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Inconveniences and Annoyances

July 24, 2012

If there’s an award for the Streetsblog comment that should be featured as its own opinion piece, this one from Jesse Greene is it:

We need to get bikes out of this legal squeeze where they’re treated like cars when it’s convenient for pedestrians, but they’re treated like pedestrians when it’s convenient for motorists.  The law should reflect what we all know, which is that bikes are sui generis.  They can be operated at car speeds but they need separate infrastructure because motorists can’t help but be pigs around them.  But they’re not so big, fast, and hard to maneuver that they need to be regulated exactly like cars.  Basically, we need to codify what all responsible cyclists are already doing.

When people say that cyclists have “all the same rights and responsibilities as motorists,” watch out.  What they really mean is that cyclists ought to have all the same inconveniences and annoyances as motorists.  If drivers have to stop for every red light, so do cyclists.  (So no Idaho stop laws.)  If drivers have to take an indirect route every now and then, so do cyclists. (So no contra-flow or two-way bike lanes.)  If drivers have to be licensed and get their vehicles insured, so do cyclists. (So no more “free” bike lanes.)  And if drivers have to follow seat belt laws, cities also need to require cyclists to wear helmets. (So, you know…)

A bicycle is not a car.  In discussing the behavior of cyclists, the allocation of street space, and where the NYPD should be directing its enforcement efforts, we ought to start with this fact before reflexively chastising cyclists whose behavior, while technically illegal, is more annoying than deadly.

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