March 30, 2005

Must bicyclists obey traffic laws?

The Badger Herald reports that the UW Police are going to make some new efforts to enforce traffic laws against bicycle and moped riders.

Ever notice how we call them riders, not drivers? It's part of the whole aura of irresponsibility.

I speak as a pedestrian in Madison. For fifteen years, I walked to work. (I live a little over a mile from the Law School.) I switched to driving largely because I got tired of the bicyclists riding, full speed, on the sidewalk. It was especially irksome to share the sidewalk with them on University Avenue -- most of my walk -- because University Avenue has bicycle lanes going in both directions.

Now, I park in the Business School garage, and I cross University Avenue to get to the Law School. For cars, University Avenue is one-way, but the bicyclists can still come through from both directions, which they do, light or no light, without slowing down for the groups of pedestrians who've waited for the crossing light and are especially unlikely to notice anything coming from west-to-east direction.

Sometimes I wonder what goes through the mind of the campus bicyclists. Do they think they are more virtuous because they go without gasoline? But their reckless sense of entitlement made me take up driving. You would think that bicyclists would have a positive image, and that people who walk would admire those who bike instead of driving. But the selfish behavior of bicylists on campus has made us pedestrians despise them.

UPDATE: A emailer makes a good point about drive/ride:
I always just thought it was the verb having to do with the seating and form locomotion. Train conductors drive a train, passengers ride on it. You drive a team of oxen, but you ride a horse. You especially ride a motorcycle, and drive a car (or drive a "cage").

I believe it comes from something to do with "mounting" astride the horse or the bike, as opposed to sitting-down on an upholstered bench in a cocoon of comfort.

You especially only ride a dirtbike until you fall off - it's a temporary thing, the riding. That's why we wear a lot of protective gear.

If you say that you drove a motorcycle you'd be laughed out of the big Harley gathering at Sturgis, even though many ostensibly badass-looking accountants and dentists types trailer their bikes to a nearby motel, and then ride-in.

I kind of think I'd be laughed out of a big Harley gathering at Sturgis no matter what I did.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Several Madison bicyclists have emailed to say that they follow the rules and are dismayed that other bicyclists don't and ruin everybody's reputation.

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