Last week I posted to this blog about Colorado Governor Hickenlooper's plan to spend $100 million that he does not have on the construction of new bicycle paths throughout the Denver metro area in his vainglorious goal to make Denver the "most bike friendly place in the world." The response to the Gov's proposal by the folks in the metro area was entirely predictable. The first wave of rants declared that money should be spent on roads before it is spent on bicycle paths. That was followed up with the cyclists making the preposterous claim that more bike paths would make road maintenance less expensive since so many people would be riding their bikes to work. That was countered by automobile enthusiasts with the argument that if bicyclists want bike paths they should be required to pay for them with a tax on bicycles. That was rebuffed by the cyclists with the argument that they already pay taxes on their driver's licenses and they should not be required to pay an additional tax for a bicycle path any more than a pedestrian should be required to pay a sidewalk tax. Finally that was countered with the argument that is always designed to shut the mouths of the cyclists. Do you know what that argument is? I will tell you here today.
Once the usual course of arguments has run its course the final argument that is always presented to close out the discussion and pronounce the car drivers the winners is this: cyclists do not obey the rules of the road and therefore have no right to even be discussing these things until they do. There is a great deal of truth to that argument, or at least part of it. By and large it is true that cyclists do not obey the rules of the road. I am a cyclist and I will confess that I ignore the rules of the road all the time. I run through stop signs without coming to a full stop. I run red lights if no car is coming the opposite way. I will briefly go down a one way street the wrong way. I will occasionally speed through a school zone, especially if it is a steep downhill. I will use the sidewalks at times. I am guilty as charged.
Despite the fact that I am guilty of breaking the rules of the road on a regular basis, I do not believe that means I have no right to present an argument in favor of bike paths. (If you read my earlier post you know I am not in favor of taxpayer financed bike paths.) I have posted to this blog previously explaining why I will occasionally break the law while riding my bike. Almost without exception I do so to avoid confrontations with people driving cars. In an earlier post I told the story of how on one ride I was raged by two different automobile drivers. The first driver cursed me out because I went through a stop sign without coming to a complete stop. I did that so he would not have to wait on me. It takes time to unclip and clip into a bicycle pedal while coming to a full stop. When there is no traffic in the area I prefer to not cause unnecessary delays for the people driving cars. After being cursed out and threatened by the first driver I made sure to come to a complete stop at the next stop sign I encountered. There was a twenty-something male in a large truck behind me. Quite predictably he rolled down his window and called me a series of choice names. Why? Because I delayed his progress by unnecessarily coming to a complete stop at a stop sign.
But telling you tales about my woes as a cyclist is not the point of today's blog post. I am concerned about the argument which says that if I break the rules of the road I am logically and morally disqualified from entering into discussions with drivers of automobiles about the relative ratio of bike paths to roadways in the metro area. That is simply not true. Or, if you wish to believe that it is true, you need to apply the argument to yourself, you who are logically inconsistent drivers of cars.
I was on the roads of the Denver metro area for about two hours yesterday. Before I had even driven my first mile and while still within the confines of the Yuppie neighborhood in which I live I witnessed a Yuppie woman in a Lexus SUV go through a stop sign without even slowing down. She then stopped in the crosswalk at the red light at which I caught up to her. She was far enough into the crosswalk that I could not see approaching traffic from my left, thus prohibiting me from making a right turn after coming to a compete stop.
As I continued on my way I stopped for several red lights. At each light a multitude of cars making right turns on red did so without coming to a complete stop. At several of the red lights I had cars pass me in order to get through the light when it turned red. In those cases they were guilty of running red lights. I entered a school zone and dropped to the posted 30 mph. I was passed by dozens of cars while I obeyed the law through the school zone. I was on the highway for quite a few miles and I was passed by hundreds of cars all of which had to be going at least 10 mph above the speed limit. I passed almost no cars. I had drivers pass me aggressively and then pull in briskly in front of me, dramatically displaying their opinion that I had no right to be on the road because I was making the choice to obey the rules. One Yuppie driver in a Range (Rage) Rover almost ran into me from behind as he aggressively tail-gated me in my own community. At the first chance he screamed around me and pulled back closely in front of me. I believe he gave me a Yuppie salute as he did so. At practically every intersection I came to I looked around and the majority of the drivers of the cars were looking at their phones and texting, all violations of the rules. I was routinely delayed when a light would turn green because so many drivers were looking down and texting. As I witnessed a never ending stream of violations of the rules of the road I could not help but think what each of the violators might think about cyclists. I bet most of them are enraged when cyclists go through a stop sign. I bet several of them have written letters to the editor of the newspaper expressing their opinion that cyclists should be thrown in jail for violating the rules of the road.
I have a word for all you drivers of automobiles who accuse cyclists of being evil because we violate the rules of the road. Hypocrites! All of you. First put your own house in order and then you can come talk to me.