Saturday, March 15, 2008

Just Because I Could, Doesn't Mean I Will...

Assumptions are funny things. For instance, sometimes, okay-most of the time, I will stop at an intersection, look... and if it's clear, but still the red light glows big-n-strong, I'll go. I always feel a little guilty about it.

I wonder to myself, "Suppose you're giving cyclists a further bad rep?". Or... "Maybe some little kid watched you do that, and now they will think it's alright to do the same and maybe, just maybe, they'll get hit/hurt -or worse?". Even occasionally... "Maybe you're helping, in some smallish way, to keep the hate directed at cyclers for being off-the-grid, non-law abiding freaks who only eat granola [or space-aged Gu simula-foods], stink of patchouli & B.O. and only ever vote the Green Party?".

So tonight, on tonight's ride, I tried something a touch different...

Every intersection I came to with a stop sign or a traffic light, I stopped. Man, it took some time too. Should say, "Added some time to the ride".

I'm talking E V E R Y intersection: after dark, no signs of ANY car lights, certain streets didn't have any streetlamps... but still I stopped. Still stopped like some Grandma making a midnight run for her Knitting Journal Monthly magazine that she forgot earlier today at the supermarket.

It felt odd. Excessive. Weird. Made me feel like a Brown-Noser. A Narc. Made me feel like this girl I knew in the 2nd grade who would tell on any classmate she saw picking their nose and chewing up/on the net gain of the aforementioned finger-plunge.

Near the end of my 18.76 mile ride tonight, exhausted from all the stop/starting, wondering if I'd just shot through a not-very-old [until tonight] set of KoolStop Salmon brake pads, I came to a complete stop at the intersection of 39th Ave. & Lake St. here in Minneapolis... right beside an also stopped Buick Electra. The light had just turned red. One car passed thru the opposing intersection as we waited, and that was just after our light turned red. I waited, the car next to me waited. I waited, the car next to me waited. Finally, as I was watching the opposing traffic light go from green to yellow-mercifully, I heard the whine of an electric window. This older woman leaned halfway across the passenger seat of her car and said to me, "Hey mister... what the hell is your problem? I have to wait at these fuckers... you don't. Jesus, you're an idiot!". And with that, her window went up as our light went to green, and she sped away... leaving me in a fairly large cloud of oily blue smoke.

That girl by the way, the one I knew back in 2nd grade, yeah that one...

...did I mention I would spend my days at recess watching her go over behind the big oak tree in the eastern most edge of our playground and pile-drive her nostrils endlessly?

-Scott Cutshall Large Fella on a Bike


beth h said...

There's a very occasional event in Portland called Uncritical Mass, or Proper Mass. They obey every single traffic signal and marker as if they were operating, well, vehicles. Pisses drivers off royally.

There's a joke that in any other town, four people will come to an intersection and think, "Someone's gonna go first and by God it will be me."

In Oregon, the prevailing thought is: "Someone gonna go first, and by God it WON'T be me." Come to Portland and you'll see what I mean.

Anonymous said...

I understand that the law is the law, but I also understand that rules evolved because some people couldn't follow guidelines.

The reason we stop at intersections is so we don't hit someone who has the right-of-way. If I'm riding a bike, and I come to an intersection where the law requires I stop, I will yield to all traffic that has the right-of-way, but if there is no traffic I will slow but NOT stop before proceeding. How slow? Slow enough to ENSURE that there is no traffic... and sometimes that means I stop.

In short, I use my noggin to get the maximum safety possible without unnecessarily sacrificing efficiency (momentum).

As an aside, I think that if we slightly restructured our roadways and our traffic laws, we could improve vehicle fuel economy while maintaining or even improving safety.

Anonymous said...

I'm one of those who mostly waits for the light. But let's not forget that traffic lights are designed for heavy cars and trucks. Some lights don't turn green until it senses that a car is there. Even when I try to wait for the light on one of those weight-sensitive squares/diamonds, it won't turn green for me. So if there is heavy cross traffic, I have to hit the cross walk button (meaning, I gotta shuffle over to the sidewalk), and if there is not traffic, I have no other choice but to push on through. All I'm trying to point out is that it creates a culture of disobeying traffic lights because they're not designed to take the cyclist into account.


SiouxGeonz said...

This town, too, is rife with reverse-chicken players. I remember a fellow at a four-way stop rolling down his window to inform me: "I will wait." I *did* appreciate the attitude when I'd landed to the right of right-turning traffic, intending to go straight...and the fellow to the left of me rolls down the window to say "would you like to go ahead?"
Predictability is important. If it's going to be close but I'm going to be first, if I were to come to a complete utter stop it would confuse as well as delay that guy approaching the 4-way stop. (I've done it. It does.) LIke the blue smoke woman, they don't expect me to wait.
Rules were meant to help things run more efficiently and safely. Sometimes they don't serve that purpose at all. Just because there are rules doesn't mean we should forget how to think.

Leroy Grinchy said...

I agree with the poster who stops only if there is traffic, but slows down otherwise. I think that common sense is best.

However, in Philly, there are many narrow one way streets. I always pull off the road to allow ALL traffic behind me to pass so I can ride in the center of the street. This keeps me out of the door zone. I yield to one car at stop signs at all times. Sometimes, I pull over and yield until all traffic goes away.

All this does take longer. However, the decrease in stress makes it far worth it. This also ensures I need to leave with time to spare so I don't have to break these rules.

I have yet to have someone yell at me for following traffic rules. Here people treat you as you are invisible. Say hi and most people will act as if they don't see you. I guess they are afraid you are going to murder them. The smiley faced murder. Hi. Now die. :)

I love riding directly behind people and they freak out sometimes refusing to move. I also refuse to move. I am always more patient than they are. I think the very act of being in an auto makes one impatient.