Years ago during a very rare visit from my parents, I let my Dad drive us up to Mt. Baker for a picnic. I did not let him drive us down. Blowing around corners much faster than the speed limit and crossing the double yellow lines while doing so, had me white knuckled, exhausted, and angry by the time we arrived at the top. Well not really the top top, just as far as the road would take us. Anyway, Dad was not happy that I bumped him from the driver’s seat and was rather surly for the rest of the day. He just didn’t understand why I was upset enough to take the keys away. When I told him that by not obeying the speed limit he could have killed us, his response was that speed limit signs were merely “suggestions,” he was in completely control, and knew what he was doing. Of course, the flip side to this is that he was very prone to road rage when other drivers didn’t follow the rules.
Dad has long since departed from this world but unfortunately his ideas about traffic laws are still alive and well — as is his egocentric attitude that it is okay for him to break the rules but not for anyone else. I see it every day when I ride. Sadly some of what I see are bicyclists blatantly ignoring stop signs, stop lights, and other basic rules of the road. Look, I get it. Nothing is more annoying that stopping at a red light on a bike when the sensor doesn’t register that you are there and you have to wait for a car to pull up so it will change. I’ve been sorely tempted to run a red light or two when that happens. I’ve even asked a passing pedestrian to hit the walk button to change a light. It’s frustrating. Just as having to stop at stop signs every other block. But just because traffic rules are annoying and sometimes inconvenient doesn’t mean we get to be immune from them.
As cyclists, we can’t have it both ways. We can’t expect drivers to respect our right to share the road if we don’t respect and abide by the rules. If we believe its okay to blow through a stop sign because “we know what we’re doing” then you have to know that some other asshole behind a wheel believes the same thing. (Sorry Dad, but you were an ass behind the wheel.) The ultimate result of this kind of thinking is that someone gets killed — and it’s usually the cyclist. I was stopped at a busy crossroad when a roadie ran the stop sign. He turned to look to at me for a second, laughed and shook his head, like I was the idiot. He squeaked through traffic, leaving me wondering if he had a death wish.
One of the things I hear most often from non-cycling drivers is the complaint of cyclists blowing through stoplights and stop signs, not signaling, and hogging the road. It makes them angry and when there is a tragic accident involving a cyclist, it’s automatically assumed that the cyclist is at fault. Never mind that there are many cyclists out there that do obey the rules, people only remember the ones who don’t.
I can almost hear my Dad telling me what a pompous, preachy, idiot I’m being right now and maybe I am – at least a little. I’m just saying that cyclists get a bad enough rap as it is just for being out there, we don’t need to justify the idea that cyclists are all scofflaws and deserve whatever happens to them on the road.