I just want you to close your eyes, and imagine a parakeet, sitting on its branch and eating seeds—wearing a tiny little collar with the cutest little tag hanging from it…
The Atlantic Cities is producing a lot of thinking points on new ways to think about urbanization. I seldom agree with them—I find their picture to be not nearly big enough—but they are definitely heading in the right direction. I was happy to see the article Why We Should Never Fine Cyclists, as it revolves around a topic I have wanted to write about for a long time—so I commented on the post and wanted to flesh out the comment here.
But first, let’s give Three Cheers1 for the Idaho Stop!! This law allows cyclists, when it is safe to do so, to yield at stop signs instead of stopping.2
Driver’s rants about how cyclists should obey the laws so clearly come from a frustrated place where people don’t feel heard, feel they have no control over their lives, and truly hate being stuck in traffic. That is clear, because they obviously don’t want blanket laws applied to them—and in three minutes, we could figure out a pile of laws which, if applied “fairly”, would make their lives worse.3
Road laws are solely designed to reduce the carnage caused by 2,000 lb. bullets hurtling around at high speeds. And that is all the laws should be applied to.
We have laws for pig farmers. Should tomato farmers have to build giant manure management systems?
We have laws for dog licensing. Should parakeets have to wear a little collar with a tiny tag?4
We have laws for new drivers. Should experienced drivers be forbidden from carrying passengers or driving on the highway?
My favourite bit of hilarity though: Imagine if we applied road laws to everyone who was commuting. Should pedestrians walking down the sidewalk shoulder check twice, extend their arm to signal the direction they intend to walk, then sharply turn?
It is ridiculous to imagine that pedestrians should stop at every corner and look both ways before proceeding. It is ridiculous because pedestrians move slow enough to look both ways while still walking forward. Cars move too fast to do this safely, and the consequences of driving without caution are too grim.
Laws are designed to address specific issues. Laws are designed to be unfair, in order to balance an existing unfairness. There are so many laws regulating cars because cars kill and maim a truly horrific number of people every year.5
As a driver, by virtue of guiding your missile through the streets, you agree to assume the duty of care of everyone else. You are bigger, harder and faster, and so you are responsible to everyone else, and especially those that are smaller, softer and slower—the pedestrians, cyclists, kids on skateboards and people in electric scooters.
So, calls for cyclists to obey car laws are as misguided as suggesting cars should obey bike laws, or that parakeets should obey dog laws.
Mildly ironic that you wrote this on a day when the province re-elects a premier who made a point to blow a red light in a car, no less…during her campaign. One can only wish that the premier would also logically be in support of allowing cyclists to legally pull a traffic move that’s more sensible and arguably less damaging.