This weekend a letter to the editor in the Washington Post has prompted a lot of discussion. I'll just say a few things about it, but it's not worth going into the same well-trod territory again.
The traffic is grueling... The increase in bicycles and scooters complicates matters. Bike lanes make things safer and smoother. But not all bicyclists obey traffic laws, even the big ones — don’t run a red light, stop while oncoming cars have a left-turn signal.
If by complicated, she means scooters and bikes makes traffic worse, that's probably not true. A bike creates only ~25% as much traffic congestion as a car, so depending on the mode shift (transit to bike, ped to bike and car to bike, etc...) it may be bad or good or a wash. It's true that not all bicyclists obey traffic laws, pretty much like every other group of road users. But it's not clear how any of this is relevant except as a form of pre-confession whataboutism.
And if you ever call out the rule-breakers, you get an earful of pretty foul language as they fly away with their middle fingers held up.
That probably depends on how you call them out.
But here’s what happened when a rule-abiding cyclist called me out when I broke a traffic rule (a lesser one, in my opinion):
Her opinion is her own, but we - as a District - have actually decided which is lesser and which is not. The fine for running a stop light on a bike is $25, for blocking a bike lane is $65. So, there you go.
I pulled over — into a bike lane— so I wouldn’t block traffic on Q Street NW.
If you stopped in a bike lane, you did block traffic.
The other parent took a really long time to pull out, longer than I expected him to take. But the longer I waited, the more I needed to see it through.
This makes no sense to me except maybe that people are irrational about sunk costs.
One cyclist waited behind me. When it was finally time for me to pull into the spot, she came around to my window and told me that there’s a law prohibiting obstruction of the bike lane. I (pretty sternly) told her I was waiting for a spot and it had obviously taken longer than I had anticipated. She suggested I should have circled the block rather than create what was, in her view, a safety hazard. I told her that’s not the way the world works. But what I meant was, that’s not the way cities work.
So this is the critical part right here. It would have been consistent to say "Sorry, I didn't know" or "I don't believe in laws" or "I don't follow laws that don't makes sense and this one doesn't." But she doesn't. She thinks following the law is of value (as noted above), she seemed to know she was breaking it and she didn't argue that the law as written didn't make sense. Instead she argued that "that's not how cities work" which is something SHE complained about earlier in the letter.
The traffic is grueling, made worse by all the people trying to stop to let someone out, to pick someone up or to deliver something right in the middle of the street.
Which is what SHE did. She's part of the very problem she identified at the start of her letter.
She did concede that she should have apologized. This part is pretty key too.
But not every violation is a hazard. We live in a city where things can’t always be orderly. Better to focus on the violators who are making the roads more dangerous.
It's true that not every violation is a hazard. If you allow your driver's license to expire by one day and then drive anyway, that's not a hazard. But there's no way for her to know how dangerous stopping in a bike lane is because, as far as I know, no one has studied it. We know that bike lanes make roads safer for cyclists and drivers (and discourage sidewalk cycling too), so we could surmise that removing one by blocking it makes it less safe. In a Colbert-esque truthiness sense, that certainly FEELS true; but honestly we don't know.
What we do know is that it inconveniences cyclists (and other road users who have to adjust). It does so for the convenience of the driver who is stopped. When you break the law and inconvenience others for your own convenience, that may not be hazardous, but it is without a doubt rude and selfish. We should probably not do that.
Better to focus on the violators who are making the roads more dangerous. (I’d start with the cyclists, but that’s just me.)
I'm not going to go into it, but that's just stupid.
Still, if we’re going to cite everyone who double-parks for a couple of minutes (with her signal on, to warn everyone behind her),
Double-parking is legal (most of the time). Stopping in a bike lane isn't.
no one will ever get a delivery again. Or be able to drop off a child at a downtown school.
That's not true. Obviously you can make deliveries and drop kids off at school without breaking the law. And if we can't then let's change street design/space and/or the law to make it work.
I've said this before and I'm sure I'll have reason to say it again, the primary cause of roadway deaths is that too many people put their own convenience ahead of the safety of others and themselves.