Thursday, June 3, 2010

Same Roads, Same Rules III

"If the bicyclist would have just waited in traffic like everybody else, we would all be talking about something else right now." - JD71 comment in Newton Tab, June 2

I will be conducting an experiment to test motorist acceptance of "Same Roads, Same Rules". On the last friday of this month, in recognition of the run over biker and critical mass, I will take the lane on Commonwealth Avenue, starting eastbound at 6:15pm from the Commonwealth Avenue Hess Station, all the way to Boston College. Then I will turn around and ride in the center lane all the way back. Where there is gridlock, I will wait patiently in the gridlock; I think I can round up a face mask and an ozone carbon filter. Where traffic is moving smoothly, I will pedal as much as I can to keep up.


dr2chase said...



Just remember, the more you drive, the less intelligent you are, and it sure shows up in blog and new article comments.

Anonymous said...

Was this a plea to avoid the rules because you'd need a mask?
You should wear a sign with your motto: "Drivers have special obligations to avoid me (bikes)" You should tell the TAB as well as the Newton officers how you feel. Saw a bicyclist the other day squeezing between a stopped bus that was ready to pull out and another bus basically alongside her. She got ticked off when the bus on the left honked at her when she cut him off. A really dumb and close call. I guess she was okay because she is allowed to pass on the right. Special consideration? No one runs into someone if they can avoid it. It's an automatic reaction to try to turn away. But the idea you should expect special consideration and the way you dismiss an officer's assessment of the situation regardless of the actions of the bicyclist is just...uniquely you, I suppose. Good luck.

Nathan Phillips said...

Anonymous: Avoid THE rules? Which rules? Drivers do have obligations to avoid bikes. Bikes also have obligations to avoid running into motorists. But there is no cookie cutter single set of rules that govern how both accomplish this.

Same roads, same rights, same responsibilities would be a better slogan.

Velouria said...

Looking forward to the results.

Anonymous said...

The rules that say you should stop for traffic, but Sean insinuates that would require him to have a mask. Maybe I read it wrong, but Sean seemed to say there are different rules. Same responsibilities...absolutely, I'd agree with that. Same rights? Sort of. If a car is going 25MPH up hill, and a bicycle is going 10MPH, should the bicycle have the same right to take up a full traffic lane? I wouldn't think so. But Sean clearly stated motorists have a special obligation to avoid bicyclists. And there was quite a bit more than an implication that if the cyclist did something unexpected, or put themselves in the middle of a situation that was iresponsible, well, it's still the motorist's fault if there was an accident. I don't think that is what anyone wants to hear from someone advocating bike safety. Let alone running around the city pretending to be a community activist. It smacks of arrogance and entitlement. There's enough of that in Newton under the covers without a vocal advertisement of it.

Nathan Phillips said...

Sean did not post those blogs, I did. My name is Nathan Phillips. The mask I referred to was not to hide, but to protect against all the pollution spewing out of the gridlocked vehicles. Yes, I feel cars have a special obligation to avoid bikes and pedestrians. I drive a car too, so I am 'one of you', and I take that obligation seriously. Cars weigh alot and are very dangerous. That is why we allow kids to ride bikes but not to drive cars. But bikers also have a special obligation not to ride recklessly and endanger motorists, pedestrians and other bikers.
The slogan "same roads, same rules" denies that there are real differences that should be respected. We should be respecting differences, not denying their existence.
I do not feel entitled to special treatment by anyone. Some motorists have a feeling of entitlement over the roads, as if they are the only taxpayers, and as if there are no external costs associated with their transportation choices.

Anonymous said...

Everyone is spending so much time blaming each other (drivers say bikers don't follow the rules - some don't - bikers say drivers don't follow the rules - some don't - both say pedestrians don't follow the rules - some don't) that I think a lot of us are missing the big picture.

We can't ban cars, we can't ban bikes and we can't ban pedestrians, so what can we do? One solution is to design the roads in a safer way, and for high traffic areas this is, I think, a preferable solution. However, this can be expensive, doesn't always work as intended and can't be done on every single road.

