I had one of those light bulb over your head moments today.
With all the silly stories in the Globe lately, the general talk among people I meet, and even people commenting here my mind has been working overtime on the following problem: “What can we as cyclists do about the rampant law breaking going on among our peers.” I started thinking, should we use peer pressure, should we push for ticketing, should we this or should we that. I was really racking my brain about what “we could do.” Then something strange happened.
I was out for a nice easy recovery ride after my little trip to The Cape, I had moved over to the left lane because a bus had “asserted its right” to the right lane (basically it just shoved itself in there, what was I going to do, its a f-ing bus, they win), ahead of me the light turned red, so me, the bus, and everyone behind me and the bus came to a stop (as people are wont to do at red lights). Suddenly the jerk behind me in the passenger seat reaches over and begins to honk the horn (for his wife who was sitting there calmly) and begins to scream at me out of the window. I show him the red light, he continues to rage, I show him my middle finger, he loved that. He voiced his opinion that I should get out of the road because I was slowing him down (and other incomprehensible mumblings about hurting me and killing me) I asserted that he was an impatient jerk and that if he continued to threaten me I was going to have to assert my right to use the entire lane (upside his head) and I also made it clear that I was capable of defending myself and will not sit ideally by while he issues threats of violence (PS. his kids were in the back seat while he ranted, I used no profanity and never raised my voice). He ranted, I called him a impatient jerk and told him he was a horrible example for his children. The light turned green, he instructed his poor wife to speed off…only to be stopped at the next red light in about 100 feet (Harvard square I love you), and that is when the light bulb went off in my head.
You run red lights, they complain, you stop at red lights they threaten to run you over. I realized that this whole “concerned motorist” horse puckey, is just that, horse puckey. Several other motorists sat and watched this lunatic threaten to kill me because I STOPPED at a red light. Did they wonder “what will cyclists think about our road-user group” or “how can we present a better image of ourselves” or “what will the general public think of us if this man gives a bad name by behaving like this.” Hell no they didn’t.
Pedestrians don’t worry that they are going to give pedestrians a bad name when they walk out into traffic (a group of them almost got killed not 10 feet from me today because all of them looked left and then walked into traffic, the only reason they were not all flattened by that cab was because I screamed “STOP HEY STOP!”). Motorists certainly don’t give two hoots about what the general public will think when they make turns with no signals, get waaaay to close to cyclists as they pass, speed, open doors into oncoming traffic, and all the other great things they do every day to endanger themselves and others just so they can get to work 1 minute faster.
I say “we cyclists” stop caring as well. When someone tells you “I see so many cyclists run red lights” tell them “No you don’t you see a series of individuals that choose to break the law” If someone says to you “cyclists this” or “cyclists that” tell them “bullshit, there is no ‘cyclists’ in the same way there is no ‘motorists’ or ‘pedestrians’ there is only individual people who choose to obey or disobey the law.”
By placing people into big anonymous groups (motorists, cyclists, pedestrians) we are overlooking the personal responsibility of each user. ‘Cyclists’ are not to be blamed, individuals who break the law are. I think we should bring it down to a personal level. For instance when that asshole behind me was talking about running me over because I had the audacity to follow the law I didn’t blame all motorists, I got right up in his face and blamed him. It wasn’t the guy behind him in the car that made him act like a violent asshole. Similarly if you drive a car and you see some guy on a bike run through a red light, don’t blame cyclists, blame that guy.
So the question was “What can we as cyclists do about the rampant law breaking going on among our peers.”, and the answer is NOTHING. There is nothing you can do to make someone you have never met and will most likely never meet follow the law. You can’t make them behave, and you shouldn’t be asked to. It is an unreasonable request. If someone ever says that to you, ask them what car drivers can do to make sure other car drivers behave, the answer NOTHING. The only thing you can do is follow the law yourself. If you stop at red lights, if you signal your turns, and get in the correct lane, if you yield to pedestrians, if you follow the rest of the relatively few laws bikers and drivers are supposed to follow, you are doing enough. You can’t make everyone else behave, and you shouldn’t be asked to.
There are simply a whole lot of individual people (walkers, bikers, drivers) who are impatient, assholes. Lets be frank, they want to go where they want to go, and they want to do it right now, and they don’t give a damn who gets in the way, or what happens when they break the rules. You can’t change the way they act. The only thing we can do is change your own behavior. If you don’t like it when people make turns with no signal on, next time you get in a car, turn that signal on. If you don’t like it that people on bikes run red lights, next time you get on a bike don’t run red lights.
Boston has a problem, an attitude problem. People love to act like jerks. They are like little kids. Me Me Me! Me first, my desires are more important than yours, the rules don’t apply to me. This expresses itself in a lot of ways on the street, no matter what mode of transportation they use. We can’t change these peoples behavior. But if we want a different reality, if we desire a more useful transportation system, if we want streets that are not filled with violence and anarchy, we have to change. That change starts with our own behavior.
Tags: bikers, horse puckey, motorists, myths
Posted in advocacy, bostonbiker, education | 22 Comments »