Comments Off on Followup

Adam wrote a thoughtful comment to the previous entry which I started to respond to in comments and then realized it was going to be too long. So here it is:

Yeah, that’s pretty well hashed. In response though…
speeding is a tough one. It’s fairly well understood in the more informed engineering circles that many posted limits have nothing to do with safety, and in fact can actually reduce overall safety due to higher speed differential (between the few people who will obey an obviously underposted sign and the majority who will not). But it is the law. One could even make a parallel to some ridiculous 4-way-stops like the ones west of downtown – those are clearly not there for anybody’s safety.

But then again, the “all lawbreaking is equal” argument seems ridiculous to me on its very face. Murder != jaywalking. Running the middle of a red light cycle != going 68 on Mopac.

Finally, I’m looking at this from a more pragmatic perspective – as I said, 99% of people drive. If they think cyclists disobey the law en masse, it hurts us. A lot. If we think that motorists disobey the law en masse, it doesn’t hurt them. At all.

(There are two other ways to look at this pragmatically: the “would you want motorists to be able to treat stop signs and red lights the same way you do on your bike”, and the “do you want motorists to have even less respect for the law that requires them to treat you and your bicycle as a vehicle”, but those are tangential here).

At previous jobs (not yet at this one), invariably when somebody found out I commute to work by bike some of the time, I’d get a very negative reaction – the person would ask me if I was one of ‘those’ cyclists who ran red lights and stop signs. I work in the suburbs in high-tech, and this is more representative of Austin as a whole than the people on the other side of this issue who either don’t work at all or who work at UT, yet they hold fast to their position that motorists just hate cyclists simply for being cyclists at all. That hasn’t been my experience – when I explain that I obey the law as much or more than when I drive, the conversation usually turns to “what route do you take?”, “how long does it take you?”, “is it scary?”.

The people who insist on preserving the status quo never actually get to that positive conversation because they get hung up on the right to blow a stop sign. That’s pretty damn sad.