Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Why Can't We All Just Play by the Same Rules?

Sometimes, riding my bike, I feel like I'm playing Fizzbinn with cars, except that we're both making up the rules as we go along.

Me: Ah, here we are at a four-way stop. The car on my right goes, and then it's my turn ...
Car: No, I get to go, too. It's Tuesday after 7:30 pm, and Rule L84WORK states that I don't have to wait for the bicycle.
Me: Oh, sorry. My bad. Well, now I'm back on the road and ... yeow, that was close!
Car: Yeah, my car gets less than 15 miles to the gallon, so the three-foot law is waved. Rule H2-F150 says that no guzzling inertia should be wasted.
Me: Yeah, what was I thinking. I'll just cut through this neighborhood here, then, and down this hill and ... oh, another stop sign up ... well, nobody coming so I'll just run it. Rule Z00M-Z00M, you know.

Now, a lot of folks may think that there's nothing wrong with this, and very often they are right. We all just kind of "bend" rules usually. I mean, who am I hurting when I run that stop sign? And, since that car is going to just pass me in a hundred yards or so, what does it matter if he goes ahead and skips my turn in the four-way stop? Usually, nobody gets hurt.


Very often, the problem is that people really don't know what the rule is. How many of us understand what we're supposed to do when we come to a four-way stop at the exact same time as the vehicle opposite us, and we both signal for left turns?

Tuesday morning, I was driving to work (yeah, in a car ... ugh) and passed a cyclist on Holt Road. He was riding against traffic -- biking west in the eastbound lane -- and listening to an iPod with both ear buds in. And Holt is not a quiet back road -- it's got a 40-mph speed limit, but is one of the few roads that runs between Nolensville Road and Edmondson Pike, so it gets a ton of commuter traffic. I don't take Holt to work on my bicycle in the morning, and most people think that I am crazy.

I could have pulled over and yelled at him to get on the right side of the road and pull out those ear buds, but I think that would have caused an accident in its own right. Hopefully, he was just going down to one of the neighborhoods on Holt, because if he went all the way to Edmondson Pike and continued on, he would need nerves of steel. Or an adamantium skeleton.

Don't mess with my muttonchops!

Maybe we need more police, or cameras on every lightpost and telephone pole, so that any infraction yielded a ticket. I kind of wish that a police car had come along and gotten that cyclist off of Holt Road, if for no other reason than to explain to him that he needs to get on the right side of the road (using the iPod in traffic isn't illegal -- just stupid). A lot of folks don't know which side of the road they're supposed to bike on, just like a lot of car drivers don't know that they're supposed to leave at least three-feet clearance when passing a cyclist. Hell, most drivers don't even know that a bicycle qualifies as a street-legal vehicle, with the same rights and responsibilities as cars.

Probably, though, it's that second word -- responsibility -- that we need more of. People need to be responsible for their own actions. Before we get out on the road -- either on a bicycle or in a car -- we need to learn what the rules are, and once on the road we need to play by the rules at all times.

Sure, I'm going to look like a bit of an idiot when I come to a full stop at an intersection in the middle of nowhere at 3:45 am on an overnight brevet. But if we keep playing Fizzbinn, sooner or later we will all lose.

1 comment:

  1. Well said. Very sound, well-reasoned thoughts on a subject near and dear to everyone who rides a bike on the road. Thanks!