When I ride, I probably obey traffic laws more so when I do in the car. I don’t speed (more a function of my strength than self-control), travel in my lane, and stop at all red lights. I’m guilty of a few “rolling stops” at stop signs, but that is pretty much my only real sin. I can’t say I’m quite so good in my car–my speedometer seems to find itself to the right of the posted limit. Relative to miles traveled, I am a better citizen on my bike than in my car. In fact, a recent study shows that cyclist, overall, are the same way.
I feel extra pressure to obey the law while on the bike, especially when there are cars around. If I have a legal right to be on the road, taking the lane when required, then I have an obligation to follow the law. I also know that every minor infraction–every stop sign rolled through, every right turn on red without a stop–is justification in a drivers mind that cyclists just don’t follow the rules, even if a car doing the same thing would go unnoticed. Why do I have to share the road with these scofflaws? Is it fair that we’re held to a higher standard than cars? No, but it’s reality. It doesn’t even count the times that we are held accountable for things that aren’t really in the law (“don’t you have to use the bike lane?”).
For this reason, I get upset when I see cyclists, especially ones who look like fair-weather ones, making flagrant violations of the rules. Twice in the last two weeks, I’ve seen cyclists going the wrong way on a one-way street. Once I was a pedestrian at the park; another time I was on my bike. I called out to them–in both instances, they made it clear that they knew, but didn’t care.
This makes me infuriated. This behavior makes it that much more likely there will be a letter to the editor of the paper, or someone shouting at me as they drive by, or worse. It is a legitimate reason for drivers to hate us. It’s hard enough to own space on the road without that. It’s especially annoying when it’s folks who only ride on really nice spring days, as those of us who put in thousands of miles, regardless of it being near-freezing in February or in the nineties in August are cast in the same lot.
So, I ask that if you ride, please make sure you understand the rules of the road, and try to follow them. For the most part, they are the same rules you have to follow in your car. Not only is it the right thing to do, you are showing cars that bikes belong, too!