15 thoughts on “Fox 11 airs story on Tuesday-night ride”
  1. Didn’t watch the video, but read the article (http://www.fox11az.com/news/local/Tucsons-Tuesday-night-rides-101087224.html). A couple things jump out at me:

    In the article, quoting TPD Sergeant Jerry Skeenes: “The idea is to come together and have some voluntary compliance with the laws and provide them with information that may allow them to do their ride safely.”

    I was not aware that the ride was unsafe. Over the 15,000 cyclist-hours of the ride’s history (I’m just guesstimating; feel free to come up with a better number), we’ve had what, a few people spill on the tracks because they’re slick? Some people run into a guy “walking” his dog in the bike lane? No accidents I’m aware of that have to do with lighting or taking up the roadway or running signs/lights…

    In a comment: “Simply follow the traffic laws, and there will be no problems.”

    This kind of naïveté is the crux of the problem; some people can’t see a difference between “right” and “the law” (and I suspect these types are those most attracted to law enforcement careers)…

  2. Oh, and that’s the same station running a story “Zebra dies at Tucson’s Reid Park Zoo”, inmplying some sort of negligence or incompetence (http://www.fox11az.com/news/local/101085594.html), which really should read “Aged, Ailing Zebra Euthanized at Tucson’s Reid Park Zoo”. Not the pinnacle of journalistic integrity.

  3. It’s a good piece and points out what I feel to be a huge problem with a small percentage of cyclists. According to Arizona Revised Statutes, I have the same rights on the road as any other vehicle, however this means that I must obey the same traffic laws as any other vehicle. Unfortunately there are some of us that feel we can run red lights, cut through businesses to go around lights, run stop signs, etc… This may or may not be dangerous to ourselves, but one thing it does do is cause animosity between the cyclists and the motorists. They see us “taking over their road” under the guise of having the same rights as they do, but not obeying the same laws. I feel that if we all just followed the traffic laws, act polite to motorists and are good ambassadors for cycling, we’d have a lot few incidents with motorists and the police.

  4. I went on this ride once and have chosen not to participate again. It was great fun, but seemed a self-destructive activity. If cyclists would like to be taken seriously by drivers we cannot skip stop signs and red lights; people on bicycles cannot block traffic to allow cyclists to move through red lights. This is bad for every legitimate party involved and it will come at the expense of the wider cycling community if a mutual respect between two wheels and four is absent.

    I really would like to see some (however relative) organization. Again, the night I did attend I had a hell of a good time, but we must cooperate with people in motor vehicles and pedestrians if we’d like to be taken as seriously as we think we deserve to be treated.

    Dave, above, is correct.

    I’d like an ethicist who cycles to weigh in on this.

  5. Mr. Boskee,

    Thank you for your comment but I must respectfully disagree, particularly regarding this statement: “… if we all just followed the traffic laws, act polite to motorists and are good ambassadors for cycling, we’d have a lot few[er] incidents with motorists and the police.” The perspective is valid, of course, but I believe it is also deeply flawed. Here’s why:

    1. The laws are intended for roadways, which were constructed almost exclusively for automobile traffic. It is only in the last twenty years or so that bicycles have slowly started to enter into the legal discussion, and now much of the framing of the issue, as well as real-world public policy, tends to privilege the needs of cars and trucks over that of the bicycle. In other words, bicyclist are second-class citizens; we must abide by laws that were designed entirely for someone else.

    2. As a daily commuter I can assure you that the “Arizona Revised Statutes” — or any other rules and regulations for that matter — do not always have my best interests at heart. Legal code is supposed to protect against general roadway chaos and, ostensibly, vehicular collision, for which I can certainly appreciate trying to avoid. But as a cyclist my first priority is trying not to die. I can’t begin to tell you about all the many, many, many times I have been forced to violate the law in order to stay alive. As one example, I refer you to the common experience of walking or riding my bike through a crosswalk only to discover that some unfocused driver is not yielding to me, the other people in the crosswalk, the “yield to pedestrians” sign near the sidewalk, or the bright red overhead light. I have learned over the years that it is almost always better (nine times out of ten) to avoid these facilities all together and cut across traffic when an opening arises, sometimes requiring a short detour through the parking lot of local business, over a curb, or down an unmarked alleyway, etc. Believe it or not, it’s just safer, and I’ll do whatever I have to do to keep breathing. The grand ideals of the law are simply no match for the realities of being on the road. In some cases, following the law will get you killed.

