Wednesday, June 24, 2009
One of the problems I've been struggling with is the shift away from cycling advocates accepting that obeying traffic laws and right-of-way assignments is the best course of action for cyclists, and a growing group of cyclists who believe traffic laws that apply to motor vehicles are unwarranted for bicycles.
Whether it's riding the wrong way, ignoring stop signs and signals, or painting DIY traffic markings in streets, there is a growing belief that bicycles are not really vehicles as understood by traffic law, but a special sub-category stuck somewhere in between pedestrians and motorcycles. This use to be called the pedacyclist (kind of like a minotaur), and still is in crash reporting data, even though cyclists have been classified as the operators of vehicles for the last three decades.
This desire for recognition as a vehicle when it suits us causes a lot of ill will to be directed towards cyclists, even the innocent. Stories of vehicular cyclists who seldom experience harassment, but who are subjected to harassment when they are riding with non-vehicular cyclists, are common now. The cyclist who stops at a stop sign goes unacknowledged, while the scofflaw cyclists becomes the icon for all cyclists.
I try to ride in such a way that motorists (and other cyclists) will know what I am about to do. I communicate by lane position, hand signals, eye contact, body language, and lane position (again). At a stop sign, I come to a full stop if the intersection is occupied by another vehicle or pedestrian. If there is no one in sight, I'll roll through at a low speed (below 5 mph), after looking in all directions, so I am not guilt free.
So how about you? What do you do at a stop sign?
Austin, Texas, the city that pushes for bicycles to be recognized as semi-vehicles (hybrid-pedestrians?), and the city many cycling advocates in Texas want to model, is experiencing a rising level of anger directed towards cyclists. This stems from the demand to remove on-street parking for the creation of more (crap) bike lanes, for the demand for laws that place cyclists in a special "protected" category as a "vulnerable road user" (along with people in wheelchairs), and a growing demand for stop signs to not apply to bicyclists.
Here is a report on the stop sign problem in Austin, and a follow-up report.