Dealing With Our ‘Double Standard’


Urban Cyclists are a bit dysfunctional when it comes to their behavior on the road versus that of motorists and pedestrians. Here is a bit of drivel that should make this clear:

Reply by Jim Freeman 7 hours ago
I have been known to roll lights, but when I do I try to do so carefully. I think it’s important that the people around me see me using caution while engaging in such actions. I typically will stop pedaling and overemphasize looking in both directions before proceeding. If the intersection is crowded I stop no matter what.
The idea is we don’t want people thinking people who ride bikes are buttheads. If you’re blowing through lights with reckless abandon like an idiot you’re really screwing the rest of us. Those people you just pissed off are all voices we must now overcome to get more bicycle infrastructure and legislation.
The bicycle is a civilized for of transportation, but only if bicyclists themselves are civilized.

Despite the fact that crossing intersections on red lights is illegal a fairly large segment of the Urban Church of Cycling probably agrees with this sentiment. In response another forum participant wrote:

Reply by notoriousDUG 4 hours ago
Very well said. I try to do the same when I ride; it makes no sense to stop completely at an intersection you can cross safely but you still need to not only be careful but make sure others know you are paying attention.

The Flaws In This Argument

Pig Riding Bicycle - Rough Sketch. by © George Coghill Pro Feb 23, 2011

Pig Riding Bicycle – Rough Sketch. by © George Coghill Pro Feb 23, 2011

The first and most important flaw in this argument is that “rolling through stop lights” is illegal. If you are stopped by the police and given a ticket the very last thing you should do is complain. It is akin to what happens when you shoplift. If you are stopped by the police after a heist or a theft do not complain. Pay the fine or gladly spend your time in jail and admit your guilt.

What is most interesting about cyclists however is their inability to see their own hypocrisy. You can run through countless threads on the ChainLink Forum and find people complaining about motorists and pedestrians who actions break the law. Even people who shovel snow or unload their trucks in the bike lane feel the wrath of indignation from cyclists. Why on earth are they behaving in that fashion if they have a laissez-faire attitude about their own observances of the niceties of the law?

Would they be as calm and rational if motorists too were unwilling to wait for the light to turn before venturing out to cross intersections? I know that what these two fellows are advocating has little to do with “empty” intersections. I have watched one of them cross intersections on red lights with panache and could do so safely only because the cars waiting for the light to change were willing to stay in their places.

ChainLinkers tend to convey a piggish devotion to their personal convenience while being as harsh and overbearing where others are concerned. They try to give themselves the benefit of the doubt by either ignoring these kinds of comments or arguing that the writers represent only a handful. That is a bit disingenuous. After all anyone who wants to deflect criticism from the pedophiles in the priesthood says essentially the same thing. There is only a handful. And if pressed they respond with “show me the figures that indicate otherwise”. Well, if it were not for an active coverup we could show you the numbers. But because everyone from the Vatican on down the line has been seeking to protect the honor of the religion above that of the children involved things are necessarily murky (at least to those on the outside).

Let Us Stop The Charade of Wanting Safety

We really do not give a whit about the safety of either cyclists or pedestrians or motorists. What we really care about is our own personal convenience. When Dearborn Street was opened up the one thing that surprised me the most was that people were more interested (it seemed) in whether a “green wave” could be set up to allow unimpeded travel along its length than almost anything else. For many cyclists it is all about how fast one can get from point A to point B.

But when you argue that “it makes no sense to stop completely at an intersection you can cross safely” you have opened a can of worms. If motorists take this attitude along with motorcyclists, bus and truck drivers and anyone else on the roadway, the result would be pure havoc. You only have to consider how crazy traffic gets when a stop light fails and everyone is dealing with crossing through the intersection as though it were guarded by stop signs.

We simply have to be honest with both ourselves and the general public. We are really not interested in public safety, so much as we are our personal convenience.

As Steve Vance is fond of pointing out cyclist have their own set of mores. And by that is probably meant essentially what is being espoused above. To not make this clear to those who are willing to vote for our infrastructure betterment is a much the perpetration of fraud as having Lance Armstrong wins Tours de France while using performance enhancing drugs without admitting as much. It is bad form and as he will soon discover, “your sins will find you out“.

We are fond of riding bikes without brakes and yet willing to pass out flyers asking people to think about safety when opening their car doors. When you are riding a fixie without benefit of brakes and must avoid a door collision by moving further to your left and are hit by a car in the process, you have nullified the value of those flyers. They are a fraud and a sham if those passing them out know that poor protocol on the part of cyclist is a contributory factor to both injury and death.

But I fear that our dishonesty in dealing with the truth and each other is so deeply ingrained as to make it nearly impossible to behave honestly. We cannot knowingly do things on the roadways that puts ourselves and others in danger while trying to peddle public safety as the fruit of increased bicycle infrastructure. That is sheer dishonesty.