Saturday, January 22, 2011

My Hair Shirt

Let me preface this by saying that my standards for my own conduct have no bearing on what I think other people should do.

When I ride, I scrupulously follow traffic laws. I stop for red lights. I stop at stop signs. Even if there are no cars or pedestrians at the intersection. I stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk. I ALWAYS, ALWAYS yield the right of way to pedestrians, regardless of whether they are in the right. I ride as far to the right as is safe, except to make left hand turns. Etc, Etc.

Sometimes, I break a traffic law. When this happens, I feel pretty awful. To help expiate the guilt, I fine myself. I look up the amount of the fine for the violation in Washington State, and I donate that amount to a cause that, hopefully, will help those in need.

Today, I donated $124 to Northwest Harvest, because I was unable to stop in time to stay outside of a crosswalk into which a pedestrian had entered. (Riding far to the right, I couldn't see around a truck that was parked nose into the crosswalk.) The pedestrian was able to step back in time. I am very thankful for that, because if I were ever to hit a pedestrian, I don't know what I'd do. (Lesson learned: if I'm approaching a crosswalk, and I can't see the curb at the crosswalk, I need to either slow down or, if it's safe, move toward the center of the road until I can see the curb.)

Interestingly, later in the ride, I was stopped at a crosswalk with pedestrians in it while several cars blew through, while a cop sat watching. (I am confident that if one of the drivers had had a knife and was Native American and hearing-impaired, the cop would have swung right into action,)

Anyway, if my code of conduct is personal, why am I publicizing it? Don't know. Maybe because I'd like to believe there are others out there who have the same personal code of conduct? Or maybe I'm being just a wee bit sanctimonious.

Ride on, ride on.


Kevin Connors said...

Man, if I donated a nickel to a charity for every traffic law I broke, I'd be poor. Yeah, you probably already knew this, but I'm one of "them". I rarely stopped at stop signs that were safe and regularly would run stop lights in Seattle on my daily commute.

I know it makes good cyclists like you look bad, but I have some logic to go with it:
- How stupid do I look stopped at a stop light on Elliott when I can see approaching traffic a block in advance?
- When I stop at a stop light, I feel unsafe if no cars are stopped behind me. I don't want to be in a compromised position in the middle of a street.
As for stop signs, I don't really have a good excuse. I still run them regularly, no good excuse for it except that they make tired.
I will say, however, that I always stop for peds in crosswalk - at least until they are out of my way.

My commute here is very different. I have 3 stop lights and 2 stop signs in my 7 mile ride to work. I stop at the lights because they control very fast traffic, and I run the stop signs because they are nonsense.

Ted Diamond said...

My way of riding is my way of riding, and nothing more. It doesn't, in my opinion, make me a good cyclist. And I won't judge folks who don't ride the way I do.

One thing I regret is it means I can't really ride with anyone anymore. It's not fun for people to have to wait for me; nor is it safe for people to ride behind me. In fact, on my bikes, I have just enough rear fender to keep from getting a stripe -- hoping that a rooster tail will discourage people from riding on my wheel.

It's an oddity. and I've given up trying to figure out why it feels right for me. It would probably take years of therapy :-)

I really, really miss the kind of easily accessible rural riding that I did in Syracuse and Ann Arbor. There, with miles and miles between stop signs or lights, this would not be an issue. If Carol & I could find jobs in places like that, we'd be there in a heartbeat.

P Evans said...

I first thought I'd sit this one out, but I simply can't resist.
1. Ted is a mensch. Doing his own thing, yeah! Don't ever change...
2. I'm somewhere in between. (Yep, mobile situational ethics.) Because if a system is grossly unfair, I cannot abide--and let's face it, often by simply being on a bike you get treated like dirt by the general population. I've been hit and broken bones while following the exact letter of the law. I always stop for peds (have had cars blare their horns at me when I slow and move to the center of the lane to alert them to the person in the crosswalk). I've ridden my current route to work to the tune of 50K miles now, and there are some spots where it is CRAZY to do what the traffic signs etc command. But I still gotta say: "Ted, you are a better man than me".
PS Ted, you and Carol don't have to move to NY--there's a fair bit of extremely quiet rural road here with a lot less snow. But just you try giving up West Seattle! No Husky ice cream, Easy Streets, eagles and orcas, Schmitz Park and snowy Olympics--no way! said...

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