Bike Like A Car Day
September 28, 2009
This last month I attended both the London Skyride event and the monthly London Critical Mass Ride. Both of these events were fantastic, and I immensely enjoyed the sense of camaraderie with my fellow bikers of all stripes, a sense that both events provided in great measure. That being said, there were some very noticeable differences between how non-participants behaved towards us at the two events.
I would like to try to do something about this. Now, by far the most frequent reason I have heard from people in justifying their less-than-kind behavior towards cyclists is the whole ‘running red lights’ thing. I know that there is no need to tote out any real figures here because of course everyone has seen at least one example of this horrible and unjustifiable behavior in their own long and, I’m certain, completely legally clean tenure as a pedestrian/motorist. Under the weight of such irrefutable evidence it is clear that it is up to us cyclists (the obviously guilty party) to raise the bar on our own behavior. They say that the first step to solving a problem is admitting that you have one, and indeed, we have a problem. We have been biking like cyclists for too long, it is time for us to take responsibility for our own unacceptable behavior.
To that end, I propose that one day each month, (perhaps the second Monday?) shall be, going forward, Bike Like A Car Day. Now, by that I do not propose that we, as cyclists, pollute, honk, or behave in any kind of aggressive fashion towards other cars, pedestrians or cyclists (indeed we must also work to shed ourselves of the wholly undeserved negative stereotypes of both drivers and pedestrians.) Instead, I propose that we, as cyclists, take it upon ourselves to obey the traffic laws, all of them, to the letter, just as if we were cars. No running red lights, no going through pedestrian crosswalks if there’s anyone anywhere within it, all turns shall be signaled. We shall, for this day strive to become the very most model citizens of the road.
Indeed for this one day, to strengthen our resolve we will not take the bike paths, and we will not stay to the left in the gutter. We will take to the roads, and we will claim the lane, the full lane, like the noble cars we only now, belatedly realize we should take as our examples. If a car wishes to go faster than us, we will not move aside like our old shameful selves, no! For that day we shall cast off our cycling-shame, hold our heads high, and attempt to fully emulate our betters, the cars. Just as if we were a fellow car we will wait for them to go around us (assuming that there is a second lane in which to do so, it is of course, illegal to pass someone in the same lane isn’t it? I certainly have never seen a car do that to another car.) If a car wishes to then re-join the lane I’m certain it shall do so only after it signals its intention and only after reaching a safe distance ahead of us to merge, exactly the same as it would do with a fellow car. Of course we recognize that respect is a two-way street and, if a car wishes to go slower than us, we will pay that car the same respect we are asking for ourselves. In fact, we will be polite to a fault. Not only will we not run the reds but we will not charge the ambers either, we will slow before them in order to assure greater safety not only for our fellows on the road but indeed for the pedestrians waiting patiently to cross when it is their turn. In fact, as all drivers are I believe legally obliged to do, we will remain stopped before a green if there so much as a single foot anywhere in the crosswalk. I know this might seem over the top, but we have a lot to live down.
It my hope that this regular and shining example of lawful behavior will do much to improve us in the eyes of pedestrians and motorists alike, and, even if in only some very small way, perhaps help us start to somehow rid ourselves of the horrible shame that being a cyclist rightfully earns us.