    3. If we hope to change and improve the current political situation for bicyclist in Tucson and elsewhere, it would be a mistake to assume that we can do so just by increasing our general civility. While I’m definitely not advocating for the opposite — bands of roving bicycle warriors cursing and spitting and terrorizing car drivers — I’m also not so naive to assume that being “polite” will ensure that people see you, respect you, and value your perspective. People only respond to that which they are aware of, and nobody notices a nice cyclist. (That’s something they put on your gravestone: “He was a nice guy.”) I make it a point, for instance, to wear a bright yellow helmet and an orange vest with reflective decals almost every time that I go out just so people will know that I exist, and even those measure are often not enough to wake irresponsible drivers (some of them police officers, by the way) from their air-conditioned, text-messaging, loud radio-induced slumber. Fortunately, I also have another tool for protection: my voice. If you are about to break the law at my expense, or worse end my life, you better believe I’m gonna holler at you. I would encourage any bicyclist I met to “talk” to their neighbor, explain to them in no uncertain terms that they are not, in fact, the kings and queens of the universe, that they do indeed have to see me. If that means a driver gets angry and goes home to complain about me, so be it. At least he knows we exist. A hundred dollars says a smile wouldn’t have had quite the same effect. In practical terms, moreover, the only time bicycle issues make the press in this town is when cyclists are arrested or ticketed for doing something “illegal.” Perhaps, like Rosa Parks, et al., we should adopt a more aggressive approach to attracting media attention? Being “polite” apparently doesn’t cut it.

    Thanks again for your thoughtful commentary, but in the real world there are shades of grey that just don’t get the consideration they so richly deserve. The legal determinism that you promote, in my opinion, is tantamount to waving a white flag and hoping for the best. I’m not down with that.

  6. Mr. Goudy,

    With all due respect, I disagree. I have posted my reasons in a reply to Mr. Boskee above.

  7. Just to add some food to the fire/fuel for thought:

    Some European cities are experimenting with less-regulated roadways on the theory that “Drivers will force the accelerator down ruthlessly only in situations where everything has been fully regulated. Where the situation is unclear, they’re forced to drive more carefully and cautiously.” ( http://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/0,1518,448747,00.html )

    A counterpoint would be that having mechanistic, routinized driving procedures makes it “safer” when someone gets behind the wheel impaired (not just by alcohol or other substances, but also lack of sleep, emotional distress, other distractions). I know that ever since driver’s ed (and ZOMG am I against giving anybody a license that hasn’t been through a good driver’s ed program!), I habitually signal whenever I turn or make a lane change… I even signal which direction I’m backing out of a parking space, which other people find odd. It has saved my bacon at least once in my life; signaled that I was switching lanes before almost making that change right into another car in my blind spot, he saw and leaned on the horn.

    But conceivably the caution engendered by the first situation would have been sufficient to handle the second as well?

  8. No offense, but I just love the lame rationalizations many cyclists come up with to excuse themselves from having to follow the same common sense rules as the rest of us. The one thing for public safety that the Uniform Traffic Code does above all else is to promote consistency in *all* traffic. When everyone drives/rides/walks by those rules there are no unpleasant surprises for the rest of us to have to work around. It’s when somebody decides that they are “above” the law, because they think the law doesn’t favor them enough or other such nonsense, removing themselves from that consistency, keeping all other road users guessing as to what they’re going to pull next, is when problems occur. Even in your example, the problem is the driver that “breaks the rules” by ignoring a crosswalk – the answer to that problem is not for more road users to routinely ignore the rules on the presumption that another might.

    I too am a daily commuter, and have been for many years – funny though that I don’t seem to ever encounter a single situation where I need to preemptively break the law to feel safer on the road.

  9. @Scott
    No offense taken (despite the clearly dismissive phrase “lame rationalizations” to describe my three-part critique of Mr. Boskee’s legal determinism). You and I have had radically different experiences as bicycle commuters, obviously, and you are of course entitled to your opinion. Yours does not invalidate mine, however, particularly so since you have provided nothing to directly contradict my points. Your only tid-bit of evidence was to poach from my example. So who exactly is providing “lame” rebuttals here?

