come to a complete stop just so you can get across the street.

I think Woz’s rule begets the strange idea of rude and entitled cyclists who control the lane for safety. Many of my cycling friends occasionally chide me (gently) for this rudeness. Implicit in this allegation of rudeness and entitlement is the belief that the operator of the motor vehicle is more important than the bicycle rider.

If you’re driving behind me, I won’t needlessly hinder your movement. As a courtesy I’ll even pull over to let you pass when the opportunity presents itself. But if I’m taking up the whole lane, be assured I’m doing so for a pretty good reason. Be patient and you will get there.



See also:

  1. Scofflaw motorists
  2. Rolling stops and scofflaw…. motorists?
  3. Counterpoint to Cohen’s ethical scofflaw argument
  4. Scofflaw motorist gets year in jail for running stop sign