Monday, August 13, 2012

Legal and Ethical Transportation

A recent editorial on the NY Times Website discusses legal and "ethical" cycling. The author, Randy Cohen, confesses to being a rule-breaking cyclist, a violator of the come-to-a-full-stop laws because "uninterrupted motion, gliding silently and swiftly, is a joy." (Uninterrupted motion - that's something that's maddeningly rare when you're driving an automobile in traffic.)

Cohen argues that even if his running of stop signs is illegal (and he mentions Idaho's exceptional bike-stop-sign law), it's ethical, because he's essentially only endangering himself. Particularly when compared with the motorist who doesn't come to a full stop but rather "blithely ambl[es] into the intersection against the light while texting and listening to your iPod and sipping a martini." Yeah, he exaggerates.

One of Cohen's strongest pieces of evidence is this disturbing statistic... in New York City in 2011, cyclists killed zero pedestrians and injured 26. Compared with drivers, who killed 43 pedestrians and injured 3,607. He also mentions that bicycles aren't "cars," which go 3 or 4 times as fast and weigh 200 times as much, nor are they "pedestrians."

He believes that the bikes-are-vehicles analogy fosters resentment when motorists see cyclists behaving differently. He mentions the attitudes in European cities where cyclists have their own extensive networks of dedicated facilities, and everyone of every age rides, and bicycles are a more ingrained part of the culture. That's all nice and dandy... but he hasn't convinced me that when we're sharing infrastructure with cars, we shouldn't behave as much like motorists as we can. (Although I'm grateful to be a beneficiary of that famous Idaho law.)

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