Another solution is to step up enforcement of traffic regulations, for all parties, but this is also expensive and it is not the primary duty of police, which means that either new police will have to be hired for traffic duty, more police will have to be put on overtime for traffic duty or police will have to be removed from their primary role in order to focus on traffic. With the current economy, cities and towns are cutting police positions, rather than creating them and this is not likely to change anytime soon. And even if cities and towns step up traffic enforcement, it is not possible for police to be at every dangerous intersection, at every crosswalk, patrolling every bike lane for double parkers, etc.

So now, on to what I think everyone is missing: I think there needs to be a focus on better education, for bikers and pedestrians, but most of all for drivers! The perfect opportunity exists for this because drivers are already required to take a test in order to receive a license. The costs associated with adding new material to driver's ed and to the road test would be low compared to the cost of other solutions.

When I took driver's ed in 2002, there was no mention of bikers whatsoever! The topic of how to drive on the road safely with bikes MUST be covered in driver's ed and on the road test. Drivers should be taught, for example, that bikers may take the full lane because frankly I don't know if most drivers are even aware of this.

Free, or very inexpensive workshops for bikers would be a big help here as well, so that novice bikers will feel comfortable on that roads and will understand both the regulations in place to protect them and the rules they must follow. Just one quick example - I saw bikers yesterday attempting to make a left turn on the LEFT side of left turning traffic into a bike lane that was on the RIGHT side of the road and they got angry when a truck almost ran them over. A little education could help here too.

Sean Roche said...

As Nathan commented, I did not write this post. (I agree with most of it, but more on that at a later date.) I have said that motorists have a special responsibility to cyclists and pedestrians. If you operate a one-ton plus vehicle, you have an obligation to operate it in a way that avoids the tragic outcomes from a careless error on the part of the motorist or even the cyclist or pedestrian. That does not, however, absolve cyclists or pedestrians of the obligation to exercise necessary caution and self-preservation.

It's a simple and, I would have assumed, uncontested principle. If you are larger and more powerful and capable of inflicting orders of magnitude more harm, when you share the road, you have an obligation to do no harm. That construction is no different than the rules of the sea, where it is fundamental and not debatable that larger, more powerful craft yield to smaller, less powerful.

So, no. If a cyclist does something irresponsible or careless, it's not the motorists fault. But, boy, wouldn't it be great if motorists operated in a way that a small act of irresponsibility or carelessness didn't get a cyclist killed or severely injured.

dr2chase said...

Just a datapoint on the whole "bikes in the way delaying traffic" whine -- people only complain about this, because they do not regard bicycles as legitimate traffic. Today, HUNDREDS of cars traversed Lexington on Lowell Street, at an average pace slower than a fat old man on a cargo bike, because none of the cars that I passed entering Lexington, ever passed me again.

So, where's the outrage, where's the whines? That's one heckuva delay, at least FIVE WHOLE MINUTES. I mean, if you are going to piss and moan about a minute behind a hypothetical bicycle climbing a hypothetical hill, I want to hear some serious outrage at the waste of FIVE WHOLE MINUTES by hundreds of actual drivers in actual cars.

And if nobody can work up the steam to sincerely complain about this, can we please stifle complaints about bicycles delaying traffic? Because, seriously, we're just a blip, compared to the delays created by the overuse of cars.

Steve R said...

On delays in traffic, adding to Dr2:

When I bike from Newton to Northeastern U. (about 8 miles) it usually takes between 40 and 45 minutes, with one outlier of 50 minutes on a tremendously windy day. (And I only do this once or twice a week: I'm not an exceptionally fast biker.)

When I used to drive in rush hour, it took anywhere between 35 and 45 minutes, with several outliers of 50+ minutes because of heavy car traffic.

When I take the T, 45-50 minutes (there's a 1/2 mile walk on each end.)

You can imagine how little patience I have for drivers who complain about bikes causing delays.

In fact, at traffic signals where I'm stuck behind a line of cars, I've caught myself getting very impatient on my bike about how slowly cars start. I have to remind myself that car drivers have a right to the road, too.