Thursday, July 25, 2013

Still Think The Rules of the Road Are For Everyone But You?

A cyclists has plead guilty to Vehicular Manslaughter in an accident where a pedestrian was struck and killed by a cyclist who failed to yield the right of way to pedestrians and crossing traffic at an intersection.  The most common complaint I hear from motorists who do not regularly cycle is that cyclists don't obey traffic laws, and to be fair, there are several who do not.  They blow through red lights and stop signs, ride the wrong way up roads and sidewalks, cruise in center turn lanes, and the list goes on.  A common rebuttal by those cyclists is that a cyclists is not likely to cause harm like an automobile, so really the rules shouldn't apply.

Well, we now have not one but TWO documented cases where bicycles operating in the street have struck and killed pedestrians.  Leaving aside other one-off incidents like the one on the Katy Trail a few years back, there was something in common with both:  They failed to obey traffic laws that apply to vehicles including bicycles.  And in these instances, the results were tragic.  Is it time, in light of these events, to recognize that the rules of the road should apply to cyclists?  It would seem that disobeying the rules of the road have ensured that we take the rights, the right of way, from another group of people.  As a class of vehicle, the complaints of cyclists that others will not share this common means of travel seem to be totally forgotten as an other class of travelers are crowded out selfishly.

Bicycles are vehicles.  The rules apply so that we may share and maximize access to our public roadways.  I can't speak to the state of mind of these two cyclists, but from an outsider's perspective, what these two did seems selfish and self-centered.  'Pedestrians be damned, I have a commute to think of.'  Isn't that the exact kind of thing these scofflaws call for motorists to stop thinking?

What's sad is that there is a group of cyclists who do actually believe that the rules of the road should be obeyed, and in spite of their best advocacy efforts, they are Mau-mau'ed by city bicycling planners or often by the largest advocates for cycling.  Maybe it's time for a refreshing look at those ideas, that vehicles, cars, pedestrians and the rest can share the road safely.  Safe travel doesn't teach itself, and one wont learn through osmosis by operating in the street.  I cannot say with certainty that education would have prevented these accidents, just as education and licensing of automobile operation doesn't entirely eliminate dangerous or aggressive drivers, but maybe it would have in these instances.  Maybe these two people, confronted with the humanity of travel in the street, would have made a different choice.  Maybe others who today flaunt the law would alternatively become good ambassadors to the activity of cycling.  Maybe the perception of animosity on the road would decline.