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My appeal to my fellow cyclists…

17 March 2011

This morning I was doing my daily browsing through the internet, and I came across an article in the Saint Cloud Times headlined Bicyclist injured, ticketed after collision. As a long time advocate for cycling, I had a knee jerk reaction to the headline. I jumped to some conclusions. First, I assumed that some anti-cycling police officer in rural Minnesota found some way to put a cyclist at fault when he got hit by a car. Second, I assumed the Saint Cloud Times was equally prepared to make the cyclist the bad guy in the whole deal. I was mad before I even started reading the article. Then I started reading.

I was wrong.

I wasn’t wrong about being mad. In fact, I got even madder when I started reading. I was wrong about who to be mad at. The car had a green light. The cyclist had a red light. The cyclist went anyway. The cyclist deserved it.

You might think that that’s an awfully harsh thing for me to say, but here’s my take on it. As cyclists, we have a right to be on the road. It’s like the Spiderman quote “With great power comes great responsibility.” I’d like to offer a twist on that quote. With equal rights come equal responsibilities. As cyclists we scream and scream and beg and beg for motorists to share the road. Too many cyclists see that as a one way street, though. They want the motorists to give us our right of way, but they’re all too happy to dart into an intersection when it’s not their turn.

I’ll admit, I’ve been known to roll through a stop sign when no one is around, maybe cross before a light turns green if there’s no car in sight, but if there are other vehicles on the road, I respect the laws, just as I expect motorists to.

Cyclists are vulnerable on the road. We can be nearly invisible. We hide well in blind spots. There is one time, however, when we are SUPER visible, when we could just as well have a huge flashing neon sign above our heads – that’s when roll through a stop sign, run a red light, or do something else generally stupid and against the law.

So, fellow cyclists, I’m appealing to you, pleading with you, begging you, please obey traffic laws. If we are going to fight for our right to be on public roads, we have to take on the responsibility of following the rules of those roads. I’m not saying there aren’t plenty of motorists who break traffic laws, do stupid things that put our lives at risk, but there is a big difference between motorists and cyclists. They don’t have to fight to protect their right to be on the road. We do.

When you’re out on your bike, rise above it all. Follow the rules. Be BETTER than the motorist who doesn’t. It will make all of our lives easier. Thank you.

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3 Comments
  1. Amen! I have been at an intersection, in my car, with a green light and had to wait for someone in their car blowing through a red light. I, like you, will creep through a stop sign if no cars are around, or at a light if no cars are around to trip the light for me. But I always do so with care and responsibility. As you say, we are very vulnerable on the road and need to use caution, common sense and follow the rules.

  2. dirtychamois permalink

    I entirely agree with equal rights-equal responsibilities. As a roadie living in a college town, I see kids zip across intersections diagonally far more often than what I’d deem conceivable, commuters on the left hand lane, stop signs run, and red lights treated as ‘cautions.’ They’re all putting themselves at fault.

    HOWEVER. In no way did this cyclist ‘deserve’ it. The ticket-yes. Injury? No. People (read: cyclists, motorists, Democrats and Presbyterians) MAKE MISTAKES. We’re all guilty of bad decisions and lapses in judgement and neither I, you, the police officer or Al Gore are in any position to say this person ‘deserved’ injury. The court system, fortunately, can handle legal matters but the fact remains that that person might be permanently injured from that collision, and without complete knowledge of this persons wrong or right doings in life I ask you–just like we both ask cyclists to respect laws of the road–to withhold judgement from this person. We may never assume a motorist ‘deserves’ to wind up in a ditch after texting during a blizzard, and this cyclist doesn’t deserve an injury–but as the law states, they do both legally deserve a ticket.

    Keep the rubber side down,

    -Random Person from The Internet

    • You are completely right. I wasn’t clear enough with my use of pronouns. When I said “it,” I certainly didn’t mean this person deserved to be injured. Ticket, yes. Hit, yes. Injured, no. Had his injuries been anything other than non-life threatening, I would never have made that statement. I probably wouldn’t even have written this post. Trust me, very serious or life threatening injuries are a very, very sensitive subject with me right now.

      In my mind I had these things separated out. I’ve been hit by cars plenty of times by no fault of my own (other than failing to ride defensively enough), and come out unscathed. To say that this person didn’t deserve to get hit when turning against a red light at a busy intersection would be like saying that someone who tried to walk across the I-94 during rush hour didn’t deserve to be hit. The person wouldn’t necessarily get hit, but you could argue he deserved to be.

      When you’re on your bike, ride defensively, ride smart, and follow the laws. They are there to protect you.

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