    Quickly, however, let me respond by re-framing from my perspective on your telling statement that, “…the problem is the driver that ‘breaks the rules’ by ignoring crosswalks…” While I do think that’s part of the problem, I don’t think we share the same analysis or concern for WHY it’s a problem. Frankly, you didn’t go far enough. I mean, what are the consequences of said rules breaking, do you think? It’s fairly cut-n-dry. The ramifications of drivers who ignore crosswalks (a chronic condition in Tucson, I might add), among many other legal transgressions, is death. Let me repeat that: bicyclists die. Dead. Kaput. Sayonara. Game over.

    Why the hell should I stress myself over laws designed for those who don’t follow them (ie, the car culture), and that don’t take into account real-world consequences for bicyclists?! A two-ton, gas-guzzling motor vehicle is no just match for a 40 pound bike, and yet we cyclists should be held to a higher standard?! How noble is the martyr, I suppose.

    As I stated earlier, my first priority is staying alive, even if that means I can’t live up to your unrealistic, legally deterministic ideals, Scott.

  10. The main difference between our opposing points of view (aside from the fact that I’m not the one desperately trying to rationalize antisocial behavior), is that my adherence to the simple, safe, and rational rules that apply to all road users does not harm you in any way. Your position, on the other hand, harms me and all other cyclists more than you will ever admit. All that vitriol you see directed toward bicyclists in the public comments section of any media story about bicycles? I’m sure you’ve convinced yourself that that happens in a vacuum, and exists anyway; but the reality is that it’s backlash to people like you actively engaged in pissing off all non-cyclists.

    Hey, thanks a lot buddy!

    And whenever a cyclist gets hit, doored, or otherwise injured by a car driver who is obviously at fault, but the responding cop tickets only the cyclist, because “everybody knows” that all those scofflaw cyclists ignore the common-sense traffic laws? Yeah – that’s your handiwork too.

    Thanks again!

    And when a cyclist gets injured by a motorist and tries to sue to recover for medical bills, do you think the jury is going to be comprised of people who share *your* opinion, or of people who have been pissed-off by you and others like you? How do you think that jury is going to find?

    We all owe you a debt of gratitude for that one.

    I’m not so naive as to rely on motorists seeing me or caring that I’m there, but it’s possible and not even difficult to work around the stupidity of others and still remain within the law and avoid being an active participant in the demonization of cyclists.

    Your claim that you *must* ignore traffic safety laws to stay alive, screwing over your fellow cyclists in the process, reminds me at least a little of the moral justification Bush used to invade Iraq “for our national safety.”

  11. @Scott
    Wow! You are way out of line. I believe in psychological terms they refer to this little rant of yours as a “projection.” No matter how much you try to spin our collective transportation problems as something I have caused personally, the reality of our situation persists: bicyclists are second-class citizens and we need to adopt a variety of strategies to address it.

    That said, if you ever get to the point in you’re thinking where you’re ready to stop denigrating fellow cyclists… let me know. Until then, go away. I have no obligation or desire to put up with these juvenile personal attacks.

  12. @Ellen S
    Thanks for the link. It’s an interesting theory — that less regulation creates more safety as individuals are forced to create their own standards. I’m not sure how these kinds of social contract-type, human behavior systems might play out in the States, but it’s worth a try. What I do know now is that the law-will-protect-you-always school of thought isn’t working as well as it has been claimed. It’d be nice to at least experiment with alternative policies.

  13. And anyone who debates at all on the internet recognizes your attempts to duck out of having to defend your position once it’s been shown for what it truly is as a “deflection.”

    I only denigrate those fellow cyclists that are actively part of the problem, and for good reason. You can lie to yourself all you want that ignoring traffic laws makes *you* safer without angering everyone else on the road, you can excuse and defend the actions of that minority of yahoos at the TNBR that bring heat and derision down on all of us, you can open a thesaurus and use a stilted and eye-rollingly ostentatious writing style in a failed attempt to add some sort of weight to a position that otherwise can’t stand on its own substance – but we’re not buying any of it.

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