GGW posted a letter by cyclist Adam Irish asking other cyclists to stop at red lights and stop signs.
Sure it is, neither is likely to get a ticket.
By neglecting the rules of the road, errant cyclists not only endanger their own safety, but the safety of drivers, pedestrians, and above all, other bicyclists.
If bicyclists want to be treated equally on the road, they need to be treated equally in the eyes of the law. A biker running a stop sign should be just as likely to get a ticket as a motorist doing the same. This is certainly not the case in the status quo.
One bothersome thing about this letter is that it lacks any facts to back it up. I know of no information about bike-bike crashes or fatalities (though I've looked extensively) so I doubt that Adam can back up the statement that cyclists risk the lives of other cyclists "above all". Above all, and by a huge margin, when you bike like an idiot you endanger yourself. Nor does he show a large correlation between illegal cyclist behavior and safety. I'm not saying there isn't one, I just think driver behavior is probably a bigger player in road safety (and even in cyclist safety).
The thing about this argument, and I've heard it before, is that it is built on two, IMO, fallacies:
- legal behavior=safe behavior
- if cyclists follow the law then drivers will treat them with respect.
Our goal in writing the law should be to make the first statement true. But there are times when legal and safe don't match up (like biking on DC-295, which may be legal, but probably isn't safe). There are also times when illegal and unsafe don't match up - like the Idaho Stop. It's illegal but safe (and possibly even safer than the status quo). So while I'm not telling everyone to run out there and break the law, if what you want is safe cycling than ask cyclists to ride safely, not legally.
His second point is a bit stronger. I think the reputation cyclists have as scofflaws does hurt us. But I'm not sure how to change that. As I've noted before even legal behavior raises the ire of some motorists. I've even been yelled at to get on the sidewalk in places where it was illegal. Just the other day a driver yelled at me for not running a red light because I was blocking her from turning right on red (where it was signed as illegal). So, I'm skeptical that it would change the opinion of that many people. If drivers insist that we obey the law as much as they do, I think we're already there, and I suspect we actually follow it more often than they do.
I think cyclists need to take the initiative to bike safely and courteously, but not entirely sure the two go hand in hand (except that it is discourteous to bike dangerously. So all safe cycling is courteous. But some courteous moves have nothing to do with safety). To believe that cyclists are going to change their behavior - behavior that is probably pretty rational and safe - just to appease drivers (when what we really need is a change in the law) is idealistic to the extreme. If getting cyclists to follow the law when it is only for political purposes were easy, someone would have pulled it off by now.
Until then, DC bicyclists need to take the initiative to obey traffic laws without enforcement for the sake of safety and courtesy. After all, they go hand in hand — just ask an infuriated driver or a cyclist who has met one.