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Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Cycling Scofflaws



By Pico Triano
Photos: Pico Triano

Back in my highschool days I took a summer class to upgrade to the advanced program. Classes were in a nearby city and I got to commute to class by bicycle. Because there were no buses most of the students used the same means of transportation. Out of all those cyclists only two of us actually stopped for red lights. Neither of us were from the city itself although Jim might have lived just within city limits. I find that unfathomable.

A scofflaw is someone who wilfully and deliberately ignores or disobeys the law. We've all seen them. The issue is far worse in some places compared to others. It is one of the biggest pet peeves of motorists when it comes to the subject of cycling. I have noticed a correlation between cyclist behaviour in some cities and how they are treated on the road compared to other cities. I don't appreciate scofflaws because their behaviour does effect other cyclists.

It is my position that cyclist should know and obey the rules of the road. They were designed to make the road a safer place for all users. I get that most of these laws were made for and by people who may have had little or no understanding of cycling needs but I don't think that's an excuse for flaunting the law. There are groups working to address those issues and there are better ways to make lawmakers aware of those needs.

I also strongly believe that motorists should know and obey the rules of the road too. They often don't. A recent post on Facebook and probably other social media showed a cell phone photo taken by a motorist of a cyclist captioned with the statement that she wanted to ram the idiot because she felt he should be riding on the sidewalk. She felt this rider was a scofflaw even though she was illegally using a cellphone while driving and ignorant of the fact that the law where the photo was taken prohibits bicycles from using the sidewalk. There are many more people who think like she does. She got ten likes from other people online. I've actually had a motorist screaming out of a car window that it was illegal for me to be riding my bicycle on the road. Cyclists aren't scofflaws when they are riding within the rules of the road.

Road safety is a life skill and should be taught in schools. I don't understand why it generally is not. It's important to learn marketable skills so that you can get a good job to support yourself. Isn't it just as important to know how to get to said job safely whatever your mode of transportation?

One thing that serious cyclists would like motorists to understand is that bicycles are not toys. They are a legitimate efficient means of transportation. In most places the law classifies bicycles as vehicles not pedestrians. As vehicles they have the right to the entire lane. Especially in cities cyclists often claim that right, not to be a pain in the posterior, but to avoid being trapped in the door zone (New reduced speed limits in some big cities make that easier and safer). As long as motorists are respecting that, the cyclists are not doing anything dangerous. As a motorist you are not allowed to pass other vehicles unless it is safe to do so. That includes bicycles. You should treat them as you would any other vehicle. If you can't do that you shouldn't have a driver's license.


Yes, a lot of cyclists ignore stop signs and traffic signals. They often fail to signal their intentions to make a turn. If they are caught and ticketed, I don't feel sorry for them. On the other hand I see just as many cars breaking those same traffic laws. Being a scofflaw is not exclusive to two wheels.

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I appreciate the thought behind share the road programs and awareness campaigns. I think drivers need to be aware of what three feet at high speed feels like for a cyclist. I think it's a flaw in the program.





Previous article along similar lines. My position is that cyclists should be keeping the rules of the road.